Two words describe Donald Trump’s legacy regarding America’s role in the world: discontinuity and disarray. If the Trump presidency had a signature, it was this: No one quite knew what he was going to do next.
Upon assuming office as Trump’s successor, Joe Biden therefore had two choices: to restore, or to innovate. He could seek to revive the status quo ante Trump. Or he could seize the opportunity presented by Trump’s rejection of precedent to craft a genuinely new approach to American statecraft.
The president’s recent trip to the Middle East makes his decision unmistakably clear: While Biden frequently describes the present moment in global history as an “inflection point” requiring comprehensive change, his administration’s actual aim when it comes to diplomacy is to hit the rewind button.
For PR purposes, US policy-makers—Trump excepted—have habitually insisted that promoting democracy and human rights plays a central role in the formulation of US policy. Such claims are to be taken with a grain of salt—and perhaps nowhere more so than in the Middle East. For decades now, US policy in that region has centered on enforcing order among the disorderly, a task that not infrequently entails coercion, with the United States providing the necessary means.
Read the full article in The Nation.