Op-Ed: Biden may very well be the transformative chief our world wants in these troubled instances
Joe Biden has the rarest opportunity history offers: the chance to be a transformative foreign policy president.
This opening stems from the urgent need to address Covid-19 and its global economic threats. This is due to the growing need to better manage China's authoritarian rise. It is also emerging from the US partners' desire to quickly turn the page of the Trump administration and restore the common cause of leading democracies.
There was no stronger sign of this than the European Commission's release this week of an eleven-page “New EU-US Agenda for Global Change”, speaking for 27 countries representing nearly 18% of global GDP.
Proposals ranging from Covid-19 to climate and commerce to technology are designed to harness what it calls a "once in a generation" opportunity. The paper welcomes Biden's call for a democracy summit in his first year in office and sets out a transatlantic agenda that should be "the linchpin of a new global alliance of like-minded partners."
The paper says: "As open democratic societies and market economies, the EU and the US agree on the strategic challenge posed by China's growing international assertiveness, even if we do not always agree on how best to approach it can be."
President-elect Biden's shot at transformative leadership is also the result of the experience he and his team bring to our troubled times. "The armed forces are geared towards an American leader like Joe Biden," said Chuck Hagel, his longtime friend and former defense secretary. “There is a great deal of confusion, uncertainty and volatility. The world is looking for a North Star guide who has the ability, knowledge, persistence and wisdom to correct our direction. There is hardly a leader in the world who he does not know or knows has not dealt. "
Biden can also quickly find that in foreign policy he can most easily become the unifying president he aspires to be. On domestic issues it will be difficult to run the extreme left of your own party and die-hard Republicans. Meeting the Chinese challenge is one of the few issues that almost everyone agrees is badly needed.
To do this, President-elect Biden and his European partners must first reverse the erosion of the common transatlantic cause that has been most defined over the past 75 years. This partnership has helped create a rules-based global system that drives democracy, spreads prosperity through expanded trade and investment, prevents great power conflicts, and ultimately brings the Cold War to a peaceful end with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The seeds for this order, now under threat, were planted long before the end of World War II by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill when they signed the August 1941 Atlantic Charter. Coincidentally, the charter will celebrate its 80th anniversary in President Biden's first summer in office.
By the time Roosevelt and Churchill met on board the US Augusta, with the US four months before the war began, it seemed as if the Axis powers of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy were on the rise.
FDR and Churchill, who represented the two most important democracies of their time, formulated nothing as formal as a treaty, but declared "certain common principles in the national politics of their respective countries on which they based their hopes for a better." Future for the world. "
The lack of legal force of the Atlantic Charter has not diminished its historical significance. It sent the world a message of American intent, gave hope to the occupied countries and laid the foundation for a post-war order.
Vice President Harry Truman became an unlikely Transformative President after the FDR's death in April 1945 who successfully ended World War II and then worked to build that order.
These included the legislation of the Bretton Woods Agreement and the United Nations Participation Act of 1945. In March 1947, he proclaimed the Truman Doctrine in a joint congressional session, the aim of which was to contain the Soviet Union and "support free peoples who resist perform "attempted submission by armed minorities or outside pressure. "
What would follow shortly thereafter in April 1948 would be the Marshall Plan to rebuild war-ravaged Western Europe, and then the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, creating NATO and ensuring a US security guarantee for all European allies.
"Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush may have hastened and got through the end of the Cold War, but it was Harry Truman who history called for the Soviet Union to fight for it at a time when most Americans were war-tired and exhausted World domination implicates its role in resolving the endless tragedies of 20th century Europe, "writes Joe Scarborough in his excellent new book" Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War and the Struggle for Western Civilization ".
Truman is the most suitable role model for President-elect Biden. Truman created the global system, the rise of democratic rule and the liberal international economic order that Biden must now work to restore, revitalize and reinvent. from
If Biden doesn't want to throw away his shot to paraphrase Alexander Hamilton from the musical of the same name, he needs to understand what makes his job easier and more difficult than Truman's.
What will be easier is he doesn't have to create the institutions and practices his predecessors invented out of the chaos and destruction of WWII. Instead, he must help manage the changes that will be required for a new, globally more complex era.
A good first step would be a "global charter" in the same sense as the Atlantic charter, but a sufficiently small group of global democracies to legitimize them, but also to make the process manageable.
What also makes Biden's job easier is that he doesn't have to go through with this in times of war. The downside is that he lacks Truman's advantage of working with international and national partners who had memories of two world wars and a desire to fend off a third.
What also makes Biden's job more difficult is that the United States only has about 24% of global GDP compared to half of global GDP in 1945, so it lacks the leverage it once had. That requires a smarter and more nimble partnership with others.
What makes this effort even more urgent is the realization that Joe Biden is 78 years old. It is hard to imagine that a successor with the philosophies, experiences or beliefs would play this historical role.
Frederick Kempe is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist, and President and CEO of the Atlantic Council, one of the United States' most influential think tanks on global affairs. He worked for the Wall Street Journal for more than 25 years as a foreign correspondent, assistant editor-in-chief and senior editor for the European edition of the newspaper. His latest book – "Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth" – was a New York Times best seller and has been published in more than a dozen languages. Follow him on Twitter @FredKempe and subscribe here to Inflection Points, his view every Saturday of the top stories and trends of the past week.
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