The U.S. president-elect promises a humble foreign policy. That can start by coming to terms with America’s diminished capacity to lead the world after Trump.
It’s hard to reduce to a word or phrase the trail of destruction U.S. President Donald Trump leaves in his wake as he exits the world stage. And while it would be tempting for allies to write him off as an anomaly and for adversaries to hold him up as a cautionary tale of the American experiment, Trump gifted the world two particular things that, collectively, make his imprint on it more profound.
First, he turbocharged a global ecosystem of disinformation and fascist conspiracy theories that are increasingly making large swaths of the world’s population immune to the rule of law. And second, he yanked the world’s policeman off the beat. Neither will change when President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office on Wednesday.
Whatever comfort most nations are taking from Biden’s enthusiastic declaration that “America is back” don’t fully grasp the Trump-sized hole America has to dig itself out of. To do so, the United States will be absorbed by its own business, or, in the words of one foreign diplomat, it will be “playing with itself” for some time.