Biden’s dilemma on global democracy

Biden’s dilemma on global democracy

America’s president-elect would be wiser to first fix things at home

What better way to herald regime change in America than for it to re-embrace global democracy? That is Joe Biden’s plan. He wants to host a global “summit for democracy” — possibly within a hundred days of his inauguration. It would be hard to think of a step that could better drive home that Donald Trump is no longer running the world’s superpower. If Mr Trump personifies the age of global strongmen, all Mr Biden need do is host a party that pointedly excludes them.

But his strategy entails serious risk at home and abroad. Reincorporating the democracy creed into US foreign policy would distance him not only from Mr Trump but also from Barack Obama, his former boss. The last US president to talk about spreading democracy was George W Bush, whose 2003 Iraq war discredited the idea on both the left and the right. Mr Obama won his party’s nomination partly because he had opposed the Iraq invasion, in contrast to Hillary Clinton who voted for it. Mr Biden also voted to authorise the Iraq war.

One of Mr Trump’s merits to the 2016 Republican base was his contempt for the “forever wars” in Iraq and elsewhere that he blamed on a Bush-riddled establishment. Whatever else can be said about Mr Trump’s foreign policy, he did not start new wars (though there are still 60 days to go). When historians look back on America’s early 21st century politics, my hunch is they will say Mr Bush did more harm to global democracy than Mr Trump.