Understanding the US under Biden

Photo: india.com

By Ekansh Ranjan edited by FireTimes

Trump, Xi, Modi, Erdogan, MBS are the exemplars of strongmen.

STRONGMAN politics is a concept which can be firmly situated in Kenneth Waltz’s Levels of analysis theory in International Relations postulates the process of policy making working at 3 levels- state, society (polity and processes ) and individual (leader). These levels can work in tandem or in isolation. Strongman leaders usually subordinate the other two levels to themselves. Through this phenomena they make foreign policy choices that may/may not go along with the conventional wisdom but since they are the ones wielding power, they use their personal charisma to negotiate. 

With the President Trump’s due descent into ignominy with his loss at the ballot, a new approach to US’s foreign policy is in the offing. Joe Biden, a Democrat is going to take charge at the helm. Traditionally, the Republicans follow a ​hawkish foreign policy​, paying close attention to security and defence policies while following protectionist policies in international trade while the democrats follow a ​dovish ​approach, which signifies the credence given to greater globalism and ​complex interdependence ​via the instruments such as human rights, democracy promotion and galvanise freer trade.

A new diplomatic normal should be calibrated to engage with Biden’s American. The subjects which for President Trump simply didn’t pass muster, such as CAA riots going on in the capital while he was on an official visit, will not go unnoticed with the Biden administration. Issues such as alleged human rights violations in Kashmir, citizenship issues, treatment of Muslims, press freedom and the holy grail of democracy, freedom of speech and expression, will come under greater scrutiny and ​moreover will find a commensurate space for itself in official statements and briefings. All these will become part of tactics by which the US administration will build greater pressure on India to negotiate for better deals in trade and defence. There are no permanent friends but only permanent interests. Better trade deals with ​lower tariffs​ and zero transfer of technology​ at the bilateral level and the multilateral fora such as the WTO are in the best interest of the America for whom India is a big market.

India might find greater traction with the incoming administration on issues such as climate change, reducing carbon emission and green economy but its lax policies on EIA, forest conservation will cause Uncle Sam much chagrin. Meanwhile if the incoming President elect remains obdurate on not giving funds and technology, more a possibility than a certainty, under the Paris Accord, India along with other countries of Global South will have to look elsewhere for the necessary support.

The election of Biden may lead to a fall in strongman politics. It’s good to have the “leader of the free world” advocating greater globalism and reversal of american retrenchment from world politics. Yet there are many leaders in a distinctly multi-polar world today who are concentrating power in their own hands and shaping their foreign policy on their own personal charisma.

Needless to say, there’s a great deal of speculation rife at this point. The policies will become distinct only in the longer term. Both ways, there’s more to it than meets the eye.


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