Though the White House seems convinced its “democracy first” rhetoric is sure to mobilize Americans, the Trump administration’s referendum on globalization did prove one thing: Americans care about America. Biden must frame his foreign policy agenda as one primarily designed to guarantee American commercial interests and bring prosperity to the middle class. Asking the electorate to make sacrifices for the sake of the rest of the world and Biden’s personal ideological value system will make for an abrupt one-term presidency. The administration should be hesitant in calling for the United States to take on a larger global burden for the sake of other nations. Instead, it should work to convince the public of the need for a limited, strategic expansion of Washington’s global role in order to secure certain explicit commercial and security interests.
Ultimately, Biden’s notion that America must make a return to the world—a referendum on his isolationist and entrenching predecessor—is a correct one. But the world has seen inspiring visionaries and talented politicians fail before. Despite being “one of the greatest legislative leaders to ever sit in the White House,” Wilson is too often remembered as the naive optimist—America’s idealist spearhead of a deeply unstable peace. Biden must not repeat these mistakes.
Kendall Carll is an undergraduate at Harvard studying History and Government. His interests are primarily in grand strategy, great power competition, East Asia, and weapons of mass destruction.
Image: Flickr/White House.