Wednesday, a sense of normality returned to Washington as Joe Biden took his oath of office as US president, bringing to an end four tumultuous years of Trumpism. Donald Trump’s time in the White House was a veritable roller-coaster ride, with the former president throwing convention to the wind and creating a number of crises domestically and in foreign affairs. Therefore, Mr Biden has a major task ahead of him, and it will require the veteran American politician to go the extra mile to put out the many fires his unorthodox predecessor has lit.
It is a fact that Joe Biden is no revolutionary statesman; in fact, he represents the status quo ante, a return to predictable American politics. However, after Mr Trump, one can say that a return to ‘normal’ may not be such a bad thing. On the home front, Mr Biden has to deal with a raging coronavirus pandemic, a floundering economy and a nation deeply divided along racial and ideological lines.
Overseas, he will have to steer American policy in a positive direction after Donald Trump provoked China as well as Iran. He will also have to coax America out of isolation mode and steer it towards reintegration into the global mainstream.
Within the US, the Trump era exposed racial tensions that had been bubbling under the surface for long and that exploded last summer during the Black Lives Matter protests, following the murder of George Floyd. Meanwhile, the attack on the US Capitol earlier this month by Trump supporters showed that the far right in the US is hardly a spent force, and has literally shaken the corridors of power. Therefore, ensuring racial justice and checking the mushroom growth of far-right white extremism must top Mr Biden’s domestic agenda.
The Covid-19 pandemic also looms large over the US; the new president has already signed a raft of measures to deal with the crisis. Moreover, Mr Biden has reversed the so-called Muslim ban, while saying that the US was back in the Paris climate accord. On the foreign front, a number of issues await the new US leader’s attention. These include the confrontation with China, whom Mr Trump accused of “ripping off” the US, setting in motion a steady decline in Sino-American relations. Mr Biden’s predecessor also ripped up the Iran nuclear accord and at one point brought Washington and Tehran dangerously close to war.
Further, Mr Trump’s mollycoddling of Israel destroyed any illusion of American neutrality in the Arab-Israeli dispute. All these foreign issues will test Mr Biden’s mettle and require progressive thinking. Where Pakistan is concerned, key members of the new president’s team have said this country is an ‘essential partner’ especially where peace in Afghanistan is concerned. It is hoped the Biden administration works to improve the bilateral relationship with Pakistan in order to help bring peace and prosperity to South Asia.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2021