The seventy years following World War II now, when revisited in hindsight, look like a golden era of peace and prosperity. Sure, we had the Cold War going on, but compare it to the previous eras of hot wars, and we realise just how good it was. The two most warlike nations of the previous fifty years, Germany and Japan, were disarmed and focused their energies on economic development, all the colonial empires were dismantled, and the world experienced an unprecedented period of economic progress.
While countries like South Korea, Singapore and Saudi Arabia saw the largest rise in living standards, the effects were felt worldwide, from Africa to Latin America. Even Russia experienced the longest period of peace in its history. Post the 1991 revolutions and the Arms Reduction Treaties, it seemed that liberalism had decisively won, and the world was destined to globalise, democratise, and eventually demilitarise. In this article, we’ll be talking about President Joe Biden’s policies which don’t seem to be helping much; but before that, let us take a look at the changes that have shaped the world it is now.
How Just a Couple Years Can Change Things
While the warning winds had been blowing for some years, it seems that in the past couple of years, the world has gone completely crazy. Afghanistan is back under the Taliban regime, and the brother nations of Russia and Ukraine are duking it out in a war of mutual existential crisis. Germany and Japan announced rearmament, Iran and Saudi Arabia inch closer to war, Britain is in a post-Brexit slump, and a rising China eyes Taiwan hungrily across the straits.
Economies are collapsing the world over, from Sri Lanka and Pakistan to Venezuela and Germany. Food shortages are imminent, and several organisations predict famine at a massive scale soon. Democracy, which had seemed to be strengthening, is now retreating from many countries.
This Brings Us To The Keystone Of The Entire Order- America
Like it or not, Americans created the world we live in, and we still depend on them for stability. After World War II, the USA created the Bretton-Woods System to stabilise currencies and prevent another Great Depression. Marshall Plan aid surged to rebuild the bombed-out countries of Europe, and the Americans opened their vast consumer market to let their allies export their way to prosperity.
For the first time in history, the US Navy guaranteed all shipping, in all places, at all times for everyone, enabling even countries without a navy to engage in free and fair trade. Most of all, the American system of security guarantees (like NATO) removed the shadow of war from most countries. Sure, there was the whole matter of proxy wars and nuclear Armageddon, but on the whole, the USA and the USSR proved much more responsible custodians of the world order than the European empires had been.
And Then the 2008 Recession Happened
Ever since America seems to be looking increasingly inward and losing interest in the global system it built, the destruction of its middle class, the failure of the Middle Eastern wars, and pervasive political dysfunction have led to the wholesale abandonment of the global system. The US Navy has stopped patrolling the global oceans, and global currency stability has been abandoned for punitive actions on the ‘enemy’ of the day.
Day by day, Americans look increasingly absent, and this is having consequences the world over. The European economies, which depended on exports to the US, have been thrown into disarray, and states that depended on American protection, like Poland and Japan, are now feeling alarmed alone. Countries like France and Turkey are beginning to carve out their own economic and political spheres of influence, and revisionist Russia, Iran and China look poised to reshape their neighbourhoods.
Joe Biden’s Greatest Mistake
While this trend had been blowing for a while, it seems to have come to an inglorious climax under the presidency of Joe Biden. No matter how controversial Obama and Trump were, both presidents did at least maintain the appearance of commitment to the global order. When push came to shove, they chose to uphold it, no matter how half-heartedly.
The same Trump who was elected on a platform of isolationism and nationalism ended up signing a trade deal with Mexico, negotiating the Abraham Accords, attempting to rehabilitate North Korea, defusing the situation with Russia and trying to ensure a slow and stable exit from Afghanistan.
In contrast, Joe Biden has been the exact inverse. His first tweet after the election was, “America is Back.” And that was all. His rhetoric of global commitment seems increasingly hollow when compared to his actions. His rapid and unplanned pullout from Afghanistan was a total disaster. His rhetoric on Taiwan seems designed to provoke war with China and alienate France with the AUKUS deal. The winds of American domestic politics prompt his government to change its position every few days, further adding to instability.
He is the most economically protectionist President in recent history. His actions like the CHIPS Act, trade restrictions, anti-competitive subsidisation policies, and reshoring of American production have disrupted relations with Taiwan, Germany, Great Britain, South Korea and Canada. The massive and unprecedented sanctions on Russia have thrown the entire global economy into recession, as you cannot just delete one of the largest exporters of food, fertiliser, steel, energy and minerals and not expect any repercussions. Countries worldwide are now re-evaluating their dependence on the dollar and trade.
And perhaps, most egregiously, his bipolar policy on Ukraine has upended the balance of power. His half-commitment has made both America’s enemies and allies anxious, and that is never a good thing. The massive amounts of advanced weaponry his regime has given Ukraine means that, if Ukraine wins, it will be an over-militarised failed state like Afghanistan, or if it loses, it will mean an enraged Russia on NATO’s borders itching for revenge.
Whichever way you look at it, Joe Biden’s foreign policy has metastasized slow-burning trends into sudden, knee-jerk spasms which have shaken the foundations of the global system and plunged the world into recession, famine and disorder. As the saying goes, when America sneezes, the world catches a cold. Well, what happens when America is paralyzed and comatose? Well, the last time it happened was in the 30s. With the failure of the League of Nations, we had the Great Depression, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War. One can only hope that history doesn’t repeat itself this time around because, with nuclear weapons in the balance, it will be both a tragedy and a farce.