Can Joe Biden rise to expectations?text_fields
The United States of America witnessed its 59th quadrennial presidential election on November 3. The rivalry between the incumbent President Donald Trump and Joe Biden ended. As expected, the Democratic party's Joe Biden looks all set to win the race, as this goes for publication. Of late,a radical shift was observed in the opinion polls conducted by NBC and Wall Street Journal in favor of Joe Biden. Florida Atlantic University published a poll of potential voters in the state that showed Biden had 51 percent of voting compared to 47 percent for Trump. Trump administration's approach to Covid-19 crisis shifted the mood of the elderly citizens as they became the largest segment of its victims. Moreover, Biden was very well known to the voters as vice president during the rule of former President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.
By any standards, the campaign, most rancorous in its nature, gripped global attention. Under Donald Trump, the U.S has been retreating itself into an isolationist shell and becoming less engaged internationally. Proclaiming the slogan " America First", it became more protectionist, opportunistic, and unilateralist in its advancement. The result was the very low ĺevel of global support for America . Actually it was a time when the world expected America to be globally engaged to solve international issues. But, America unilaterally withdrew from the Paris climate accord, Iran nuclear deal, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Treaty, UNESCO, UN Human Rights Council, World Health Organization (WHO), Open Skies Treaty , Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and so on.
Trump did not improve his image. His braying tone and clumsy tactics remained unchanged. The special feature of this election, as we know, was Covid-19. It crushed Trump's poll numbers, because it hurt millions of Americans, flattened the economy and made the electorate fearful and uneasy. His handling of the epidemic was a futile effort with lack of respect for public health recommendations. This led to the spread of the virus. Consequently, over a dozen people in Trump's orbit and he himself tested positive. Trump told the veteran journalist Bob Woodward that he deliberately downplayed the threat of Covid-19 in order to avoid causing panic . But his refusal even to wear the mask in public and insistence on ignoring the advice of the public health experts proved that his approach was reckless and nonchalant. This was highlighted by Joe Biden in the Presidential debate.
The Paris Agreement on climate, let us hope, will be saved by the victory of Joe Biden. This Agreement, hammered out over two weeks in Paris on Climate Change's 21st Conference was adopted on 12th December 2015. World leaders representing 195 nations came to a consensus for combating climate change. The United States had a number of laws passed by Congress seeking to cut carbon pollution. Hence, President Obama was able to formally enter the US into the Agreement. But, Donald Trump who considers climate change as a " hoax " announced in June 2017 his intent to withdraw from the Agreement. The climate change denier, Donald Trump seemed unaware of the requirement for the withdrawal. The Agreement has to be in force for three years before any country could withdraw from the accord. Accordingly, the U.S could exit from the deal only on 4th November 2020. Naturally, the new President Joe Biden could rejoin the team.
Iran's nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is now on life support. It was signed half a decade ago by Iran and five permanent Security Council members, plus Germany. Iran complied with conditions and eliminated its medium-enriched uranium stockpile. This was verified and confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It was for this compliance that Iran received relief from the harsh sanctions. But, Trump wanted to curb Iran's ballistic missile program. Trump pursued targeted strikes against Iran. That was how commander of the Revolutionary Guards Qasem Soleimani and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Bagdadi were killed. Trump was steering the US foreign policy in favor of Israel in whose eyes Iran is a cataract. But, now as Biden has pointed out Iran's threat has since worsened. Everyone knows that Trump failed at the UN in compelling the allies to extend the embargo.
Biden has to tackle public mistrust of the federal agencies. The Trump administration criticized and censored guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It complained, without evidence, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was intentionally delaying vaccine testing to impede his re-election chances. Biden already stated in his campaign that his administration would direct the CDC to issue guidance, based on evidence, to the public health services. This would help restore the morale of the scientists who felt marginalized under the Trump administration.
Biden will have the United States rejoin the Paris climate accord, making the country, an active partner of it. It is committed to limiting global warming to 1.5 - 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels. In order to bolster the environmental regulations, it is believed that he would also appoint climate-friendly leadership at the Environmental Protection Agency. Biden also said that the U.S would organize and host a global Summit for Democracy. America would canvas among the governments to emerge with renewed commitments on human rights. This, of course, would mark a U-turn from Trump, who preferred bilateral exchanges only with dictators like China's Xi Jinping, Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong-un. In global conferences, Trump often disheartened his allies and other participants.
Trump administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela, Libya, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Palestine, Sudan and Lebanon. He criticized Obama administration as it did not plunder the oil wealth of Iraq, which was destroyed and occupied by the US. Bush administration killed more than two million of Iraqi people and plundered their national wealth. But, Trump wanted them to pay two trillion dollars for its occupation . He further wanted to legalise the stay of the American forces on the land of Iraq. Was he not mocking with a sadistic heart?
Now, as a diplomat remarked, it won't be enough for Biden to win, he has also to re-establish the global trust in the US dealings. What if the next Republican president reverses everything he does? May be he would appoint a Republican stalwart in a key post to his cabinet. Lack of trust in America could be used as a leverage. Many Countries, including Iran, Iraq and Palestine have suffered heavy financial loss due to sanctions. It is likely that they may demand reparations to fully comply once again with the UN in international accords. However, Mr. Biden, who served for decades in the Senate, firmly believes in the value of bipartisanship. His overtures to Republicans may solve the problem. Let us hope he, as a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would be able to assert and defend America's role as a leader on the global stage.
(V Kunhabudlla is a former professor of English and does newspaper columns)