US election: the world is waiting for Biden to beat Trump and change the course of US foreign policy
- The two-act plot of November’s presidential election must play out before US foreign policy can reboot, leading to an enervating waiting game
- The best that even thoughtful US observers can do for now is to wait for whoever or whatever is to come, as few dare to predict beyond November
Except for the occasional audio blip or focus flicker, the screen sessions – though lacking the ineffable feel of human touch – sufficed. The usual annoying interruptions and talking over each other were minimised; one could complete whole sentences, sometimes a slew of them. Maybe this technology somehow gets us down to business by cutting out some of the nonsense?
Last week, a pair of confidential trans-Pacific teleconferences came up on my work list that had similar endings. One hooked into a private conference originating from Seoul; the other starred a sharp woman in Beijing.
Remember that renowned play by Samuel Beckett? Minimalist art at its most minimal, the play’s spare two-act plot revolves around two guys waiting for someone named Godot to arrive. That reminded me of last week’s meetings. In both, the same exact phrase surfaced: “Of course, we’re all just waiting…”
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The two-act plot of this crucial election – the official party nominations are coming soon, the national election in November – must play out before the course of US foreign policy can begin to reboot. It’s an enervating waiting game.
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Even so, she doesn’t deserve this from Trump, of all people. How deeply embarrassing to see Uncle Sam’s foot so far up in his mouth. Over the decades, US foreign policy has embraced foreign leaders who make Lam look like a saint.
Is it just me who senses the geopolitical conceit, unintentional or otherwise, of the continued American touting of pre-eminence? Every instinct tells us that whatever that new world order will be, it is not going to be like it was. Thoughtful foreign-policy intellectuals such as Haass and Zoellick know better, of course, and in one way or another say so in their books.
In the past, America thought itself the head of the global parade, the leading secular saint of world order. That worked well enough until blunders reigned, and then the world started asking embarrassing questions. When the clever Obama crowd came in, they shifted to “leading from behind” – realistic but uninspiring.
“There’s nothing we can do,” Beckett’s Vladimir says. Even so, they waited for Godot – as, in our own time and way, so do we. Zoom can only take us so far.
Professor Tom Plate is Loyola Marymount University's Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Affairs and the Pacific Century Institute's vice-president