October 05, 2020

The Untapped Power of Trump’s Leverage

How a New Leader Could Use It to Better Ends

By Richard Fontaine

Almost every new American president enters the White House committed to reversing all the supposed mistakes of his predecessor. Even if there is far more continuity in U.S. foreign policy than is commonly acknowledged, new teams sweep into office eager to emphasize their administration’s departures. President Donald Trump offers an especially vivid example of this tendency, stressing even four years into his term how his approach to the world contrasts with that of his predecessors.

The Trump administration would bequeath a stock of leverage to its successor. A new administration should employ that unique, fleeting advantage wisely.

If Joe Biden takes office in January 2021, the impulse will be even stronger than usual, given the unprecedented nature of the Trump presidency. Nothing today binds Biden’s would-be national security officials more firmly than distaste for Trump’s foreign policy. The Trump administration’s long list of missteps has pushed experts on both sides of the aisle toward a restorationist vision of U.S. foreign policy, one that would forswear the transactional, self-interested approach of the Trump years and return to a more traditional posture. Biden himself has said that, if elected, he would quickly signal that “we’re back” to those discomfited by four years of Trump-era turbulence. His team would feel overwhelming pressure to demonstrate rapid change to the American people and the world.

Read the full article in Foreign Affairs.

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