With polls making it appear increasingly likely that Donald Trump has entered the twilight of his presidency and could be defeated in the November election, it is not too soon to focus on the blind spots and liabilities that come with his Democratic challenger.
Since he secured his party’s nomination in a sudden burst of primary victories in March that abruptly turned around a flagging campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden has benefited from two main types of appeal. First, and probably most powerfully in a country where many have tired of Trump, is the simple fact that he is not the man he seeks to replace. Second, and deeply associated with that, the prospect of a Biden presidency seems to offer the return to an implicitly familiar and comfortable past. This can mean a whole range of things, from personal decency and self-discipline in a leader, along with the capacity to empathize with others, to returning to a well-worn playbook that involves emphasizing democratic values and building consensus with allies.
But if the appeal of such notions, and the fact that they seem to be working so far for Biden, are obvious, not enough attention has focused on the risks that come with embracing comforting old ideas as solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow. Nowhere is this more apparent than in foreign policy.