Those following the U.S. Republican presidential race will have noted from the voter polls that the issue of foreign affairs ranks amongst the lowest or is the lowest of the priority concerns that the American public sees as critical to themselves and their country. A variety of polls held before the recently concluded nomination battles in Iowa and New Hampshire revealed that less than 10% of the supporters of the main candidates identified foreign policy as their major concern.
Not surprisingly, domestic concerns related to the economy, jobs, cost of living and inflation rank highest for Republican and Democratic Party supporters. Young voters who may be the key deciding group on Election Day, November are expected to focus on issues rather than candidates.
Why US voters’ attention is focused on domestic issues related to the condition of the American home order rather than to the state of the international order that incumbent President Biden and the US dominated MIM (military-industrial-media) complex would like to see preoccupy and be dominant in the minds of the American and international public is not difficult to understand.
American Society and Politics in Disarray
Ordinary Americans – over the past 15 years and especially during Biden’s administration – have seen their everyday lives intruded upon and consumed by differences over immigration, abortion, crime in cities, racial bigotry, woke ideology, LGBTQ+, culture fights, fentanyl and opioid related addiction concerns – and a related range of economic issues – that appear unresolvable and never ending. The bad news on these dominate the headlines and media coverage together with increasing news reports on the court cases against Trump and to a lesser extent, the spotlight on Biden’s alleged corruption and son’s court cases.
On the political front, the US is seen by many American and foreign analysts to have been in democratic decline for at least 10 years now. According to the Economist, the United States now ranks not among the world’s “full democracies” but among the “flawed democracies” (such as Greece, Israel, Poland, and Brazil).
It is likely that the US political division and free for all that the world sees and the inability of America’s leaders to tackle and resolve the country’s existential socio-economic and political problems will continue long after this election outcome. Neither likely presidential contenders, Trump or Biden, are well regarded by the majority of the American public. Both are widely perceived as untrustworthy and both have failed to inspire confidence in their handling of the myriad challenges on the domestic and international front that the US faces.
According to a Pew poll in April 2023, more Americans were very or somewhat pessimistic of the nation’s future in the following areas, with the first two areas having a majority of respondents expressing pessimism:
- Moral and ethical standards (63%)
- System of education (59%)
- Ability to ensure racial equality for all people (44%)
- Ability of the U.S. to get along with other countries of the world (41%)
- Institution of marriage and family (40%)
Given the current disorder in American society and the hollowness of its advocacy of democracy and human rights, can the outcome of the 2024 election bring about change in US foreign policy and the global international order in which the US has set itself up as judge, jury, policeman and sheriff?
U.S. Foreign Policy Going Forward Impact
Despite the fact that the majority – great majority – of Americans want their president to prioritise the deep seated domestic problems of the country, we have seen Biden start off his current administration with the tagline “America is back” to emphasise that his mission is to reassert American leadership of the world and to repair the damage done to U.S. global standing by his predecessor.
As his domestic problems have multiplied, Biden has retreated to a lower profile foreign policy for the US and a reliance on American allies in Europe and the Pacific to pay the bill to support American hegemony and fly the US flag. This lower profile role is also in part driven by diminishing financial resources. The Biden administration ran a $1.695 trillion budget deficit in fiscal 2023. It was the third-largest deficit in US history. The only time the US government ran bigger deficits was during the COVID years of 2020 and 2021.
An even lower profile, less adventurous, more dovish US foreign policy execution can be expected of Trump should he defeat Biden. Trump’s second term is likely to see him not only pursue more isolationist policies. According to a report drawing on feedback from a large group of current and former aides and diplomats, the election result would enable Trump to make sweeping changes to the U.S. stance on issues ranging from the Ukraine and Middle East wars to trade with China, as well as to the federal institutions that implement foreign policy.
Whoever wins the 2024 presidential election, the allies and deputy sheriffs of American foreign policy in Asia, Europe and the Middle East will need to prepare for the reality of a new world order in which the urgency of taking on America First domestic concerns will see a different Pax Americana emerge. It will also see the interests and concerns of allied countries sidelined, marginalised or sacrificed. American exceptionalism in waging wars around the world may continue but it is the Treasury and bodies of U.S. allies that will be sacrificed to support it
Australia A Major Loser
Among the major losers of the coming U.S. presidential election could be the following countries:
- United Kingdom
- European Union countries
Likely winners of the U.S. disorder will be the group of BRICS advocating a new international order based on a system of global governance that is more inclusive and egalitarian.
The advance of a multipolar world order that more accurately represents the objectives and ambitions of developing nations could, in the long run, paradoxically help the U.S. towards more progressive and constructive outcomes at home and abroad.
The Western MIM will resist this but we are at a time in history when the old rules, benchmarks and tools of analysis do not work.