The Cynicism of Biden’s ‘Defense’ of Democracy

The “democracy vs. autocracy” framing is just a new version of dividing the world up into opposing blocs

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Paul Poast is half-right in his assessment of Biden’s foreign policy:

To put it bluntly, the Biden administration’s approach to foreign policy is realpolitik from top to bottom. This isn’t necessarily bad. A realpolitik approach to foreign policy enables Biden to do what he can in the face of constrained U.S. capability. Liberal hegemony is easy when it’s easy to be a hegemon. But when it’s not, ideological purity is often sacrificed for the sake of national interests.

Poast gets the cynicism of Biden’s foreign policy right, but he underrates the importance of the president’s ideological framing of the conflicts that the U.S. is supporting. It’s true that “the protection of democracy doesn’t appear to be driving Biden’s foreign policy in practice,” as Poast says, but Biden does wrap up the same old hegemonist status quo in that packaging. For Biden, “defending democracy” is a convenient way to distinguish himself from the strongman-admiring Trump rhetorically and also pose as democracy’s global champion without having to act differently from the way that his predecessors, including Trump, acted on the world stage.

Biden often relies on the “democracy vs. autocracy” framing in his speeches and op-eds as a way of explaining and justifying U.S. policies in different parts of the world. He has even used this framing to pretend that the wars in Ukraine and Gaza are part of the same larger global struggle. According to the president, Americans are the “essential nation” and “[w]e rally allies and partners to stand up to aggressors and make progress toward a brighter, more peaceful future.”

That framing has negative consequences of its own, as Stephen Wertheim argued in the article Poast is responding to, by encouraging the administration to be hardline and inflexible in its approach to current conflicts involving the U.S. Wertheim says this of Biden’s “defend democracy credo”:

It fosters one-sided, maximalist policies that intensify conflicts without resolving them, while entangling the United States within them. Not since George W. Bush has a president so tightly linked democratic ideals with military instruments.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a contributing editor for and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “The Cynicism of Biden’s ‘Defense’ of Democracy”

  1. In some way Biden is Trump with aviator glasses. The difference is Biden does not lie as loudly as Trump. Both lie. The difference is in the decibels.

  2. Feb 05, 2024 For God’s Sake Joe, What the Hell Are You Doing?

    From U.S. military attacks on Syria, Iraq, and Yemen to the related complicity in Israel’s genocide in Gaza and settler violence in the West Bank, Biden’s course of action is a danger to U.S. national security.

    1. Biden is the biggest warmonger in American History, he’s an even bigger warmonger than George Warmonger Bush and former PM of Britain, Tony Blair Witch Project.
      Biden and W said they were defending democracy but were defending unprovoked wars and occupation of the USA’s and Britain’s war zones.
      We are taught in school to believe the US is The Leader of The Free World. It is the misleader of its allies, whether they are democracies or not.
      We are also taught democracies don’t start unprovoked wars and all authoritarian regimes are warmongering, expansionistic nations if they are powerful enough. During the Gulf War, the US and UK were democracies and Iraq was not and did nothing to the other two countries. The US and UK declared war on Iraq to control its oil and had the UN impose sanctions against Iraq which led to the starvation of the people there and they bombed it from the No Fly Zones.
      There were other times the US invaded authoritarian nations that did nothing to it.

      1. A crazy and dangerous time we live in have since the Central Bankster’s coup of 1913 here in the states. Eventually everything falls fast and hard!

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