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After the Liberal International Order

If Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump in November, the question he will face is not whether to restore the liberal international order. It is whether the US can work with an inner core of allies to promote democracy and human rights while cooperating with a broader set of states to manage the rules-based international institutions needed to face transnational threats.

CAMBRIDGE – Many analysts argue that the liberal international order ended with the rise of China and the election of US President Donald Trump. But if Joe Biden defeats Trump in November’s election, should he try to revive it? Probably not, but he must replace it.

Critics correctly point out that the American order after 1945 was neither global nor always very liberal. It left out more than half the world (the Soviet bloc and China) and included many authoritarian states. American hegemony was always exaggerated. Nonetheless, the most powerful country must lead in creating global public goods, or they will not be provided – and Americans will suffer.

The current pandemic is a case in point. A realistic goal for a Biden administration should be to establish rules-based international institutions with different membership for different issues.

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