• Monday, Mar 01, 2021
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Our long international nightmare is over

  • Published at 10:54 pm January 20th, 2021
Biden sworn
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 Reuters

The unique threat Donald J Trump posed, both to the US and to the wider world, makes the accession of his successor all the more significant and salutary

It's official. Joseph R Biden is the 46th president of the United States, and the entire planet breathes a sigh of relief.

The question may well be asked why the identity of the US president should matter so much to the rest of us, and whether it really makes that much of a difference to the rest of the world who the occupant of the Oval Office might be.

It does matter. The US is still the most powerful nation on Earth, it is still the largest economy, and it is still the pre-eminent cultural presence across the globe.

For now, we still live in a world where the US is the dominant presence, and therefore who governs the US will obviously impact our lives, for better or for worse.

Furthermore, the unique threat that the 45th president Donald J Trump posed, both to the US and to the wider world, make the accession of his successor all the more significant and salutary.

Safety

The fact that the most powerful man on the planet, with control over the most fearsome nuclear and conventional arsenal in the world, was an unstable, megalomaniacal reactionary, meant that none of us was safe this last four years. 

The fact that Trump will no longer be in command of the nuclear codes or indeed wield any executive power from now on can only be good news for the planet. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that the world is an exponentially safer place than it was on January 19.

Authoritarianism

The true danger of the 21st century lies in the rise of authoritarian regimes around the world and the consequent assault on liberal democratic values and principles. From Russia to Turkey and even closer to home, we live in the age of the strongman. 

Imagine the encouragement given to the forces of authoritarianism and illiberalism around the world to have a dictatorial authoritarian in the White House. 

Another four years might have done irreparable damage to the liberal democratic cause and helped cement the ascendancy of the authoritarian order that has made inroads across the globe.

Leadership

It is not just in the battle against authoritarianism that the world looks to and depends on American leadership. We live in troubled times that require visionary and cooperative leadership. 

As it is the dominant power on the planet, crises such as climate change, the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, and how to create a fairer and more equitable world order, to say nothing of the pandemic that is still with us, need, for better or for worse, American leadership. 

For the past four years this has been absent and we have all suffered as a result.

Internationalism

Perhaps the biggest casualty of the Trump years has been in America's retreat from the principles of internationalism and the notion that we must all act together in cooperation as a people or face disaster. 

The forces of isolationism and narrow national self-interest never had a stronger advocate. 

Not only that, but the forces of xenophobia and intolerance have been on the march all over the world, and with Trump in the White House the next four years could have fueled nativist movements across the globe that would leave the international order and the notion that as human beings we have a collective responsibility to our fellow men and women beyond our borders in tatters.

America

In the end, the most damage that Trump did was to his own country. Not only did he take a wrecking ball to the dignity of the office of the presidency, in his final, most shameful act, he came close to destroying American democracy itself, and has done damage to it that will take decades to heal, if it ever does. 

America never had a more divisive president with more contempt for the people he governed, and the end result of the toxic four years of the Trump presidency has been a shocking weakening of the fabric that held America together as a society and a country. 

When the world's oldest democracy is so debased, we are all brought low.

Morality

In many ways the worst element of the Trump presidency was what it said to the world that a man of such prodigious insufficiency could rise to the most important office on the planet. 

That this pathetic, craven, cruel, dysfunctional husk of a human being could bestride the globe like a colossus shames each and every one of us. 

His mere presence in the Oval Office was an assault on virtue, integrity, and simple human decency. 

It made a mockery of the notions of meritocracy, kindness, and compassion that we try to instill in our children and of the tales of the goodness of this world we tell them as we tuck them into bed at night. 

It called into question the very idea of justice and righteousness in this life.

Trump's removal from public office is just the beginning. He needs to be removed from public life. The damage he wrought will take a long time to heal. 

Nevertheless, the inauguration of President Biden is the necessary place to start, and today I look on with hope leavened with trepidation as America and the world steps into the light of a new dawn.

Zafar Sobhan is the editor of Dhaka Tribune

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