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The End of Liberal Diplomacy

Summary:
While Joe Biden is right to reject many aspects of Donald Trump’s toxic presidency, he should avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Only by recognizing the weaknesses of liberal diplomatic norms can the Biden administration advance the innovative, effective diplomacy the world so desperately needs. TEL AVIV – On December 11, then-President Donald Trump proclaimed that the United States would recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara, an apparent reward for the country’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The move was swiftly condemned as a blatant violation of diplomatic norms. But, with his facile approach to protracted conflicts, Trump inadvertently made an

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While Joe Biden is right to reject many aspects of Donald Trump’s toxic presidency, he should avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Only by recognizing the weaknesses of liberal diplomatic norms can the Biden administration advance the innovative, effective diplomacy the world so desperately needs.

TEL AVIV – On December 11, then-President Donald Trump proclaimed that the United States would recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara, an apparent reward for the country’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The move was swiftly condemned as a blatant violation of diplomatic norms. But, with his facile approach to protracted conflicts, Trump inadvertently made an important point: the emperor – the prevailing diplomatic approach – has no clothes.

To be sure, Trump has himself stood naked on the world stage, as when he claimed to have reached a breakthrough with North Korea or touted his administration’s implausible Middle East “peace proposal.” But none of his predecessors – in the US or elsewhere – resolved these conflicts either, despite adhering to revered diplomatic norms.

Those norms are inextricably linked to the liberal world order that emerged after World War II. The “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine – the world’s commitment, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity – exemplifies this liberal diplomacy.

But, in the last couple of decades, it has been all downhill for this vision. In Libya – the first case where the UN Security Council authorized a military intervention based on R2P – UN envoys come and go, but the country’s future is decided by foreign powers acting unilaterally. And, with the Security Council deadlocked, R2P hasn’t been invoked to justifty military intervention since, despite several notable mass atrocities perpetrated...

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