Forum on Biden’s Foreign Policy

by Mark Shirk

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Photo by Manny Becerra on Unsplash

Introducing a forum on Biden's Foreign Policy for In the Long Run


After a long, draining election, Joe Biden was elected as US president on 3 November 2020.


After a volatile transition period that included many court challenges and an attempted insurrection, he was inaugurated on Jan 20, 2001. For many, it was a joyous occasion, given the unpopularity of the outgoing Trump Administration and the inauguration of the first female, black, and Indian Vice President, Kamala Harris.


In this forum, we wanted to use ongoing research happening here in Cambridge to understand the foreign policy and global challenges that the Biden/Harris Administration face.


The Biden/Harris Administration face many challenges. These include an economic recession, a global pandemic, and a damaged democracy. This may make Joe Biden, an unassuming man as far as recent US Presidents go, one of the more consequential in the country’s and (and given US power and influence) the world’s history.


In this forum, we wanted to use ongoing research happening here in Cambridge to understand the foreign policy and global challenges that the Biden/Harris Administration face. There are 5/6 contributors, all current or recent doctoral students here at the Department of Politics and International Studies.


They are all drawing on their own research to help us understand what US foreign policy may look like under Joe Biden. The topics vary but there do seem to be two themes a) the Biden Administration faces some steep challenges that may structural and hard to correct and b) domestic political concerns will be a big part of US foreign policy over the next four-plus years.



Jane Darby Menton argues that there will be challenges to Biden’s plan for a diplomacy-first foreign policy. For instance, Donald Trump was able to rip up the JCPOA (nuclear agreement with Iran) because the Obama Administration was unable to successfully legitimate it in the eyes of the public. Going back to such deals will take more than simply coming to agreements with other countries.

Read this post here>>


Jack Brake focuses on US prestige and argues recommends that the Biden/Harris Administration should focus on performative restraint. Such actions gain the US credibility for restraining itself while also highlighting its own power. 

Read this post here>>

Anya Ce Liang argues that it is not power but ‘happiness’ that drives state action while recognizing that ‘happiness’ is culturally determined. She suggests that an effective hegemon is a happy one and recommends that the Biden/Harris Administration do X, Y, Z. 

Read Anya's post here>>

Will Strickland warns that a major hurdle between the foreign policy goals of the Biden/Harris Administration and what will result is bureaucratic politics. There are already some fault lines being drawn within the administration that could make it hard for the Administration to accomplish its goals. 

Read this post here>>

Arjun Sharath a recent graduate, argues that US Foreign Policy has always had a racial component and tackling the racial justice issues the US faces at this moment is an important component of its foreign policy.

Read about Arjun's research here>>

Marie Prum talks about the tensions between state sovereignty and the cooperation necessary to meet the challenge of climate change.  She calls for a ‘greening of sovereignty’ in which sovereignty is reimagined to allow for what is necessary to meet the greatest challenge of the 21st century. 

Read about Marie's research here>>

About the author

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Dr Mark Shirk is a Lecturer at POLIS. Mark’s research interests are in transnational violence, global order, and state development.

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