For many years the United States has acted as the unofficial global policeman. Washington has repeatedly stood up to attacks on democracy around the world, promoting free and fair elections, and urging peaceful transfers of power.
But some Americans fear that President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the result of the US election may have thrown its moral authority into jeopardy.
The storming of the US Capitol was a low point in America’s 244 years of democracy. When supporters of then-President Donald Trump tried to overturn the election, some US media outlets called it an “attempted coup”.
But this, from the same country that just last month criticised Uganda’s elections, blaming individuals for “undermining democracy”.
Discussion on Capitol invasion by Trump supporters:
In the past, the US has condemned a number of world leaders including the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s former President Joseph Kabila and Burundi’s former President Pierre Nkurunziza for their “attempts to hold on to power”.
Joe Biden says America’s democratic values have been “pushed to the brink” in recent weeks, but promises that “America is back”.
“The American people are going to emerge from this moment stronger, more determined, and better equipped to unite the world in fighting to defend democracy because we have fought for it ourselves,” says US President Biden.
President Biden’s first was an attempt, some experts say, to draw a line under the last US administration.
“He will restore America to its traditional role as an exemplar, as a beacon to the rest of the world after four years in which many countries were scratching their heads and asking themselves what has happened to American democracy – we have always looked to American democracy and now it’s in shreds,” says Charles Kupchan, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
But some experts worry no matter what President Biden says now, the diplomatic damage has already been done. That America’s place in the world has been weakened, its credibility crushed and that means lasting damage to America’s ability to hold other countries to account.
Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Dr Simon Adams believes there are still some doubts about moral authority in the United States.
“I think there is lingering doubt about the moral authority of the United States. And that you can’t go around the world lecturing people about values and principles that you’re not prepared to uphold at home. You have to be consistent. And I think it did do real damage when Trump was seen as very clearly rejecting a democratic result of an election.”
Biden has pledged to reclaim America’s “moral authority”, much of which, he says, “has been lost”.
But any attempts to call out and confront other nations’ undemocratic behaviour could now be met with accusations of hypocrisy.
Does USA still have credibility to criticise elections in other nations?