"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Biden Foreign Policy–Hopelessly Airy, Compassionate, And Idealistic In A Dog-Eat-Dog World

Putin, the Ayatollahs, Kim, and Xi are all salivating at the tasty meal to come.  Biden has just taken his seat in the Oval Office.  Those with long memories remember the last ‘considerate’ president, Jimmy Carter, who advocated for human rights and got laughed at by the politburo, the mullahs, and Kim-Il Sung.  “Human rights”, they howled. “What are those?”, and each in turn pushed their morally indifferent aggressive  agendas. During Carter’s years the Soviet Union was still nuclear, ambitious, and dangerous.  The theocracy in Iran was just beginning to emerge.  Its takeover of the American Embassy, its pogroms of the Shah’s family and political retinue, and its regional political ambitions were unmistakable signs of an unflappable, deeply committed regime.  They put the US and Israel on notice, began currying favor with their clients Hezbollah and Hamas, and began a nuclear program.  With the ascendency of Deng Xiaoping in 1978 China began its revolutionary, radical transformation into a market economy, financial giant, and hegemon which soon asserted its authority over Hong Kong, Macao, Tibet, and the Uighurs.  Jimmy Carter of cardigan sweaters, hearth, and moral homilies was just the American president they had been hoping for.

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These international leaders were Machiavellian to the core, understood that morality had no place in world politics, and that empire, expansionism, war, territorialism, and intimidation were history’s only consistency.  The empires of kings, shoguns,  emperors, tsars, and shahs had not been mighty and influential because of pusillanimity or reserve.  Wars were continuous and interminable.  The Hundred Years War, the War of the Roses, and the constant English battles with the Irish, the Welsh, and the Scotch to say nothing of battles with Spain, France, and the Holy Roman Empire were just a few of the brutal conflicts that characterized Europe for centuries.  The Mongolian Turks under Genghis Khan in the 1200s ruled an Empire bigger than the Romans and which stretched from Japan to Europe. The modern era would be no different because human nature had not changed, nationalism – the collective expression of this nature – ruled and always would. 

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Jimmy Carter got elected because the American electorate was still smarting from Watergate and the corrupt Nixon years; but the soon tired and bored with Carter’s moralistic hectoring, inability to stand up to the Ayatollahs, and unsteady hand at the economic tiller.  For all his faults Richard Nixon scared and intimidated the Soviets with his ‘Madman’ theory (let the enemy think that there is the finger of a political lunatic on the nuclear trigger), and successfully negotiated with both Russia and China from a position of strength.

After the flaccid Carter years, Americans gave Ronald Reagan the presidency.  Reagan was the polar opposite to Carter and championed a muscular nationalism, defiant foreign policy, unabashed patriotism, and renewed endorsement of capitalism.  He was one of America’s most popular presidents, and despite his missteps in Central America will always be remembered for his “Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall” and his significant role in the collapse of the Soviet Union.  This was a man of principle but one who was as Machiavellian as any when it came to asserting American power.  Reagan set the stage and the tone for strong Americanism and Republican presidents – George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump – continued the legacy.  There was no Carter-era shame in being an American nor in asserting American might. 

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Yet even in the muscular Republican international military expeditions, there were always traces of moral exceptionalism.  Bush I pulled back from Baghdad rather than continue the slaughter of Iraqi troops and risk the lives of civilians; and Bush II did the same think in his invasion of Iraq. Whereas an unequivocal if not brutal military occupation might have thwarted or neutered the radical Islamic insurgency, he also pulled back and out.

Joe Biden takes over the American presidency with none of the aggressiveness and nationalism of his predecessor nor that of the Bushes, Nixon, and Reagan; but within the debilitating, pervasively idealistic progressivism that propelled him into office. He is the inheritor of Carter’s moralism, American moral exceptionalism, and the influential, idealistic cant of the progressive Left.  ‘In my Administration’, says Biden, ‘we will always do the right thing.  Our compassion, responsibility and duty for the American poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized will extend to the oppressed, desperate, and hopeless citizens of the world.  They will come first.’  Negotiation will be the way to effect positive changes in African dictators, Asian strongmen, and South American plutocrats, and civilians will only benefit, never harmed.

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Biden’s moral universe cannot be divided – there is not one ethos for domestic policy and another one for international nor room for two.  The principles of inclusivity, diversity, and good will cannot be selectively applied.  If we are concerned with American people, Biden has said, we must be concerned with all people.

Of course this is music to ears of political strongmen everywhere.  Not only do Putin, Xi, Kim, and the Ayatollahs delight in Biden’s words, but so do African big men.  These autocrats have shown, despite persistent American attempts to civilize them through the rule of law, that they are indifferent to the poor.  Angola, for example, is potentially one of the richest nations anywhere because of its deep energy deposits and precious stones and metals.  Its leaders have, however, exploited this wealth for their own use and the rest of the country remains mired in poverty. The example is repeated again and again throughout the continent.  If Biden speaks to African big men with Carter-esque tones of goodness and compassion, he will be laughed out the door.  If he lectures Xi on his supposedly genocidal tactics toward the Uighurs, he will be the joke of Beijing.  If he hectors Putin about the Chechens and the Russian Caucasians, Ukraine, or the Crimea, he will get tea, vodka, and smiles and sent home.

The world is, contrary to progressive opinion, not on the road to a better place.  It has not progressed, and if the 20th century is any indication, gotten worse.  In one century the world suffered through Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot to name just a few of the worst and most brutal dictators. The 21st is off to a shaky start having suffered through the emergence of Islamic terrorism.  While during the Trump presidency, al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, and ISIS have suffered significant defeats, the movement of radical Islamic hegemony has not gone away; and the arrival of Joe Biden augurs poorly.  Iran will continue to support  Middle East terrorism, and its radical clients like Hamas will continue to threaten Israel.   If Iran is welcomed back into the arms of Biden, let off the hook for its continued regional interventionism, and given free rein to build its nuclear capacity, things will get a whole lot worse.  Biden has demurred when asked about his Iran policy, but there can be no doubt that he will be far, far more generous towards this outlaw nation that his predecessors ever were.

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The Presidency wakes up the most idealistic president, and the first day’s CIA, State Department, and military briefings will gave any Oval Office newcomer a start.  So the country will have to wait and see just how he reacts to his first geopolitical challenge, which without a doubt will come and come soon.   While many think that Biden will revert to his moderate roots and radical progressivism was only a campaign dalliance, many others think that he really does believe in American moral exceptionalism and American goodness.  He will show the world that Donald Trump was an exception, and he will return the country to to reasonableness and good sense.  Still others think that he will be handled and manipulated by Kamala Harris and the multicultural progressive radicals in the Democratic Party – radicals who are unabashedly socialist and internationalist in outlook.  Time will tell, but a look at America’s historical imperatives, Biden’s tenure in Congress, and his campaign posture, the news is not good.  Not at all.

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