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

Monday, May 31, 2021

Biden’s Foreign Policy–Duped By Moral Exceptionalism And Playing Into The Hands Of Putin, Xi, And The Ayatollahs

President Biden has ‘put Putin and Xi on notice’ – telling them in no uncertain terms that the United States will tolerate no human rights abuses and will counter any xenophobic, nationalistic claims to ethnic purity with all of America’s influence.  Such threats are empty and meaningless in geopolitical terms.  The United States is deeply in debt to China and plans to become even more so with the proposed multi-trillion dollar budget which no tax increases can cover.  President Xi knows that no matter how much bluster about human rights may come from the White House, America will do nothing.  It can do nothing.  The United States is so indebted to China that even calling in a small portion of America’s debt would cause a major disruption in financial markets.  Xi knows that Biden needs China far more than China needs the United States. Washington’s Sturm und Drang is nothing more than the crashing cymbals and big-breasted arias of a Wagnerian opera.

In the past few decades China, whose leaders have wanted nothing to do with moral exceptionalism, mission, or conditionalities have invested significantly in the Third World.  Their contracts would be on a strictly quid-pro-quo basis.  Chinese companies would build African roads, bridges, railways, and ports; and in return China would get long-term, guaranteed access to energy and mineral resources at favorable, unchanging, low rates.  Or, as in the case of the Horn of Africa, the Chinese would farm arable but unused and undeveloped agricultural land, export its products back to China, and return a small portion of the profits to the host country.  There was never a question about governance or civil rights.  Those were internal issues, of interest only to the partner country, not China.

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As a result, Chinese public and private investment now far surpasses American.  By offering these practical agreements, China has both benefited host countries, enriched itself, cornered the market in essential rare earths, and perhaps most importantly, gained an unshakable political foothold in Africa.

At the same time, the United States has insisted that all foreign aid be tied to democratic reform.  Dictatorships in Africa would only get foreign assistance if they agreed to reforming their governance, their judiciary, and their economic systems.  The Big Men of Africa readily agreed but never complied, and billions of aid dollars were simply transited to Switzerland.  The World Bank, burned time and time again on these bad loans, kept insisting that they were on the right moral track and continued to renegotiate them; but each and every time, the loans were non-performing because the funds loaned to corrupt African governments were never seen by the people they were intended to reach.  While continuing to take US generous grants, the Big Men turned to China for even more profitable investments.  They could continue to salt away billions in foreign bank accounts while letting the Chinese take over the development of the infrastructure which would eventually pay handsome rewards.  The price? Guaranteed low prices for oil over and extended period. No problem, since even at below market rates, the price paid would continue to enrich those in power.

Alexander Putin is similarly dismissive of Biden’s moral posturing.  Biden’s cancelling of the XL pipeline and stranglehold on domestic oil and gas exploitation are early Christmas gifts to Russia who now can exert even more political pressure on Western Europe, already dependent on Russian energy.  Without American energy, Russia will be Europe’s biggest if not only gas supplier.  Biden’s exceptionalism is no match for Putin’s canny politics in the Middle East, positioning Russia as a major player between Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey.  America can only watch as Russia extends its political influence and hegemony.

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The ayatollahs already know that the United States is a political infant, negotiating as Obama did a nuclear treaty which gave Iran all it ever could have wanted – a renewed nuclear program in ten years (the waiting period is almost up), desultory inspections, and free rein to support Hezbollah, Hamas, and other client terrorists in the Middle East – and now that Biden has regressed to a Carter-era human rights agenda, it expects to expand its military and political influence and strengthen its intent to destroy Israel.

Now that Trump is out of the White House, Korea’s Kim Jong-Il knows that he has a free ride.  As soon as he announces that he is interested in peace talks with the West and sets massive food aid to the Korean population he has starved as a condition, the American president will come running.

Biden is Kim’s lapdog, an idealistic dupe. 

American foreign policy has always been based on the idea of exceptionalism.  Democracy is not simply a political system based on principles of equal rights and justice; but one of higher moral value.  There is no room for objection or dissent allowed from those countries America is hoping to influence.  There is something immoral, wrong, if not inherently evil about a society which deliberately and persistently denies individual liberty, promotes cultural homogeneity, and insists that individual freedoms will always come second to national harmony and purpose.

Yet country after country is not only questioning but denying America’s exceptionalism.  Democracy is not a value, they say, but a political system which is outdated if not archaic given today's geopolitical realities.  Russia, China, Iran, and other political groupings have asserted that historical culture, religion, or social nationalism trump liberal democracy at every hand.  There is no mistaking either Putin’s or Xi’s imperialist designs and their insistence on cultural and political hegemony.  Putin has dealt ruthlessly with Chechen separatists and have largely neutralized them and other South Caucasian terrorist groups.  Ethnic diversity is the cause of civil conflict and an inhibitor of national prosperity and must be eliminated.

China’s Xi is no different.  He will tolerate no ethnic separatism and has made it clear to the Uighurs and other Muslim separatist ethnicities that they are to conform to secular China and to Han Chinese cultural identity or else they will be destroyed.

Diego A. von Vacano in a  definitive book called The Art of Power writes

Machiavelli is concerned with a more minimalist conception of man; one in which existence is fragile and politics is urgently necessary to safeguard it. Politics is born not from man’s superior qualities, but rather from his weaknesses. He does not see a path for human achievement except insofar as it comes from answering the challenges of the fragility of life.
Machiavelli’s argument is compelling, for even in a cursory reading, history reveals itself as repetitively aggressive and self-serving; and these impulses are at the very heart of human nature.  Neither one reflects any interest in moral regeneration. 

Henry Kissinger, the most eloquent modern apologist for a Machiavellian realpolitik, rejected the idea of values in international politics.  National self-interest was the only path to strength.  He dismissed the moral arrogance of Jimmy Carter and would have laughed at Biden’s reprise of this failed, discredited policy. Jimmy Carter's focus on 'human rights', the antithesis of realpolitik, set back American foreign policy by decades, enforcing a values-first approach to conflict.  None of America's enemies then or now ever subscribed to such accommodating ideas, and we are still paying the price for his idealism.

Even conservative President George W. Bush rejected the idea of realpolitik, and felt that the war in Iraq was more than anything an attempt to spread Western-style democracy and liberal economics to the Middle East.  The Establishment of a democratic regime in Baghdad would have an inevitable effect on the entire region.  Newly prosperous, free, and enterprising Iraqis would show the way.

The war went wrong for many reasons, but principally because it was the wrong war at the wrong time and place.  Although revisionist reasoning is never advised, the ill-advised invasion of Iraq based on American values was completely wrong.  Given the reasoning of realpolitik, the real enemy was Islamic terrorism, and rulers like Saddam Hussein, Assad, and the Egyptian military should have been supported, not attacked.

Biden has not only not learned the lessons of the past, but refuses to even consider them.  Despite millennia of historical evidence and the experience of recent years, he insists that there actually is such a thing as absolute good and that America is its disciple, warrior, and defender.  If millions listened to the messages of Jesus and Paul about good will, compassion, and faith; so will they to him and his message of cooperative peace.

The next four years are sure to see Chinese and Russian imperialism and hegemony, Iranian aggression, Islamic terrorism, and North Korean threats.  None of these countries are beholden to the United States and none are obliged to listen to Biden’s holier-than-thou, sanctimony.

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