Tony Blinken will be secretary of state with the élan and faux sophistication the nakedly bankrupt foreign policy requires if the U.S. pantomime is to be sustained another four years.
By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News
It was inevitable that President Joe Biden would betray numerous of his campaign promises — and those that mattered most to wide-eyed voters who put him in office. The speed at which he and his people have revealed their treachery is nonetheless stunning.
No, there will be no comprehensive stimulus plan until at least the spring, if then. No, relief checks are not “going out the door immediately,” and no, they will not be for the $2,000 to which Biden committed his administration. As to Biden’s health care reforms, one can hardly believe one’s eyes and ears.
As Andrew Perez and Julia Rock reported in Jacobin last week, Biden’s plans are literally lifted from a letter health-insurance lobbyists recently sent Capitol Hill legislators. The promised public option is out the window. Health care “secure for all?” These people do have bridges they intend to sell you.
All this within a few days of Biden’s ascendancy. It’s not much different on the foreign policy side, so let’s draw the old lesson. You can have democracy at home or empire abroad, but you can’t have both. We will continue to suffer the latter under Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Those drawn into thinking the Biden regime would conduct America’s affairs abroad decently and humanely and in principled fashion will now discover they have been savagely sucker-punched. Those who understood from the outset that Biden’s people would go nowhere near the essential, determining questions of exceptionalism, universalism, and our consequent dedication to empire will be repelled but not surprised as the policy framework is revealed.
In this case, the moment of truth came even before Biden’s inauguration. His saccharine inauguration speech last Wednesday, with its Hallmark-card calls for unity, was quite secondary to the confirmation hearings the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the previous day.
In a matter of hours, Biden’s key national security people — Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, and Lloyd Austin as defense secretary — gave us a remarkably fulsome idea of what we are in for these next four years.
Haines and Austin, neither of whose records are to be admired, are at bottom functionaries who were nominated and swiftly confirmed because they do what they are told and do not think too much—always a career-advancer in Washington.
It is instead Blinken, who is said to enjoy some kind of “mind-meld” with Biden, that we must consider carefully. (Such a meld must be odd terrain.)
Blinken’s Senate testimony last Tuesday sprawled over four hours. It is best to scrutinize his remarks while seated in a chair with sturdy armrests, ideally to calm one’s nerves with a pot of chamomile tea.
Seen or read as a whole, those four hours gave us an extraordinary display of how empire works and how it prolongs itself. One by one, Blinken’s senatorial interlocutors told him in so many words, “Son, this is what you need to say if you want our confirmation. We want you to endorse our commitment to aggression, to unlawful interventions, to ‘regime change’ ops, to merciless sanctions, and altogether to the empire. But you must make it look nice. Make it look thoughtful and complicated and considered.”
I am convinced, having endured the entire C–Span recording, that what I watched was sheer ritual. Blinken won the Senate’s support and now succeeds the shockingly bovine Mike Pompeo at State. He will do so, however, with the élan and faux sophistication our nakedly bankrupt foreign policy now requires if the American pantomime is to be sustained another four years.
Among Blinken’s many rather sad-to-witness “Yes sirs,” two standout: his finely chiseled endorsement of Pompeo’s reckless assassination a year ago of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s revered military commander (“Taking him out was the right thing to do”), and his approval of the Trump administration’s decision to send lethal arms to the manically corrupt regime in Kiev (“Senator, I support providing that lethal defensive assistance to Ukraine,” when the Obama administration, from which he comes, did not.)
Late last year, Blinken appeared on “Intelligence Matters,” the podcast run by Michael Morrell, the coup-mongering former deputy director at the Central Intelligence Agency and now — of course — a regular commentator on the televisions news networks. In their exchange, the two took up the question of our “forever wars” and Biden’s well-advertised commitment to ending them. Here is a snippet from Blinken’s remarks:
“As for ending the forever wars, large-scale deployment of large, standing U.S. forces in conflict zones with no clear strategy should and will end under his [Biden’s] watch. But we also need to distinguish between, for example, these endless wars with large-scale, open-ended deployment of U.S. forces with [sic], for example, discreet, small-scale sustainable operations, maybe led by special forces to support local actors. In ending the endless wars we have to be careful not to paint with too broad a brushstroke.”
This is what we are in for these coming years, the hyper-rational irrationality of the middling technocrat. There will be adjustments at the margin, reconsiderations of method. There will be no consideration whatsoever of America’s hegemonic objectives—of the imperial project.
Blinken’s testimony reflected these bitter truths start to finish.
Changes to the Iran Deal
Of the various questions the new secretary of state took up during his confirmation hearings, Iran is the most pressing. Senator Bob Menendez, Blinken’s interlocutor in this case, insisted that yes, the U.S. wants to rejoin the 2015 accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs, but only if this includes prohibitions against Tehran’s “destabilizing activities” and a missile program that Iran justly considers essential to its security.
An honest, clear-eyed diplomat who wanted to get somewhere with Tehran would have rejected the very frame of Menendez’s line of inquiry, with its references to “support for terrorism” and “funding and feeding its proxies.” But Blinken read his cues and tucked right in:
“The president-elect believes that if Iran comes back into compliance we would, too, but we would use that as a platform… to seek a longer, stronger agreement and also, as you have pointed out, to capture these other issues, particularly with regard to missiles and Iran’s destabilizing activities. This would be the objective.”
This is sheer charade. Blinken knows as well as anyone else that the added conditions the Biden regime will require before rejoining the agreement—an end to Iran’s ballistic missile programs and its support for the Syrian government against Islamists and the illegal U.S. incursion—effectively cancel all chances that the U.S. will rejoin the accord.
I predicted in this space shortly after Biden was elected that he and his foreign policy people only pretended to be serious about reviving the nuclear agreement with Iran. Blinken’s testimony confirms this.
Over the weekend The Times of Israel, citing Channel 12 television, reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sending Yossi Cohen, chief of Mossad and a close confidant, to Washington to “set out terms” for any revival of the nuclear deal. Israel purports to “set out terms,” and Biden will receive this spook? This is getting completely unserious. Completely.
On China, Russia, and Venezuela: Blinken was putty in the hands of the Foreign Relations Committee’s across-the-board hawks. A two-fronted new Cold War across both oceans — Sinophobia and Russophobia all at once — is to be our reality these next four years.
Over the weekend, to be noted, the American Embassy in Moscow had the gall to broadcast routes protesters could take to demonstrations in various Russian cities to dispute Alexei Navlany’s arrest . A good start.
Marco Rubio, the coup-loving senator from Florida, wanted to know if Blinken thought the U.S. should continue backing Juan Guaidó, the buffoon Rubio and Pompeo puffed up as Venezuela’s “interim leader” as part of a failed coup operation a couple of years ago. Blinken:
“I very much agree with you, senator, first of all with regard to a number of the steps that were taken toward Venezuela in recent years, including recognizing Mr. Guaidó… and seeking to increase pressure on the regime…. We need an effective policy that can restore Venezuela to democracy, and how can we best advance that ball? … Maybe we need to look at how we more effectively target the sanctions that we have….”
Grim, grim times lie ahead if Blinken runs State as he promised the Senate he would.
There are those among us who look for shafts of light. People I greatly respect (some, anyway) thought it was good news when Biden named William Burns, a career foreign service officer, to head the CIA. At last diplomacy, not unlawful interventions!
Over the weekend, there were reports that Biden will review — not more at this point — the designation of Yemen’s Houthis as terrorists, a label Pompeo affixed as he emptied his desk last week. Finally, we will stop supporting the Saudis’ savagery!
People believe what they need to believe these days, I find, and belief overrides cognition in many such cases. I caution these people. At bottom Blinken demonstrated for us that no one who purports to alter our imperial course will ever be allowed to hold high office. For people such as Blinken, it is merely a question of wielding influence without having any.
This is where Americans live—in a crumbled republic no longer capable of changing.
Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
Thanks Pat, while the truth hurts, are you old enough to
recall November 23, 1963? That’s what happens to
someone with thoughtful human intelligence who dares to
confront the national security state.
The US apparently gives Israel about $4b in security and economic assistance every year. Yet by simply treating the Palestinians fairly Biden could forever guarantee Israel’s security with one simple measure: instead of giving the money to Israel, give it to the Palestinians instead.
The Palestinians would be uplifted and the compensation would satisfy much of their grievance with Israel. The funds would inevitably wash through Israel’s economy anyway.
But instead of win/win we see the US coddling one of “the worst human rights abusers on the planet” and helping them oppress one of the most abused populations in history.
U.S. military-aid to Israel: the largest direct American military subvention to any single country.
FY2021, Trump requested $3.3 billion in FMF for Israel, $500 million in missile defense aid, and $5 million for humanitarian migrants to Israel.
Under the 10-year bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2016, covering military aid FY2019-FY2028, the US pledged to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel.
Israel stopped receiving direct U.S. economic-aid in FY2008.
Source: U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel – Congressional Research Service Report#RL33222 (16-November-2020)
In order for them – the OAP – to kill, bulldoze, continue their genocidal ethnic cleansing of the indigenous peoples of Palestine: the Palestinians…Sick isn’t in it.
Patrick, I admire your fortitude and tolerance to be able to listen to this tirade of obsequeousness and outright lies- I can hardly red the transcript without gagging! As if Israel has not had complete power over the whole destruction of the JCPOA and more over the Trump régime years. As for the Ukraine and Russia parodies of truth, the “democracy” in Venezuela just after the recent election which was easily won by the ruling group led by Maduro, it is as if Blinken is a programmed robot.
His interests lie beyond these shores perhaps because he feels they should…
What he is not interested in (are any in positions of power? after all $$$ flow their way if they ensure that there is always, always, an enemy to be droned/bombed/threatened/overthrown) is peace and mind OUR own business, putting out own house in order, closing Guantanamo, returning the Chagos Islanders to their rightful inhabitants (and recompensing them for their removal), helping the Marshall Islanders, Recompensing the Vietnamese for all of the damage we did to them and their soils, ending completely our funding of the OAP which enables (and has enabled) their 70+ year long violent ethnic cleansing and imprisonment of the indigenous Palestinians, on and on….
I share all of Patrick’s concern about the course that the Biden administration will follow over the next four years. However, with regard to Blinken’s Senate confirmation hearing, it should be remembered that nominees can be relied upon to say whatever it is that their interlocutors want to hear or at least to avoid saying what they don’t want to hear . Still, personnel are policy, and Biden’s chosen personnel are like a warning flare shot high into the sky.
You’re right on every count. We have escaped the Devil, at least for now, and here before us lies (pun intended) the Deep Blue Sea.
I wish columns like this one could get published more widely. Our famously “free” press does a fine job of keeping any honest appraisal of foreign affairs out of the mainstream press, and within the boundaries of what passes for realism by the Washington consensus on our exceptionalism as a nation. We’re treated to an endless parade of “serious” talking and scribbling heads in the mainstream media who, if they aren’t officially neo-cons, are mouthpieces for them. The Patrick Lawrences and Andrew Bacevichs are shut out of the mainstream dialogue as surely as Chomsky and other critics of US foreign policy have always been. And this despite nearly two decades of manifest failure of everything our empire has touched. “Nothing fundamentally will change” will be the epitaph on the Biden administration when an even more hawkish and vile GOP president is elected in 2024: it will be a Trump 2.0 whether it’s Cruz, Cotton, Hawley, or Trump himself.
And on domestic policy,
Did anyone really know that they were voting for something like this, hXXps://www.sgtreport.com/2021/01/how-many-lies-in-the-first-days/, last time they thought they were voting?
I guess the video portrait of candidate Biden from his Council on Foreign Relations talk including his boasting about threatening Ukraine 1/23/18 – where he sounded like he was interviewing for a job – trying to prove to Richard Haass boasting how tough he was – threatening to withhold $1billion from Ukraine if they didn’t fire their prosecutor.
“How the world should function” was his phrase earlier in the talk. – no how the world should function to serve the financial beneficiaries of their neoliberal
The talk is rambling with little understanding of “Responsible Statecraft” – instead lots of code words and propaganda to push the idea that WE have to set the terms and enforce them inferentially via whatever means we must…
Biden bragged about his toughness in Ukraine towards the ned of the talk:
“And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t.
So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him. (Laughter.) I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
When Biden explains/excuses the use of NATO after the breakup of Russia early in the talk he says;
“And one of the things we talked about, and I’ll not go any further, is that as all these Eastern and Central European countries were, quote, “freed,” they all had their own agenda, their own historical fears, their own concerns. And they’re all engaging independently in activities and actions that could have been very destabilizing—destabilizing to the whole region.
And so part of what we did was to stabilize and give some assurance to each of those countries that they should yield toward what would be more considered to be basic democratic instincts and policies, than to go the route some of them were considering going. And so I don’t think—I don’t think that the expansion of NATO, history will—it will be a debate that will continue—was the reason why the instability to the extent that it—that it was inevitable that Russia would take the role that it took. But I do think there were a number of things, when you think about it, as you’ve written about—and many of you have—(referring to Richard Haass on his left)…”
But James Baker promised Gorbachev that if Glasnost took place the U.S. would not move to grapple at those satellite countries to bring them into NATO.
cfr DOT org/event/foreign-affairs-issue-launch-former-vice-president-joe-biden
Will some nation(s) please put the US in it’s place so we can ALL start living in peace. I’m 69 years old and this whole lifetime war thing has been insanity for all of us, except those who become fabulously rich from the profits and those who get pleasure from killing, killing, and killing.
I’m 66, almost 67, and will, most likely, never see any real peace from the US government. A big portion of the economy is based on imperialist actions and the manufacture of conflicts around the globe mainly to keeps the arms makers in business. Or simply, war. And no, there is no nation willing to risk the wrath of the US government by trying to halt this insane posture of aggression, it’s just too big and has a momentum all its own. Biden will continue unabated this absurd, insanely expensive machine to its eventual implosion in the near future. All the parts of the fall of the economy are in place, all that’s needed is some ill defined tipping point to be crossed. Perhaps, a war with Iran?
I so agree with this and – most depressingly with John Allen, too….Empires have to fall apart, and will, but it’s all too soon (dreadfully) for that here…(I’m early 70’s…) We had (in UK) the CND marches (with Labour Party leaders among the marchers)…but they/we were ignored…I mean really – clutching on the coat tails of imperial power was more important for the corporate-capitalist-imperialist plutocratic/aristocratic ruling elites (especially given that there was money to be made selling war materiel to such as Saudia to slaughter the Yemenis. The Maybot’s husband has some linkage to that….)
“Taking him out was the right thing to do” would have been exactly correct if they meant treating Qassem Soleimani to a slap-up meal in a nice restaurant rather than murdering him in broad daylight for political purposes benefiting only the USA’s ruling class.
No-one in any debate I’ve engaged in has answered this question: why can’t Iran have nuclear weapons when the USA has 6,000 and Iran’s self-declared enemy apartheid Israel has who knows how many? Perhaps someone reading this who supports the sanctions against Iran will explain this to me. I’m an anti-nuclear member of CND so I want no-one to have the right to threaten mass death on the world but I can’t see the moral authority claimed by the USA or my own government and Labour so-called opposition here in the UK. After all, we’re building Dreadnought nuclear powered submarines to carry a replacement system for the Trident nuclear missiles. Yet Iran is to be attacked with lethal sanctions for possibly considering, maybe, at some point, thinking about developing a few nuclear weapons of its own.
Quite. If The Occupiers of All Palestine can have nukes – in the region – and the US/UK/FR can, then why the bloody heck can’t Iran??? It has NOT stolen/invaded anyone’s land since the 18th C…can’t be said for any of the above mentioned, not hardly.
But who really expected that there would be – on the international front – any Real Change with Biden/Harris?? He’s as deeply into things as they have been and are, into Empire and the devastation of other societies as any previous politico…(And I cannot comprehend all of these African American females, often of high education, who have been falling over themselves in sycophantic admiration of Harris, given Harris’s actions against African American males when she was the DA first for SF then for CA…Really??? Mind boggling. But clearly skin hue matters more than ethics and morals and compunction.)
End of Empire please….
Of course, but Iran is determined to do without nukes. Now that nukes are illegal (22?2?21 UN ) all the nuke nations should respect those countries which do NOT want to have them. If all the nations did away with them, we would all, of course, be safer, but the USA not only threatens and “upgrades” its nukes, but bases them in other nations (Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, Belgium)regardless of the wishes of their populations.
For the USA after the shameful withdrawal from a finely tuned agreement for spurious reasons to now consider making conditions for return ( quite divorced from the nuclear “concerns”) is outrageous even for exceptional bullies!
Incisive and grim. As Mr. Putin observed, Presidents come and go but the policy stays the same. But wait! I think there’s more…
WRT Iran. Iran recently announced that their sales of oil had increased substantially, without, of course identifying how much or with whom. If they are doing these transactions in national currencies, there’s nothing other than piracy that the US can do, making the US more dependent on our vassals to carry our water here. But…
In other news, the EU has decided to stop supporting Guido. If some of the OAS vassals get the idea that they, too, can stand on at least their two knees, maybe Mr. Maduro can get a bit more of a break. The US is sure to be wroth.
PACE decided to pass a non-binding resolution of more sanctions against Russia for the Navalny fiasco while Frau Merkel (and her likely successor) remains clear that Nord Stream II must be finished. The German FM pointed out that they could face serious court battles since the Pipeline consortium which includes other EU countries has all the permits they require.
The results are in aaaaannnnnddd – thanx to Covid, for the first time in history China had more Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) than the US. The US better hope that doesn’t keep up…..
Yes Sir, Mr. Lawrence so right you are . We can only hope he is devising a better plan with pleasant surprises.
His actions so far are extremely worrisome to me but pretty much what I expected. Older guy like you favorite old uncle or grandfather, kinda Reagan-esque . Not a confidence builder for me. I fear the dimos are failing already.
It may still be early but the country has no more time for dimocraps to play what their assumed role has been in this failed two party system for the last 70 years. The proverbial punching bag of the right. Peace, unity, forgiveness and so the old story goes. Yes sir , Uncle Joe there is obviously a great number of folks, center, left of center that are disgusted with you and dimocrapic party. Wake up! Trump needs to be trumped soundly.
BREAKING NEWS HERE: the repugbliklans have learned nothing, still feeling that a good offense is better coming from them in order make the dimocraps play defense and want to kiss and make up! I say let AOC at him.
Friendly Ole “President Joe” better have a great plan to recover from the nose dive the country is in currently.
Joe might not understand we are no longer fooled by fraud the two party system has been historically and we all are watching.
Joe if he has any chance of a second term needs to figure out who elected him and make the proper adjustments in his staffing and policies. I’m not about to hold my breath!
Joe seemed pretty eager to get elected, I’ll take him at his word but he needs to make damned sure he stays on the right side of history and keeps the USA on the right side of history too.
If there has ever been an incident that screams for transgressors to be singled out as a result of their outrageous unpatriotic beliefs and behavior this is the time. A great opportunity for dimos seize a teachable moment and do something very good with it, as in “good trouble!!”
First step is in the direction of letting the republicans know they are on the clock with respect to their pandering to Trump and have been recognized as feinting indignation as if to imply “he wasn’t so bad”. He sure as hell was, and in my opinion worse. I’m hardly alone in my outrage,. Speaking of outrage, the MSM seem to have went soft on him now as expected of them. Approaching one half million dead Americans and they present it as if it were something expected and unavoidable.
Trump may not have shot anyone in the middle of fifth Ave but his ignorant neglect has been responsible for the largest number of American dead ever and on homeland soil at that. Think not see his job description.
He was and is worse. The repugbliklans need to admit it and get their stuff together and the dimos need to tell them that, now.
For republiklans to have engaged in such behavior and still not backed down from their self-claimed radical extremist positions and show no signs of remorse or repentance sends a message for future trouble. Their facetious portrayals of indignation because they might be held accountable for their presidents misbehavior needs to called what it is and as a patriotic non-partisan American I demand of them admission of aiding an enemy of the state. Otherwise no forgiveness.
Mr. President you are in new territory like it or not best get an edge suffice to protect the Union..
They backed the mad man and they need to be held to account for it.
Now do those who elected Biden President get some relief of their grievances or do the US Flags go on the poles upside down?
Nobody knows the trouble I see.
“Regardless of the red and blue propaganda that is central to American politics, a pattern emerges when it comes to the perennial policies and the long game of the permanent American state – a feature which is most salient in terms of its relationship with Israel. Biden will continue one of the hallmarks of the Trump presidency […] finishing the work started by Jared Kushner to cement a cordial bond between Saudi Arabia and Israel, exposing the duplicity of the American two-party system by coddling two of the worst human rights abusers on the planet.”
– Raul Diego at MintPress News (25-January-2021)
An honest and brutal assessment, as always, but a little more grim than usual. Thanks for this.
The question is: is he serious, or is he conning the hawks in the Senate? .
That is one possibility. His history is not impressive though, except to a neo-con.
The other is, classic old style Democratic party tactics; hawkish foreign policy while pursuing a liberal(they don’t do progressive) domestic policy. LBJ was a good example, Vietnam and the 1964 Civil Rights Act plus the War on Poverty. Though some thought the latter meant war on the poor.
Tune in later; at least he is not Hillary.
“Do you agree that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and do you commit that the United States will keep our embassy in Jerusalem?” – Ted Cruz
“Yes and yes.” – Obsequious (“superbly qualified”) Tony Blinken
Biden is keeping promises to the pro-Israel Lobby’s Blue wing.
Blinken’s “mind meld” with Robert Kagan/Brookings down-low Israel First foreign policy guarantees more Obama-era “Path to Persia” fun and games.
Brookings’ 2009 Saban Center for Middle East Policy “Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran” were authored by leading “pro-Israel chorus” (Mearsheimer & Walt, The Israel Lobby, p156) war hawks.