What occurred between Washington and Moscow last week, and at a hotel in Anchorage, bears a significance that we must not miss.
By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News
“Biden is a national embarrassment on foreign policy,” a colleague wrote in a note over the weekend. This is the very mildest assessment of the administration’s doings last week. In a matter of three days, Joe Biden and those who actually run policy — primarily Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan — have plunged America into crisis with two of planet Earth’s most powerful nations, both nuclear armed, both essential to addressing global problems that cannot be solved without common efforts, both heretofore explicitly open to cooperative ties to the U.S.
Let us brace for a tumultuous, probably dangerous four years. And let us look soberly to the cause of this tumult and danger.
Biden’s appearance on ABC News last Wednesday evening, while meticulously scripted by all appearances, was an unmitigated disaster. What is to be gained by calling Vladimir Putin “a killer” and then threatening to make him “pay” for meddling in last year’s elections even as there is no evidence to support such allegations (as there was none in 2016)? One cannot think of a single advantage.
The same question and the same conclusion apply to Blinken’s two-day encounter with Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, China’s senior foreign policy officials, in Anchorage last Thursday and Friday. The diplomatic representative of the world’s most aggressive, coercive, interventionist nation lecturing a nation with no corresponding record of aggression, coercion, or intervention about our fidelity to some chimeric “rules-based international order?” One must go as far back as… as far back as Mike Pompeo to find such tin-eared incompetence.
Putin recalled his ambassador to Washington immediately after Biden’s televised remarks, and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow now warns of “an irreversible deterioration in relations.” Yang Jiechi, who once served as Beijing’s ambassador to Washington, intimated the same thing. “I think we thought too well of the United States,” he said to Blinken across long, linen-draped tables in Anchorage. “We require the U.S. to treat China and Sino–U.S. relations in an objective and rational manner, discard the Cold War and zero-sum thinking, and respect China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests.”
This is animus. This is two nations saying they have had enough of Washington’s late-imperial hypocrisies and posturings.
What lies behind these blunders? Was there some purpose in provoking Russian and Chinese ire that transcends the very significant messes the president and his national security people just created?
It is true that Washington, with the Democratic Party bearing the standard, has been committed to hostile relations with Moscow and Beijing at least since the 2014 coup in Ukraine and the National Defense Review of 2018 identified Russia and China as strategic adversaries. This policy has just been consolidated at the political and executive levels.
It is also true that Democratic administrations, by a long tradition, assume they must be still more hawkish than Republican opponents so as to deflect any charge they are “soft” on national security questions. And true again that our defense contractors, whose tentacles reach deep within this administration, will be better served by enemies requiring big-ticket arms acquisitions than they were by the low-intensity, low-tech “war on terror.”
But there is another factor at work as Biden and his lieutenants unfurl their foreign policies, and I have already suggested it. This is the problem of incompetence. I mean this two ways: There is personal incompetence, and there is institutional incompetence. What a time, with numerous large policy questions looming, to come face to face with such deficits as these.
Neither the president nor those closest to him are demonstrably qualified to conceive of, manage, or execute a foreign policy that meets the 21st century’s numerous and complex new demands. This may not be readily apparent, given the administration’s pose as one of subtle, cultured, deep thinkers (with excellent manners, of course, the president an exception on this score).
Shortly after the election last November, when Biden was preparing to announce his front bench, he termed Sullivan a “once-in-a-generation intellect.” Hmmm. Let us see about this.
Of Biden little need be said. He boasts a Capitol Hill career that is long on foreign policy experience, but it is the same as with Hillary Clinton: With expertise like this, who needs amateurs? Biden has been on the wrong side of too many policy calamities to count, even though no one in Washington ever counts these things.
As to his mental faculties, The New York Times and the other major dailies can pretend all they like that Biden is a perfectly able president and wonder whatever all the suggestions otherwise could be about. The truth this nation will eventually have to face, when all the dissembling is worn thin and mistakes of the magnitude of last week’s multiply, is that our corrupted political process has landed us with a leader whose car keys ought to be taken away.
As to his underlings, these are advisers well-practiced in the art of telling those they advise what they want to hear. This means they are crafty and do what they are told but are not necessarily smart. As Blinken’s much-noted confirmation hearings made plain, this is a man who knows what he has to say in any given company if he is to advance up the ladder and who says it with an evident eye to the expected obeisance.
This is why Blinken, and by easy extension Jake “once-a-generation” Sullivan, are professed exceptionalists, interventionists, and neoliberal ideologues. This same can be said of others prominent in the administration. Has Blinken ever come forward with an original idea? Think hard. Has Sullivan? Has Avril Haines, now director of national intelligence? Has Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin?
Clinging to a Worn-Out Victory
The 21st century, as anyone with a window to look out of knows, requires various things of its statesmen and stateswomen that eras past often did not. They must bring creativity and imagination to the policy process if they are to make anything worthwhile of it, for the global environment has changed radically and continues to do so. Maybe most of all, they must have the confidence to cut new paths, knowing that one can go in no new direction unless one is willing to venture onto uncharted ground.
None of Biden’s people exhibits any such confidence or courage. This brings us to the problem of institutional incompetence.
The world was America’s oyster after the 1945 victories. And it is the same for victors throughout history. All they need to do is keep on doing what it was that gave them their triumph. Only the defeated must reëxamine themselves, identify their errors, and think anew. In this way defeat opens fertile ground, while victory often leads to sclerosis.
Our policy institutions are effectively devoid of thought, if you have not noticed, because they have had no need of thinking for the past 70 years. With this in mind, I urge readers to listen to a snippet or two of Blinken’s remarks in Anchorage last week. This is not a man who thinks. This is a good boy who recites rote phrases, as from a catechism.
One would love to pose certain questions to Biden’s foreign policy people so as to reveal what they are truly made of. Do you recognize the legitimate interests of others, Secretary Blinken, and if you do how would you define China’s and Russia’s? China has counted noninterference in the internal affairs of others among its core principles since Zhou Enlai articulated it at the Nonaligned Conference in Bandung in 1955. Secretary Blinken, do you acknowledge this principle?
What occurred between Washington and Moscow last week, and at a hotel in Anchorage, bears a significance that we must not miss. As I listened to Blinken lecture the Chinese about America’s fidelity to “a rules-based international order” — yes, he had the nerve — it occurred to me that it is during the Biden years that America’s rear-guard defense of its fading empire is likely to collide rather directly with 21st century realities such as global parity, multipolarity, and the rest of the world’s determination to enforce international law.
While I was pondering this, I read of a new coalition of nations calling themselves the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations. Its members stand explicitly against U.S. aggression and include, not surprisingly, various states — Bolivia, Cuba, Syria, Venezuela —that have endured it. These nations are not going to make the world spin differently, but I read their voices as a sign of changing times. China and Russia are also among them.
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.
Thank you so much Patrick for this clear, succinct and so accurate overview of the Biden-Blinken-Sullivan (and the rest of the MICIMATT, in reality) simply hypocritical, arrogant idiocy. May this empire fall soon…they all do. It is more than time this one did.
Good ol’ Yankee arrogance. Even without the US the sun will continue to rise on the East and set on the West.
Great stuff Mr. Lawrence.
The irrepressible , irresponsible, loathsome Deep State owns both parties. It is in complete control, as the continuing Russia-gate ruse, 20 year wars and the defense budget proves and it shows.
Power and authority corrupt and absolute power and absolute authority corrupt and ruin absolutely. The Deep State seems to have reached it’s goal of rendering the U.S. government completely useless to those it is said to serve while plunging into a death spiral pursuing the Old School idea of world domination. A fools errand.
The recognition that Americans are helpless to change this turn of events seems to me to be very obvious.
In the past I have stated that if “we the people” prove incapable or unwilling to straighten out the complete mess that resides in the “SWAMP” actuality, the remainder of the world might be more than willing to help us out.
I have tried to imagine what that might resemble in actuality. Could it be that I am seeing some of how that world would appear in this article. Look around notice a common theme world wide except in D.C.?
You see aid and assistance by definition need not be pleasant to the recipient(s). Strong medicine is hard to swallow. When the recipient has spent a solid seven decades plundering and assaulting any country it chooses the inclination by those coming to aid the stricken remains of an arrogant government the treatment needed, will likely be anything but painless.
A prophylactic removal of the tumor or troublesome rogue element causing the problems could very well be painful indeed.
Excuse me while I rinse my mouth of foul, vile, bile !
Even Spengler is appalled.
Interesting points to ponder. There is enough hypocrisy from the Chinese and Russian governments to balance that from the US government, though. Contrast “China has counted noninterference in the internal affairs of others among its core principles since Zhou Enlai articulated it at the Nonaligned Conference in Bandung in 1955.” with China’s efforts to control such things as US university speaker invitations and basketball team manager’s comments.
America tried to put China in it’s place & America was slapped down in a epic showdown? All the World saw the impotence of this declining World Power? That Conference was ludicrous, Blinken & the unprepared Biden Diplomats came with knives to a gunfight & the Chinese Delegates came with guns? What a humiliating experience for Biden’s Team, they thought the Chinese would just rollover & sought to belittle the Chinese, firstly with the sanctions prior to the Event then the choice of venue being held at Anchorage, Alaska, a minor Town in the Middle of Nowhereville USA, then they tried to lecture the Chinese on Human rights? The USA’s stunning Hypocrisy was then thrown, straight back into blundering Blinken’s face, with the USA’s racism problems & other domestic issues highlighted by China? On a International level, how can Biden’s Team keep a straight face after the geriatric, dementia ridden, President Biden had the audacity to call Putin a killer & President Xi a Human rights violator when the USA is a mass murderer having murdered millions in endless Wars, one example is the One million Iraqi’s killed from a illegal US invasion & their 31 yr War in Afghanistan & other places? A Nation like America, that figuratively lives in a Glasshouse shouldn’t throw rocks? China confronted the American Delegation & called the US out like no Country has done before & Biden’s delusional Diplomatic Team had no answer for it!
Imagine Joe Biden instructing his team in the art of diplomacy….Now listen up people, the first rule is to make your international VIP feel important and necessary by calling him\her a killer! Then instruct your senior people to lecture said important VIPs on the importance of being a good moral upstanding global citizen continually striving for peace prosperity and the American way.
If they dont agree with you then threaten to bomb the crap out of em along with sanctions and other penalties…and heck fat if that does’nt work then let me know and I’ll nuke the commie pinko bastards off the damm planet……
The new dumber version of the Roman empire marches on toward collapse. A new New DEAL may be too late now . The theocratic fascists of the Repugnacans are salivating over the failure of the Biden donor whores and they have the judicial system to help them win . Will the people wake up in time to fight this off before it is too late ?
Blinken and Sullivan — winken, blinken, and nod.
If this had been a Monty Python movie it would have been hilarious.
“What is to be gained by calling Vladimir Putin “a killer” and then threatening to make him “pay” for meddling in last year’s elections even as there is no evidence”
Let’s give Potus Joe a medal for hypocrite of the year. On the “killer” comment: then Senator Biden was one of the most important Democrat backers of the Iraq war, estimates of the dead (Iraqis) vary but the minimum is 100,000, up to possibly 500,000. I’ll disregard other wars he has supported, just to be generous and save space.
Ah yes meddling: VP Biden was Obama’s point man on the orchestrated Maiden Square riots that overturned the Ukrainian government. He has nominated another culprit in that affair, Victoria Nuland (the cookie lady) as Deputy Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.
Then let’s give a shout out to the National Endowment for Democracy for setting the whole mess up. Their job description is to meddle in other countries affairs, using the usual euphemism “promoting democracy”. They were given that job after the CIA’s long history of creating complete disasters was exposed.
What is there to say except that the inmates are in charge of the asylum.
Excellent article de Monsieur Lawrence; il a effectivement pointé la vrai problématique de cette constitution washingtonienne, de ses institutions et de ses représentants: l’obsolescence, la désuétude, le suranné, l’anachronisme, la péremption, l’incompétence et la non-pertinence historique.
Bien dit, Georges. Je remercie vivement. Patrick.
Biden called Putin a killer. This is the same Biden who, a couple of weeks ago, had 22 Syrians slaughtered in retaliation for an attack on a US base 1,000km away in Iraq.
It seems the MsM forgets the facts as fast as Biden nowadays.
Realistically, Biden has no intention of doing anything other than non-kinetically attacking Russia for the duration of his administration. It appears that US diplomacy is the only thing not on the table.
Follow rules? What rules did we have to get through this pandemic? States took varied approaches. In New York hospital patients who made it past “worst” stage (we assume) were transferred to nursing homes with these homes having had no prior knowledge such would happen, and which had made no preparations. After all, who would pay for such preparations? Same staff numbers dealing with it (though some directors came in to actually give care, some of whom died). No, our lack was glaring, but our leaders can’t acknowledge this failure of our system in any public words that convey the reality. Instead the lack of rules…the appalling lack of organization…stems from a nationwide condition of mind and soul that ends up projected by Washington on whatever nations Washington arbitrarily puts in its set-of-all-enemies (germane to whatever epoch). That part’s usual, but the failure this time was monumental.
Thanks to Mr. Lawrence for this article. Thanks also for including the video from the US-China Summit. Maybe it’s my age, 74, but I couldn’t help but wince continually at the intro provided by Blinken and Sullivan. Do they not have any sense of their hubris? They sound like school age children playing the role of good little boys reciting the US imperialistic jargon they learned in US fifth grade classrooms. Have they no idea idea of the insults they lobbed at the Chinese?! Having studied the the history of these two Biden appointees last fall, I knew to dread their policies. But I didn’t expect them to be so ignorant.
Biden has been a decades-long conservative Democrat insider, and his record defines him as a war hawk. His style has consistently been belligerent. As a candidate, Biden made his intentions of war evident. Years of economic and social deterioration, and then the pandemic, has brought the country to its knees, and solutions remain (at best) elusive.
Excellent article. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Lawrence. And thank God for CN. The garbage being vomited up for consumption by corporate media outlets is the most uncritical, obedient trash. None of it is to be believed. Compare their (lack of) critical analysis to the analysis herein, and you realize just how insane and incompetent they are. With just two critical questions, Mr. Lawrence puts them all to shame.
I cringed last week as I heard these fools spout their hypocrisy–though living down to my expectations at the same time. And the main stream media broadcast it as though it was perfectly just and rational. Just pathetic!
The responses by Director Yang and State Councilor Wang to Blinken and
Sullivan (as per the C-Span clip above) underscore the latter’s bullying, even
belligerent, opening comments. The statements by the Chinese delegates can
be found in this StateDepartment transcript:
Thank you, Patrick Lawrence for pointing this out.
Ever since the American War Against the Vietnamese People, with the withering propaganda about killing people to free them, I’ve considered that I’ve been living in an insane asylum with a population unable to escape this delusional bubble.
The oxymoron of coercive democracy needs to be closely examined, understood, and jettisoned, as an emotional relic used to justify empire. It’s much like drowning women to prove they are not witches.
We need cooperation and friendship of all nations, especially those with educated human resources, to survive this climate emergency. Everything else is just counter productive and a road to oblivion.
We ain’t in Kansas, anymore.
Our whole national political structure has become populated with lying, thieving scum.
To declare success or failure requires to specify the goals.
One goal appears to exhibit leadership role of USA. For that, we need actions that other countries would not dare, and with little consequences. Calling Putin a killer and lecturing the Chinese is a score in that direction.
Concerning “solving problems”, I am yet to see what American Administration wants to solve. If we do not want to solve them, no failure!
Concerning “rule based world order”, I would love to challenge someone to a quiz:
what rules are explaining policies in these situations:
group 1: Navalny, Khashoggi (sanctions, lack of sanctions), one could add Assange and Meng Wanzhou (Assange does not benefit from his country making retaliatory arrests, Meng does, why those people are detained to begin with)
group 2: Crimea, Western Sahara, Golan, NW Syria, Kosovo <– "territorial integrity"
group 3: Gaza, Yemen <– how the siege strategy fits in RBWO
It seems futile the try to challenge people in formal positions with such questions, but perhaps some think tank like Brookings?
While I agree that Blinken made an incredibly foolish and weak statement, I have to challenge this statement…
“The same question and the same conclusion apply to Blinken’s two-day encounter with Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, China’s senior foreign policy officials, in Anchorage last Thursday and Friday. The diplomatic representative of the world’s most aggressive, coercive, interventionist nation lecturing a nation with no corresponding record of aggression, coercion, or intervention about our fidelity to some chimeric “rules-based international order?”
How can you say this in the face of China’s blatant rule breaking treatment of Hong Kong? No one is doing anything about their dismissal of the 50 year agreement with Britain.
Oh please. The colonisation of Hong Kong by the UK was NOT a wonderful democratic heaven which return to China destroyed. Check out the the agreement. Check out also the “democratic uprising”, not the selected sections showed on Western media.
Both China and Russia are serious about cooperation and harmony in the world, and the US record of conflict, attacks, sanctions, blaming of any other party for any of their failures while breaking agreements (Biden has not even attempted to change Trump’s Iran actions) show it to lack any interest in the “rules-based order” or international law.
Yeah – it’s interesting rosemerry that the Beeb and over here NPR NEVER EVER mention – for instance – the so-called protestors invading the main (only?) airport in Hong Kong and their preventing any air travel to and from there for well over 12 hours; their beating up of two journalists and prevention of EMS getting to the two men for several hours…We never heard about these “protestors” beating up those who disagreed with them; of their lobbing bricks and Molotov Cocktails at the police who at first did not retaliate….
Meanwhile we never ever heard about the brutality of the French riot police toward the Gilets Jaunes – the jaws and hands destroyed – deliberately…
When the new security laws were introduced, 45% of HK residents approved and the local share market rose 10% within days.
The MsM conveniently ignores that fact that a lot of people in HK really like the new arrangements. It is certainly not up to the West to dictate how those people want to live.
With respect, Linda Allewalt— I think you need to explore further, much further, the reasons the mainland Chinese were and are incentivized to do so.
Just like the unilateral U.S. breaking of the JCPOA accord with Iran, where Iran is now the ‘bad guy’ for upholding the agreed-upon precepts, the U.S./UK-Hong Kong meddling and incitement that underlay these violent protests via NED and USAID were intended to put purposely Beijing on the horns of an unwarranted PR dilemma where ultimately their restraint in responding to goading U.S./UK and NGO-fomented violence have steadfastly exhibited and proved a remarkable grasp of and application of measured applied civil and international statecraft. Your not seeing it as such is the desired outcome in the always-waging “battle for hearts and minds” from those who would and do mislead you for the purposes of the actual Owners of the West.
This is aught but psyop dog-eat-dog skulduggery, one purposefully applied along with devious-heart-string-tugging from the West—including the ever-snooty self-righteous and class conscious Brits—playing Hong Kong as the aggrieved party, being mercilessly put-on by the big bad dragon/wolf who only wants to snuff out so-called Western “freedom” from (just as in the West’s consistent historical back-stabbing murderous intrigues with Iran,) HK’s ‘liberation’—for a thing that never existed for the Hong Kong people in the 157 years of imperial British controlled domination. What Britain brought and viciously maintained was colonial subjugation. The illusion of it being something else is what the power of those who write history and control modern narratives is what the Chinese are overcoming in Hong Kong right now. And the same goes for the Uyghurs’ “oppression” in Xinjiang.
And the Chinese are asserting their rightful sovereignty in responding to this while patiently and calmly countering the sicced-on agents-provocateurs unleashed in Hong Kong’s streets. Observe their deep well of experience and nonviolent response, a consistency of actions from which they have both morally and rationally prevailed regarding the CIA/MI-6 dirty tricks. The ones to which you unfortunately appear to be oblivious. Hell, the U.S. would have launched missiles long before things got so far along, U.S. citizens—as ‘domestic terrorists’—-being already codified for harsh ‘the sky’s the limit’ measures under U.S. NDAA law. Again, “Thanks, Obama.”
The fact is, the Chinese leadership—forged in a harsh crucible unknown to historically ignorant Westerners, has over this past century, and in its now the Party’s one hundredth year—endured times of hardship those whom they now confront in this gang of upstarts, this privileged Western diplomatic corps, will always remain clueless about—the Chinese know so much more and have a multiples of thousands of years and dynasties from which to draw their positions of options from well-founded knowledge. A critical attribute shared with their also much-maligned-in-the-West Moscow leadership. It is our (civilization’s) good fortune that actual adults occupy the Sino/Russo halls of power at this juncture in time; our own upstart/downfalling (see Patrick’s article again,) self-aggrandizing punk-asses—again, especially the ever callow and quite craven Dems— have in short order, mere months, just as much as Donald J Trump—destroyed what shards of international credibility my generation at least once thought we knew.
Our guys like Blinken and much else of Biden Ilk-Inc are children of the nexus of neoliberalism and neoconnery—the sweet scion’s spot–the mythical catbird’s seat of ‘Exceptionalism’—from which and whence they make their personal fortunes multiply with every stint and shift of their revolving door journey on the War Gravy Train, especially in the field of mayhem visiting from their staked-out D.C turf in the DODD—the public-private conjunction of Blinken and Michelle Flourney’s baby—“West Exec Advisers”—their ‘Pimps Privatizing for the Pentagon”—itself couched in the euphemistic ‘Department of Defense.’ In actuality its proper breakdown of acronym is the heedless and self-absolving ‘Department of Death-Dealing’ with its insider secret motto of these callous, these self-anointed ‘best and the brightest’ of this class/generation being the perverse ditty: “Dirty Deeds and They’re Done Dirt Cheap”…. as in “We cheat the other guy—the taxpaying proles—and pass the ‘savings’ on to YOU!”
Think the Chinese don’t see right through this kabuki? Just because so many ‘Muricans don’t “get” it?
And it must never be forgotten once known, and that’s right now, that the British Empire originally invaded, garrisoned, and occupied Hong Kong for the express purpose of enforcing addiction to narcotics on the people of China. A captive population to British gangsters who heedlessly destroyed untold millions of lives for profit. And now it’s all about “freedom?”
Excuse me…Do you have ANY conception of HOW the Brits obtained (politely put) Hong Kong???? And WHEN did the UK grant the Hong Kong residents (Chinese ones particularly) ANY DEMOCRACY before 1997???? No, they insisted China do that…
Typical, outrageous, unconscionable hypocrisy and overlordship on the part of the UK (and the US – how did the Europeans gain the US?)…Hong Kong WAS part of China until the Brits stole at the end of a cannon….
Well, your article is a right on description of these morons. Their ignorance and arrogance are so apparent it’s going to be a miracle if the world survives yet another psycho-bully administration in our global sandbox. Four and a quarter percent of the world’s population does not get to rule the world. And besides, they do NOT speak for the majority of “American people” as they claimed, when they talk of US total global domination. Most Americans are sick and tired of the “security state,” and want more of our tax dollars spent rebuilding our crumbling domestic infrastructure instead of bombing other nations’ infrastructure, (who are not now, and have never been, a threat to us).
These guys act more like organized criminals rather than foreign policy negotiators. It’s not just embarrassing, it’s really, really dangerous. I fear my own government’s aggression against global peace far more than any other nation’s. Who else has nearly a thousand military bases around the globe? What if Russia or China surrounded our nation with missiles like we do them? We would freak the f out, that’s what, and Biden is just inept enough to push the red button, honestly believing that the US is so superiorly impervious to danger that we could blow our “enemies” away with little to no damage here in God’s chosen nation.
Oh so very accurate, doris…Organized (war) crime is totally descriptive of their (DC’s) reality. And yes, I think – to some degree – that the DC entourage and their controllers (corporate-capitalist-imperialist plutocratic ruling elites) really believe that we – the shining ones – will remain unharmed by any nuclear warfare…Are they gormless? Or are they so arrogant?
I taste a little vomit in the back of my throat every time a US representative claims to be representing the wishes of the “American people”. Those “American people” are people I’ve never met and who have no interest in average Americans’ problems.