Talk of Washington going to war in behalf of either Taiwan or Ukraine is hard to match for cynicism.

Black Hawk helicopters in fly-by during centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, Nov. 11. (DoD, Jack Sanders)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

Can you hear the drums of war rolling? They beat across both oceans now, rum-rum-rum-pa-rum-rum. And there alongside them are the fifers, sounding as if they have just arrived from the fields of Lexington and Concord. Onward in the name of… in the name of empire, the unliberty of others.  

At last, something is clear about President Joe Biden’s amateurishly incoherent foreign policy. In the course of this autumn the regime has settled on two theaters in which taxpayers, frightened-of-the-world Americans, are encouraged to think the republic’s bravest will go to war. The U.S. will wage war in behalf of Ukraine and war in behalf of Taiwan. Supposedly.    

Let us be clear off the top about what exactly is clear.

The danger of war with Russia over the long-running, lately revived Ukraine crisis and with China over the long-running, lately revived Taiwan crisis has heightened considerably in recent months. There is no question of this. But I am here to tell you that the United States will not go to war in either case. Two reasons:

One, people who are smart about winning and losing, if not about much else, know very well that the U.S. could not possibly win a war in either case. Corollary: They also know that body bags arriving in Delaware or California from Eastern Ukraine or Taiwan’s China-facing beaches risk igniting a real, live, true-blue antiwar movement. People would wake up, and they can’t have that.

Two and more saliently, the danger of war is all the administration, the armed forces, the defense contractors, and all the hawks in the media and on Capitol Hill want and need. It is their tried-and-true organizing principle. They are doing very well organizing American minds on danger alone. But going to war with Russia or China would be counterproductive because in all likelihood it would not last long. Then what? The risk of peace? The danger of war is a hardy perennial.

Foreign Policy Success Needed

The talk in Washington as I hear it from friends and sources is that Biden needs a foreign policy success and that he has been leaning on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to give him one, preferably before the midterm elections next year. What, we must ask, counts as a foreign policy success in Washington in the year 2021?

Well, Biden brought America back into the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization. This is fine, but it’s cheap thrills in both cases. The Glasgow summit, COP26, is now counted a failure and Biden arrived empty-handed in any case. As to the WHO, whatever good may come of it lacks sizzle, bright lights — drums, indeed. The administration isn’t going to come home from Geneva with any trophies or banners.

Last week Vice–President Kamala Harris spent some time in Paris conferring with Emmanuel Macron. I was surprised the prideful French president agreed to meet with the administration’s No. 1 nebbish (Blinken has fallen back to No. 2), but what came of the encounter?

I will quote the government-supervised New York Times to get this just right. “And she secured a commitment for the United States to join a nonbinding international declaration to protect civilians against cyberattacks,” saith the Times.

Am I missing something? Kamala Harris had to go to Paris to negotiate with France’s president to win her own country’s commitment to a declaration he sponsored — nonbinding, blurry as to purpose, with all the teeth of a nonagenarian?

Pantomime, as I read it. Something well short of a foreign policy success, certainly. The frightening thing comes in the Times’s head (in its print editions): “In talks With Macron, the U.S. Vice–President Asserts Herself as a Diplomatic Asset.”

Diplomatic what? If this is what the Biden administration means as it goes on and on about diplomacy first, military solutions a last resort, the word that first comes to mind is “Yikes!”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on phone with French President Emmanuel Macron in February. (White House, Lawrence Jackson)

Memo to the Times’ foreign desk: The Harris-as-competent-stateswoman narrative will bite you on your backsides if you take it too far. Best avoid.

Ten months into this administration, the now-evident reality is that Team Biden’s repeatedly expressed commitment to step back from decades of military-first foreign policy in favor of diplomatic engagement was never anything more than happy talk. And we ought to have known: Tell-them-one-thing-and-do-the- opposite is classic Biden.

Ukraine & Taiwan

In truth, this administration is no more immune from the dictates of the Deep State than any of its predecessors progressively since Eisenhower. Where, then, are Biden’s national security people, chock-a-block with connections to the defense industries, going to look for a foreign policy victory and what will it look like if they find one. The question brings us back to Ukraine and Taiwan.

Here is Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the recent session of the annual Aspen Security Forum. He had just observed that the Cold War was bipolar, between the U.S. and the Soviet Union:

“We are entering into a tripolar war with the United States, Russia, and China all as great powers. With new technologies coming quickly, we’re entering a world that is potentially much more strategically unstable than the last 40 to 70 years.”

There is some talk in Washington that Milley’s phrase was “a tripolar world.” This is the wishful thinking of those who stumble over what he said. The above quotation comes from the Defense Department web site. The reference was to Cold War II.

Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Army-Navy football game, West Point, New York, Dec. 12, 2020. (DOD, Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Biden can protest all he wishes that the U.S. doesn’t want one. Our top military officer has just told us this is exactly where we are headed. In the second of Milley’s assertions, not to be missed, the apparent intent is to prepare us for a second Cold War as prolonged as the first. At this stage in the proceedings Taiwan and Ukraine are the necessary flashpoints.

China hawks in the administration, on Capitol Hill, and in the media have been pushing for many months now for the U.S. to abandon two of the pillars of U.S. policy toward China since the Nixon–Kissinger demarche of the early 1970s and formal recognition of the People’s Republic in 1979. They are closely related.

One of these is the One China policy, which was included in the Shanghai Communiqué Nixon signed in 1972. It commits the U.S. to recognizing that there is one, unified China that includes Taiwan. This is an historically accurate position, given China’s sovereignty over the island has well more than a millennia of precedent behind it. Beijing does not open diplomatic relations with any nation that does not acknowledge what it calls the One China Principle.

The other feature of U.S. policy is called “strategic ambiguity.” This goes back to 1949, when, following Mao’s victory, the Truman administration declined to recognize the revolutionary government while stating that it would not leave Taiwan to its own devices in the case of a mainland attack — without, important to note, making clear how it would come to the island’s defense.

All that has transpired in recent months reflects an effort to tip these diplomatic principles over. China hawks want a clear statement that the U.S. no longer recognizes Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan and will indeed commit troops to its defense in the event of a conflict across the Taiwan Strait. The pro-independence administration in Taipei is watching and listening in great anticipation.

Nothing, as in nothing, could do more to provoke Beijing’s hostility toward the U.S. — as the Deep State know as well as anyone. Sending Marines and special forces to train Taiwan’s troops, approval of a $750 million arms sale last summer — the Biden administration’s first — constant “freedom of navigation” sails through the Taiwan Strait, the arrival last week of U.S. legislators via a Navy aircraft: All of this, not to mention the three-sided AUKUS agreement, has but one objective. It is intended to provoke, to conjure and heighten danger.

Jump cut.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin leaving Berlin in April. (DoD, Jack Sanders)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who reportedly made more than $1 million on selling his Raytheon stock and resigning from its board to head the Pentagon, made the following remarks during  his visit to Ukraine last month. His reference is to Andriy Taran, Ukraine’s defense minister at the time:  

“Minister Taran and I saw each other just a few weeks ago at the Pentagon and we had a productive discussion today about how we intend to implement the U.S.–Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework…. The Strategic Defense Framework created a foundation for enhancing our defense and security cooperation, and we remain committed to strengthening our strategic partnership…. U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering….

At the June 2021 NATO Summit, the United States and its allies reaffirmed our support for Ukraine’s right to decide its own future foreign policy course free from outside interference, including with respect to Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO.”

As measured by their sheer recklessness, these comments are roughly in parallel with the China hawks’ insistence that Washington abandon the One China policy and prepare to defend Taiwan against any incursion from the mainland. Any serious effort to bring Ukraine into NATO would very likely have the same effect on Moscow as a repudiation of One China would have on Beijing.

Subsequent to Austin’s visit, Blinken met Ukrainian President Voloymyr Zelenskyy in Glasgow and Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried went to Kiev. Both reiterated Austin’s message: We’re with you no matter what.

American reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea have simultaneously increased. In Kiev, Zenlenskyy recently appointed Dmytro Yarosh, long prominent among Ukraine’s Russophobic Nazis — no need for the “neo” anymore — as special adviser to the Ukrainian armed forces.

We can read developments in Taiwan and Ukraine in tandem, two sides of the same policy. In both cases, the U.S. appears to have local authorities all hopped up in the expectation that they will enjoy American support in any confrontation that may develop with China and Russia respectively.

And at the same time, it is sailing with precision as close to the wind as possible to maintain the status quo. Yes, we want you in NATO, Austin tells the Ukrainians. No, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says subsequently, they do not qualify. We stand with you, the administration signals to Taiwan. But in his virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday evening, Biden reiterated America’s commitment to One China.

It would be hard to match this for cynicism. Any such outbreak of hostilities —across the Taiwan Strait, on Ukraine’s border with Russia — would serve as justification for precisely the Cold War II Milley described. But, for reasons noted above, in neither case is there any plausible chance that the U.S. would intervene directly in behalf of Taiwan or Ukraine. They are effectively props in Act I of the play the Deep State now shows at a theater near you.

In my estimation, all the talk of dropping One China and strategic ambiguity, or bringing Ukraine into NATO, is as hollow as it gets. Fringe-y crackpot hawks who don’t have passports and can’t get their verbs right are the only ones who would carry through with either idea. Again, the talk does well enough as a multiplier of danger just by remaining in the discourse.     

The danger of war, to be very clear, cannot be dismissed. But I don’t rate it as highly as many others. The more immediate danger in these strategies and the policies supporting them is to Americans. Decades of deprivation and assorted sorts of suffering, as in decades, will result from Cold War II. There is no doubt of this: It is already evident as Congress chisels down Biden’s domestic programs while increasing the Pentagon’s budget.

This is the shape of Biden’s foreign policy now that we can see it. We’ve got diplomats fussing at the margins with matters of minor concern to the national security state — keep those BLM flags flying at the embassies, Tony — while the generals and admirals run foreign policy.

It is all very different because Biden is a Democrat. All very new and worthy of liberal support. And all very stomach-turning.

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.

21 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: Shadow Wars

  1. Procopius
    November 18, 2021 at 06:08

    Hermann Goering: “It’s easy to bring [the people] to war. Tell them they are being attacked and the pacifists are putting them in danger.”

    The biggest danger I see is that some of the hawks may really believe in it. Like the ones who suggested, when tensions were high over North Korea’s missile tests, that we could “give them a bloody nose” by dropping a nuke on their testing range. Of course they would accept that as a mild warning and immediately jump to comply with our demands /s. At the same time, the MIC’s strategy to loot the maximum amount from the American People will lead inevitably to the destruction of the military. See Chuck Spinney, Why the Defense Budget is Always Underfunded,

  2. Douglas Baker
    November 18, 2021 at 00:57

    The bipartisan unity of American fascism with capitalist trump has slip showing with picking up slack of Nazi support manifest in assisting serial “final annihilation” of want to be People’s Republic–interrupted by Imperial Japan’s attempted colonization of Asia and Pacific islands, with success, U.S. Navy and Japanese assisted removal of corrupt government sailing off with Chinese cultural and monetary treasures in support in Taiwan continuing as Japanese colony stiffen with hundreds of thousands of Imperial troops staying as occupiers of Taiwan, assuming Chinese names, as China would be whole again as agreed to by POTUS Nixon. The American destruction of democracy in the Ukraine as throw back to Nazi like control of country during Third Reich occupation would have Ukraine as new American cut banana republic as though an American created one in Central or South America.

  3. David Otness
    November 17, 2021 at 17:34

    And what a signal it was to have sent Nuland to Moscow to make demands. The entire Russiagate affair was built on the essence of smells emanating from an outhouse on a hot summer day; no viable proof has ever been put on display to ‘convict’ Russia in U.S. computer network hacks with their attendant ransomware or especially the faux myth of election interference. A foreign policy built upon the ruins of a Democratic party dirty tricks operation worthy of Nixon and CREEP.
    But the Clinton Inc DNC being so married to the Deep State and its Deep-Seated Russia hate, they wore that outhouse smell like the pigs-in-shit that they are. To have torn down any chance whatsoever to build a rational comity between two peoples with far more in common than not?

    So went their operative plot in 2016. And up until then, Bill and Hill had no trouble taking shit-stained money, oh hell no! Stuffed it in their pockets, shoved it down their shirt fronts like they were dodging the Taliban as they escaped from Kabul.
    We all know the CIA-NSA can attach its own fake origin points on traffic from anywhere on the planet while calling them Russian or Chinese—or any nation they so choose by planting those fake seeds, and you know what? I’m betting that particular ruse has been used far too many times already than to call it an ‘aberration’ or even infrequent. Yet the Dems (and sadly successfully,) have grifted and fear-porned their base into salivating for blood whenever Rachel twitches or applies the Vicks VapoRub to her already strained countenance.
    So the ‘base’ remains ever-ready to send YOUR sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, off to the steppes, whether or not Patrick is correct in his assessment that it won’t happen. The Dem base remains consumed with fear and loathing for all things Slavic east of Lugansk and Donbas.

    This in spite of “our” foreign policy having nothing to do whatsoever for the good of the U.S.’s 331 + millions of people; rather it is attuned solely to the interests of the wealthiest thousands, period. We hoi-polloi only come into the picture when it comes to making sacrifices, from further top-down imposed austerity to being expected or compelled to go get maimed or die, or be the ones left with a lifetime of nightmares for foul and immoral deeds committed against civilian peoples whose only ‘crime’ ever was being in the wrong place at the wrong time; i.e. the country of their birth.
    This while the vicious and sadistic—but especially amoral—elite who give the orders are not so obligated to bear any psychological wounds—for their sins of sociopathy have been pre-cleansed and expunged by the psychopaths in charge of this ongoing and interminable international soiree.

    So we come to Taiwan. I read recently that close to half of its population is in favor of reunification with China. Their biggest trading partner if I recall correctly. Many Taiwanese work and live in China. For perhaps a majority in that relationship of one country and its feuding cousin things remain copacetic as is / as are / as trending—toward reunification. So who is stirring up trouble here if  it doesn’t even truly exist—unless U.S. / U.K.-fomented?

    That said, realistically, how long would a pro-unification Taiwanese government stand if elected by its citizens in that democracy? What are the odds that political party could ever even get its foot in the democratic door if it were to gain traction? Because whither goest U.S. soldiers to train forces, there already be the CIA directing the civil ops, no doubt about it. We know the drill, all too well. An opposition party favoring unification would suddenly find its leadership decimated by any number of fatal ‘accidents,’ or ‘suicides.’
    Cause that’s how the U.S. rolls…. Over any country.

  4. Earl Kirkman
    November 17, 2021 at 15:57

    Oh, I know! We can rely on trade agreements to keep the peace. There would be too much trade disruption if we had a tactical exchange. The military would never be THAT foolish.

  5. Caliman
    November 17, 2021 at 12:51

    Highest quality, as expected from Patrick Lawrence.

    One thing tends to amaze me is how these nations put themselves in these situations. Why would Ukraine and especially Taiwan volunteer (seemingly) for the thankless role of patsy to empire like this? As the author notes, there is almost no chance that the US will actually come to their defense if China or Russia decide (very unlikely) to take them by force. And their very game playing with the US substantially increases the chance of them getting invaded in the first place! Just very odd.

    For Ukraine, which is seemingly just a cesspool of corruption, perhaps this is somewhat understandable … they have little to lose. Even so, it would literally be a matter of two weeks for Russia to take what it wants, just like Georgia in 08, if push comes to shove.

    But Taiwan has been very successful parlaying their in-China but not-China situation to high development and productivity. Why risk any change in the status quo?

  6. Michael A. Protenic Jr.
    November 17, 2021 at 11:59

    The imperial business rulers of Team USA must require new weapons in the pipeline or it all falls down. This critical “need” to keep some part of our limping economy going (better yet, that part of the economy that is able to have increasing demand without causing inflation) necessitates a full blown confrontation-minus-shooting crisis that can be ongoing, relentless, and needing increasing sophistication of armaments (and obsolescence of the existing armory) and popular dread. It is what has caused the media to be enlisted in the propaganda wars that now target the home population more than those living abroad, all so they allow such expenditure without question. So, animus without real war, except for those poor weak countries that sometimes wish to be left to their own devices.

    Plus, it all depends upon the knee-jerk fears of the standard American citizen-consumer, who questions not.

  7. Alex Cox
    November 17, 2021 at 11:02

    I hope the author is right. But starting a war has often been the unpopular politician’s strategy for staying in power.

  8. Jeff Harrison
    November 17, 2021 at 10:26

    I hope you’re right, Patrick, because the alternative isn’t actually peace breaking out, it’s a war that will likely incinerate major segments of the planet. I am put in mind of the stories of the late Keith Laumer, former military attache and creator of Jaime Retief, who’s a diplomat in the CDT (corps diplomatique terrestrienne). The CDT defines peace as the maintenance of tensions just below warfare. That’s easy to do in a story, in real life, not so much.

  9. Vera Gottlieb
    November 17, 2021 at 06:05

    A bit more of cynicism…do the Yanx know where Ukraine or Taiwan are located??? Why must the Yanx always punch first and only then listen? A violence-prone nation…

  10. DavidH
    November 16, 2021 at 20:28

    Thanks, CN.

  11. Zim
    November 16, 2021 at 20:03

    Thanks Mr. Lawrence. Great article. Sums up much of the reading I’ve been doing of late. It’s all a psyop by the deep state to keep us all in fear & the MIC flush with cash.

  12. November 16, 2021 at 19:56

    52% of Americans are more in favor of intervention if China invades Taiwan than in 2015, when 28% of Americans supported it — nearly double. 

    Defending South Korea from an invasion by North Korea? It went from 47% in 2015 to 63% today. 

    Defending Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia if Russia invaded? From 44% in 2014 to 59% today.

    Defending Israel has climbed from the 40s to 53%. 


    • Ozz
      November 17, 2021 at 07:37

      Is this a sign that the fear mongotring is going to far. Eventually will the masses think war is inevitable and those that started this fear will not be able to stop it. I agree with Mr Lawrence, but it is dangerous to keep pushing fear. I am also certain our adversaries are aware of the game, but they will tire of it too. As long as profits are made and investors are happy what is the harm!!!!

  13. evelync
    November 16, 2021 at 19:31

    The administration would serve itself best if it stopped patting itself on the back with these absurd pretenses that it runs the world.
    It may cause pain all over the world with its sanctions and embargoes and blathering about its vision of how other countries should fall in line with its tired old threats.

    It should wake up and see that people are not quite as stupid as they think.

    Having talked to a few people across the political spectrum who are not in the government, it seems that people are mistrustful, cynical, aware that the unending overseas military catastrophes are stealing resources that are desperately needed here at home to bring this country up to the level of a decent infrastructure a decent healthcare system a decent jobs program and a decent effort to deal with the existential threat of a failing climate.

    I think people see through the lies and are tired of being made afraid of fabricated enemies.
    They see that we’re the only major country that is wasting our resources by using the defense, state and intelligence departments to filter policy through a military prism.

    People are tired.

    If Biden wishes to improve in the polls he’d better stand up to the failures and chart a sane policy that shifts course with policies that are sustainable and don’t break the bank.

    just my thoughts on this for what they’re worth :)

    • DavidH
      November 16, 2021 at 20:34

      Yep, cynical. And workers weren’t there to get WaPo’s polling calls.

  14. TomG
    November 16, 2021 at 17:33

    Bonhoeffer’s words (from”After Ten Years”) come to mind. “Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous … There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid.”

  15. nietzsche1510
    November 16, 2021 at 17:23

    Patrick, there is an Anglo-Zionist crowd who need a big conflagration in order to preserve some exchange value for their counterfeit monetary Himalayas. The day is not far away when they will say to the USA: Hey, “it is high time to go defend our way of life”, aka the means to live at the expense of the rest of the world.

  16. November 16, 2021 at 17:07

    “But going to war with Russia or China would be counterproductive because in all likelihood it would not last long.”
    –A completely unwarranted assertion. Such a war could become a long protracted one. A long protracted war would expose the ruins of the US manufacturing base. 50,000-70,000 factory ruins can’t convert to wartime production. A half-century of Vested Interest Bribery would be exposed as treachery by a war that threatened the nation’s existence. There would be the real threat of a long line to a gallows erected on an ever-growing mountain of body bags.
    –THAT would be the reason they’ll never start those wars IF they’re thinking objectively. But what if they’re not? What if they’re so deceived by their wild success in heaping up immense riches for themselves that they think their factory ruins all-import economy can win a war? “Friend” shore the China factories and pretend containers ships are better than Detroit factories and go to war. What if they’re that blind?

  17. Calvin E Lash Jr
    November 16, 2021 at 16:52

    Good article

  18. C. Parker
    November 16, 2021 at 16:42

    Another fine piece by Patrick Lawerence. Thank you.

  19. worldblee
    November 16, 2021 at 15:17

    This article is spot on.

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