Biden’s Hypocrisy Summit

With his “Summit for Democracy,” Joe Biden enthrones himself on the collapsed stage of American exceptionalism, writes Scott Ritter. 

Joe Biden on Election Night in Pittsburg, Nov. 3, 2020. (Adam Schultz, Flickr, Biden for President)

By Scott Ritter
Special to Consortium News

Some campaign promises, it turns out, should not be kept. In a major foreign policy address delivered on July 11, 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden declared that, if elected,

“I will ensure that democracy is once more the watchword of U.S. foreign policy — not to launch some moral crusade, but because it is in our enlightened self-interest. We must restore our ability to rally the Free World — so we can once more make our stand upon new fields of action and together face new challenges.”

To this end, Biden promised that “We will organize and host in the United States, during the first year of my administration, a global Summit for Democracy to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World.” This summit, Biden noted, would build off “the successful model we instituted during the Obama-Biden administration with the Nuclear Security Summit,” adding that those who attend this Summit for Democracy “must come prepared with concrete commitments to take on corruption, counter authoritarianism, and advance human rights in their own nations.”

On Thursday, Joe Biden will make good on this promise, convening a two-day virtual “Summit for Democracy

“which will bring together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.”

Many progressive voices otherwise sympathetic to Biden’s candidacy thought the idea of a Summit for Democracy was a bad idea.

David Adler and Stephen Wertheim, for example, went so far as to write an OpEd for The Guardian in December 2020 criticizing the summit as “at once too blunt and too thin an instrument,” noting that

“although the summit might serve as a useful forum for coordinating policy on such areas as financial oversight and election security, it is liable to drive U.S. foreign policy even further down a failed course that divides the world into hostile camps, prioritizing confrontation over cooperation.”

On this point, Adler and Werthheim have proved to be prescient. In March, Biden took the unusual step of publishing an Interim National Security Strategic Guidance “to convey my vision for how America will engage with the world.”

This document was intended to be a policy placeholder while Biden’s national security and foreign policy team finished the bureaucratic processes associated with promulgating a new, coordinated National Security Strategy to replace the one published by former President Donald Trump back in 2018.

Tool of Exceptionalism

New Orelans Mardis Gras float in the Krewe of King Arthur. (PxHere, CC0)

Biden latched on to “democracy” as a tool of American exceptionalism, the promotion of which would serve to rally like-minded nations into the American camp to oppose the forces of autocracy. The rejuvenation of the United States under Biden’s leadership, the interim strategy guidance stated,

“begins with the revitalization of our most fundamental advantage: our democracy. I believe we are in the midst of an historic and fundamental debate about the future direction of our world. There are those who argue that, given all the challenges we face, autocracy is the best way forward. And there are those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting all the challenges of our changing world.”

Democracy, Biden claimed, “holds the key to freedom, prosperity, peace, and dignity. We must now demonstrate — with a clarity that dispels any doubt — that democracy can still deliver for our people and for people around the world. We must prove that our model isn’t a relic of history; it’s the single best way to realize the promise of our future. And, if we work together with our democratic partners, with strength and confidence, we will meet every challenge and outpace every challenger.”

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Stirring words, for sure, which, to an untrained ear, might very well inspire one to actually believe such lofty goals and objectives were both genuine and achievable. Sadly, on both counts, Biden and his Summit for Democracy fail. The reasons for this are many, but for the sake of brevity, will be encapsulated in the “golden rules” which should never be broken if a project like the Summit for Democracy is going to be undertaken.

Golden Rule No. 1: Pick a model of success that actually succeeded.

The first Nuclear Security Summit on April 13, 2010. (Korean Culture and Information Service, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Biden and his team of advisers have modeled the Summit for Democracy on President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), the first of which was convened in 2010, and the last in 2016.

Like the Summit for Democracy, the NSS was an exclusive event, limited to 53 nations. Critics have pointed out that, regardless of the limited advances made regarding the issues surrounding nuclear security, when it came to the larger (and far more important) issue of nuclear non-proliferation, the exclusivity of the invitation process politicized what was otherwise a technical discussion, breaking the world down into “haves” and “have nots” when it comes to matters pertaining to peaceful nuclear activity.

This exclusivity proved to be the undoing of the NSS, with the narrow focus of the topic, combined with the limited invitation list, serving to kill the momentum generated during the first summit in just four years’ time.

The lack of a true multi-lateral composition resulted in the NSS failing to be able to extend its reach beyond 2016, the year of the last summit. Despite the limited gains made during the four summits, the fact remains that the world was a far more dangerous place in terms of nuclear proliferation in 2016 than it was in 2011, underscoring the reality that exclusive, ideologically aligned summits are not conducive to achieving broad-based global change.

Given the scope and scale of Biden’s ambitions for democracy, perhaps a different organizational model should have been embraced. But that could only happen if Biden were truly interested in change. The fact is, Biden is seeking to replicate the atmosphere of optimism and hope that defined the Obama administration in its first years. The mirror imaging of the NSS model by the Summit for Democracy only underscores the importance of process over substance in the Biden administration. Perception, not reality, is the name of the game.

Golden Rule No.2: Be consistent about what’s being promoted. 

In his July 2020 address on foreign policy, then-candidate Biden highlighted what he termed one of the great successes of the Obama administration when it came to promoting democracy abroad.

“Take, for example, the nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. As vice president, I secured commitments from the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to take on the corruption, violence, and endemic poverty in their countries that are driving people to leave their homes. Then I worked with a Republican Congress to approve a $750 million aid package to help support those reforms. And guess what — it worked.”

It worked so well that neither El Salvador, Guatemala nor Honduras are being invited to the Summit for Democracy. 

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, with  adviser Juan S. Gonzalez, at right. (Twitter)

As Juan Gonzalez, the White House lead for U.S. policy towards Latin America, explained in a recent interview, “we would have loved to have the countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at the democracy summit.”

However, Gozalez explained, “we don’t think that El Salvador is — is perhaps either ready or will contribute productively to the conversation that we’re going to have.” Gonzalez then proceeded to provide a laundry list of reasons, including El Salvador’s “refusing to take action on corruption,” to justify its exclusion.

The same argument was made regarding Guatemala. “[W]e are very concerned about widespread corruption in Guatemala and one where judicial institutions are facilitating or even protecting it,” Gonzalez said. Likewise on Honduras, which Gonzales recognized “as a democracy and a longstanding partner,” before declaring that “we had some serious concerns about matters that have been unaddressed on corruption.”

In short, the nations that Biden singled out as representing foreign policy success under the Obama-Biden administration are now being excluded from the very forum in which such successes should be highlighted.

The problem, however, is that the Obama-Biden policies failed to achieve the results Biden claimed had been accomplished. And the price these three Latin American countries are paying is to be excluded from a summit which ostensibly promotes the very democratic values the U.S. is trying to facilitate in these nations.

One thing is for certain — by denying El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras a seat at the table of democracy, Biden will only further entrench the very forces he is seeking to address by holding the summit in the first place.

And, as a corollary to this rule, don’t invite C.I.A.-sponsored opposition figures whose most recent contribution to governance is a series of failed coup attempts. By extending an invitation to Juan Guido to attend the Summit for Democracy, Joe Biden is making a mockery of the very principles he claims to be promoting.   

Golden Rule No. 3: When selling democracy, get your own house in order first.

Storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (TapTheForwardAssist/Wikimedia Commons)

This one is basic. In selling democracy as a concept worthy of emulation, Biden, in his interim national security guidance, declared that “we will demonstrate not only that democracies can still deliver for our people, but that democracy is essential to meeting the challenges of our time.”  This was going to be an uphill struggle, Biden noted.

“[D]emocracies across the globe, including our own, are increasingly under siege. Free societies have been challenged from within by corruption, inequality, polarization, populism, and illiberal threats to the rule of law.”

Biden declared that under his leadership, the United States would “lead by the power of our example,” adding that this would require

“hard work at home — to fortify the founding pillars of our democracy, to truly address systemic racism and to live up to our promise as a nation of immigrants. Our success will be a beacon to other democracies, whose freedom is intertwined with our own security, prosperity, and way of life.”

Rare, however, is the successful salesman who seeks to peddle a product still under development. This task is made even more difficult if the product being pitched has undergone recent catastrophic failure which has yet to be repaired. American democracy is broken, and it remains to be seen as to whether it can be fixed. The events of Jan. 6, 2021, cannot be viewed as a one-off anomaly, but rather as a symptom of a larger disease of partisan divide that has caused many Americans to lose faith in the very institutions which serve as the foundation of what passes for democracy today.

By convening the Summit for Democracy, Biden is engaging in a very public theatrical event, a show which has him seated at the head of the table, like King Arthur, inviting lesser democratic partners to join him so that he can begin the process of confronting the forces of autocracy which have taken root in the world today.

A king, however, should be believable when he opines on issues, especially those that define his kingdom and the nature of his rule. Biden is not believable when it comes to matters pertaining to democracy.

The American model of democratic rule is no longer worthy of emulation, and America has long lost the ability to export this failed model from the tip of a bayonet. Simply convening a gathering, and placing yourself at its head, does not in and of itself imbue one with legitimacy or authority. In the immortal words of Tywin Lannister, “Any man who must say, ‘I am the king,’ is no true king.”

Joe Biden is no true king, especially when it comes to the issue of democracy.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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26 comments for “Biden’s Hypocrisy Summit

  1. Vera Gottlieb
    December 10, 2021 at 10:42

    Lesson number 1: learn what “democracy” really means and what it really stands for.

  2. robert e williamson jr
    December 9, 2021 at 15:11

    Screw a bunch of phony summits.

    The American tax payer has earned a solid valuable return on the 12-14 trillion dollars spent by the US Government since 911.

    You know something maybe besides threats of mutual death to everyone on the planet. Then folks wonder why these kids are so willing to kill each other for nothing other than the trill of it.

    Time to write Uncle Joe Biden maybe.

    Merry Christmas Everybody!

  3. vinnieoh
    December 9, 2021 at 13:40

    “Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?
    I’m goin’ down to shoot my old lady for messing around town with another man.”

    Or, if you prefer Inigio Montoya to Jimi Hendrix: “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

    As a third option, consider an update to that catchy phrase from the 60’s:

    Overthrowing legitimate governments all over the globe in the name of democracy is like “fucking for virginity.”

    Hypocrisy, thy champion is the USA. Orwell lives.

    Joe Biden was selected to stop the “populism” of Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris – that 2024 Albatross, who consistently finished out of the top tier in all contests – was selected to be VP. US democracy at work.

    To finish, one more reference from popular culture, this time from the original “Ghost Busters”:

    “Choose the form of the Destructor!”

    “What did you do Ray?”

    “I couldn’t help it, it just popped in there!”


    “Yes, it’s a doddering old fool and an empty suit…”

  4. TimN
    December 9, 2021 at 13:39

    I think at this point old Cracker Joe really believes the nonsense and lies he spews out on a daily basis. The “Democracy Summit” is a sick and vile joke, another signpost along the way on our road to ruin. We’re at war in a half a dozen countries and are ginning up war with China and Russia and Cracker Joe actually gets up and lectures the world on comporting oneself in a democracy.

  5. Anonymotron
    December 9, 2021 at 02:06

    Hate havin’ 2 LOL (cynically) @ such Majestic Speechwritin’…

    Tnx Scott 4 revealing the Paradox in the “enlightened self-interest” Paradigm… Xlnt job sir!
    (& CN 4 running the piece).

  6. Jeff Harrison
    December 9, 2021 at 01:57

    Well said, Scott. I am reminded of Arlo Guthrie in Alice’s Restaurant….. Ya gotta lota damn gall, Sergent, askin’ me if I’m moral enough to join the army, kill women, children, and villages after being a litterbug.

  7. Me Myself
    December 8, 2021 at 23:59

    The Emperor’s New Clothes…NOT.

    So Sad…

    Well said Scott Ritter

  8. Daniel Borrgstrom
    December 8, 2021 at 18:53

    I hope Biden remembers to invite that charming prince who saws journalists up into little pieces. He’s the cutting edge of freedom and no conference on democracy will be complete without him.

  9. Altruist
    December 8, 2021 at 17:30

    Scott Ritter is absolutely right – what a hypocritical farce.

    This “Democracy Summit” has shades of Woodrow Wilson making the world safe for democracy and George W. Bush bringing democracy and freedom to the Middle East. We saw the results in both cases.

    As Patrick Lawrence mentions in a recent article, “remaking the world – all of it – in the U.S. image has been a foundation stone of American foreign policy since the Wilson administration – a century ago.”

    And this “remaking the world” – in other words, imperialism – is cloaked in the promotion of democracy, humanitarianism, freedom etc.

    The scary aspect is that Biden, Blinken, Nuland and the rest of Biden’s ace foreign policy team have drunk the Koolaid and believe the propaganda. Even though, as Ritter mentions, they haven’t quite dealt with the beam in their own eye.

    And, as Ritter further points out, this splits the world between those “with us” and “against us,” preparing the ground for the next conflicts.

    Col. Douglas Macgregor – senior adviser to the Secretary of Defense in the last months of the prior administration – cogently xpresses this point in the context of the increasing tensions with Russia and China: “President Biden [appears to be] drinking deeply from the poison well of failed American statecraft and generalship, a wellspring of uncreative minds with no appreciation for real warfare.”

  10. Jim Thomas
    December 8, 2021 at 17:01

    Although I agree with the points made by the author, I think the article fails to mention the most basic reason why the “Democracy Summit” is cynical and hypocritical, which is that the U.S. does not, and never has, promoted democracy in the world. In fact, it is the leading destroyer of democracy. Its foreign policy is based on the simple division of countries into those which will follow U.S. orders, or at least not interfere with its goals and purposes, and those which defy U.S. orders in favor of using its resources for the benefit of its own people. It is really comical that Biden cites U.S. policy in Honduras as an example of democracy promotion. In 2009 Obama implemented the coup in Honduras, accomplished by the kidnapping of its democratically elected President and installing its chosen political hack as President. This is the government of which Biden complains is corrupt. Gee, what a surprise! The U.S. destroys democracy and installs an autocratic thug, then complains of the ensuing corruption. The U.S. does not care how a corrupt a country is as long as it follows U.S. orders. The flood of emigrants from these countries which the U.S. has turned into living hells for the people are now attempting to enter this Country because their lives are in danger in their own countries, thanks to all this “democracy promotion” by the U.S. Hypocrisy and duplicity are the ruling principles of U.S. foreign policy, along with kleptocracy and mass murder. This Country does not practice diplomacy. The U.S. “diplomats” are the laughingstock of the world. All they know is how to threaten other countries. If these people had any sense at all, holding a “Democracy Summit” is the last thing they would do. They should keep their heads down and hope that no attention is directed toward the crimes this Country is committing in the world. U.S. foreign policy post WWII is a rolling disaster for the people of this Country, for the victims of its mass murder committed by its bombs, illegal sanctions and other means of punishment directed toward “disobedient” countries, and for democracy itself.

      December 8, 2021 at 23:33

      Thank you for the excellent comment.

    • Zack
      December 9, 2021 at 02:03

      Hat down for your comment…..

      • rosemerry
        December 9, 2021 at 15:03

        Alexander Rubenstein in “Mint press news” also has an excellent summary of why the USA should not host such an event!

    • Jim
      December 9, 2021 at 10:30

      Well said

    • Me Myself
      December 9, 2021 at 11:12

      A great addendum to s Scott Ritters article.

    • robert e williamson jr
      December 9, 2021 at 14:48

      This comment is truly in the mark, but something needs to change with the two parties. Or we can all sit around and twiddle our thumbs until on of these fools hit a button.

      Like I said too much “Old School BS” by POP Biden now what about that third party? Which will be a fundamental change needed to stop the stats quo on DC.

  11. robert e williamson jr
    December 8, 2021 at 16:50

    A great title for a great piece work. Too much “old time establishment” here with “POP” and the D.C. malarkey that gives the place that “phony” smell!

  12. Lois Gagnon
    December 8, 2021 at 16:42

    The US spends a lot of time and resources undermining fledgling democracies wherever they manage to flower. Let see how the Biden administration responds to the recent election in Honduras. The response is highly predictable.

    • Karen Bazemore
      December 9, 2021 at 20:40

      That’s my fear too. The Honduran people were brave enough to elect former democratically elected president (whom we overthrew) Mel Zelaya’s wife. Are we going to stage another coup now to overthrow the people’s choice and say we’re doing it for “democracy?” We do not promote democracy we enforce Capitalism. US Capitalism!

  13. evelync
    December 8, 2021 at 15:45

    Biden’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke at this so called Democratic Summit, opining on protecting journalists as being key to democratic principles.

    I hope President Biden and AG Garland were listening….although I doubt that they were based on their silence regarding their persecution of Assange.

    They are emblematic at the moment of throwing the publisher/journalist who will go down in history as the most principled and dedicated and courageous and committed of them all, Julian Assange, in prison – keeping him at notorious Belmarsh Prison in London, buckling to the whims of the Trump/Pompeo administration – threatening/punishing those who embarrassed you by exposing wrongdoing done in our name and with our tax dollars.

    It’s f…..g unbelievable what’s going on here.

  14. rosemerry
    December 8, 2021 at 15:44

    I usually support Scott’s articles, and of course this is on the point, but really the events he describe are so grotesque, and the idea that the USA even resembles a democracy in any way, make the whole plan a macabre joke.
    Since Biden assumed power, most of Trump’s maligned policies remain in place-Julian Assange in prison forever, Venezuela sanctioned to death, Saudis getting more weapons and help to kill more people in Yemen, Afghanistan “freed” to die with the Taliban and no funds, Iran still sanctioned and blamed, Russophobia rampant. As for corruption, all US elections are bought, the SCOTUS is biased to ensure everyday people have no hope of redress.
    How ironic to see that Honduras, which had Obama/HClinton support for the overthrow of president Zelaya in 2009, now finally has a progressive leader to try to repair the devastated land, elected by such a majority that even the USA could not toss her out. Democracy- let us try it!!!!

    • TimN
      December 9, 2021 at 13:33

      The “progressive” New leader of Honduras recently agreed with the imbeciles and lunatics who run our country that Taiwan is to be recognized diplomatically, and China is to be shunned. This is a sure sign of a non-progressive who is listening to Washington first. The US backed the new Honduran President, a sure sign that she’s in the tank for the US.

  15. December 8, 2021 at 15:23

    The modern version of the classic “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” has to be “beware of US talking democracy.”

  16. david johnson
    December 8, 2021 at 15:17

    Bravo and I completely agree. He could also add Biden’s un-critical support for the apartheid policies of the state of Israel (hardly a real democracy either) is as hypocritical as you can get.

  17. Trude
    December 8, 2021 at 14:52

    And, as a corollary to this rule, don’t invite C.I.A.-sponsored opposition figures whose most recent contribution to governance is a series of failed coup attempts. By extending an invitation to Juan Guido to attend the Summit for Democracy, Joe Biden is making a mockery of the very principles he claims to be promoting.   Loved this ACCURATE account of Feckless lying on campaign trail Biden. Maduro was just reelected by the people under the US legal election “watchers” who confirmed the election was fair.

  18. mgr
    December 8, 2021 at 14:38

    I don’t know if the US has ever actually tried to export democracy. I have been watching since Vietnam and I have seen little of that except as marketing slogans. And in a country where studies show that the American public, the protagonists of democracy, have precisely zero influence over the policies of their government you might think that America would first try embracing democracy at home. No luck with that. In fact the true US export is not democracy but capitalism, and now neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, “cannibal capitalism,” is a perverse ideology in which a living tree that sustains our life is worth less than a dead one that can be quickly sold for kindling where it becomes an agent of our demise. Extrapolate on that. This ideology has ravaged the earth and is bringing human civilization in general, and democracy in particular, to an end; climate or war, take your pick, neoliberalism plans to make a profit in either case. I guess it is truly ironic that the “world’s leading democracy” is the one most responsible for bringing it down, by example. It seems that the “one exceptional nation” is the one we can most do without.

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