Biden’s long-delayed National Security Strategy is the kind of pablum that disguises danger and comes with a price.
By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News
The Biden administration — excuse me, the Biden–Harris administration if you please — has at last released its National Security Strategy, a document every president is required to release according to a law passed 40–odd years ago.
These are supposed to tell we, the people, what the plan is, how our republic proposes to make its way in the world over the four years a new occupant of the White House will reside there.
It took them long enough: It is nearly halfway through Biden’s term, and his policy people have repeatedly delayed releasing these 48 pages. Now that they are published, I can’t say as I blame them. I wouldn’t want to put this muddle on paper either.
“From the earliest days of my Presidency, I have argued that our world is at an inflection point,” the text appearing above Biden’s signature begins.
“How we respond to the tremendous challenges and the unprecedented opportunities we face today will determine the direction of our world and impact the security and prosperity of the American people for generations to come.”
You have to say “Amen” to this. It is an exact description of our circumstances. But this is the problem with the new NSS. It is a long nod to our time as one of momentous change, but it is the work of an administration patently incapable of conducting the nation’s business abroad in any kind of new way.
These documents are meant to tell Americans and the world where we are headed and to reassure us that steady hands are at the helm. I do not feel reassured. I feel frightened.
The leadership of the United States — and this goes beyond the Biden regime’s various ineptitudes — is simply unable to get clean of its addiction to global primacy and its obsessive pursuit of it even as the nation’s power declines.
The themes that define this NSS are two. One, the document acknowledges the need to cooperate multilaterally to address questions that are transnational in character. Climate change is the premier example here; others include global health challenges, international crime and the kind of cross-border economic crises we see an awful lot of these days.
Fine. These calls are apple-pie easy. None presents a challenge to U.S. power, but good enough.
It is the second theme that must concern us. Here we find ourselves in the familiar territory of great-power antagonism, “strategic competition,” and America’s obligation to lead the world in an almost biblical confrontation of democracy and autocracy. This is all the stuff Biden and his foreign policy people bang on about at every turn, never to any persuasive effect.
“The rules-based order,” predictably, makes a prominent appearance:
“We will partner with any nation that shares our basic belief that the rules-based order must remain the foundation for global peace and prosperity.”
So, a simulacrum of cooperation, but not even that when it challenges the traditional role America assigns to itself. This is the tragedy we are all fated to share, the shape of our grave new world, and I hope Biden is wrong when he says this will hold for “generations to come.”
The NSS’s two themes are supposed to look like parallel lines, thoughtfully drawn to lead us into a sound future. They are not. They are perpendicular to one another and cannot possibly lead anywhere but to more of the disorder that now besets us.
In an excellent piece in Responsible Statecraft, Marcus Stanley offers a severe diagnosis of the new NSS. “It’s strikingly schizophrenic,” he writes, “alternating — sometimes on an almost sentence-by-sentence basis — between ambitious promises to lead global cooperation in addressing transnational challenges, and depicting a world of near-intractable rivalries.”
Dr. Lawrence has a variant opinion. Washington’s collective superego understands a new epoch in the human story has arrived. But its id is stuck in an obsessive-compulsive stage, anal-retentively clutching onto the power it wielded in the post–1945 decades like a child with a tattered security blanket. This document is the ego trying to translate the id’s irrationality into a version of presentable reason.
Can’t be done.
The Biden administration tried on this routine with the Chinese a few months after the inauguration. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan famously told the Chinese that the U.S. will cooperate with them on some questions, compete with them on others and contend with them as strategic adversaries on yet others.
The Chinese let it be known they were having none of this the first chance they got, at that farcical but telling encounter in Anchorage in March 2021. In hindsight it was the most intelligent call Beijing could have made.
Biden, on four separate occasions now, has openly declared the flawed but nonetheless useful policy called “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan to be dead. As Biden tells it, the U.S. is now committed to defending Taiwan militarily should China exercise its legal right to reintegrate the island into the Chinese nation.
The provocations on this question — congressional visits, Air Force flyovers, “freedom of navigation” sails through the Taiwan Strait — are almost certainly more incessant now than they were during Mike Pompeo’s years as secretary of state, and it was Pompeo who made provocation the fashion at the other end of the Pacific.
As to competition on the economic side, the just-announced law governing high-technology exports to China is an utterly undignified effort to prevent the Chinese from completing the classic climb up the development ladder all nations aspire to make.
The New York Times report on this topic had a couple of choice quotations from both sides sizing matters up.
Liu Pengyu, speaking for the Chinese embassy in Washington, told the Times Washington seeks “to use its technological prowess as an advantage to hobble and suppress the development of emerging markets and developing countries. The U.S. probably hopes that China and the rest of the developing world will forever stay at the lower end of the industrial chain.”
There is no denial of this on the American side, in case you were expecting any. Nobody in Washington is at all ashamed. “It is an aggressive approach by the U.S. government to start to really impair the capability of China to indigenously develop certain of these critical technologies,” commented Emily Kilcrease, who thinks it all through with those wonderful people at the Center for a New American Security.
If we can’t compete with them, in other words, we will keep them down. As infra-dig policies go, this is down there with the worst.
To be noted in this connection: Any effort to cooperate on transnational questions is canceled, rendered impossible, by the supposedly parallel thought that the U.S. must remain the world’s unchallenged hegemon. Theme one and theme two can coexist only on paper, not on the ground.
Remember the Rhetoric
Remember all the rhetoric during the Biden campaign for the presidency in 2020? It will be diplomacy first, his policy people said, resort to the military a final alternative when all other options are exhausted. They promised to restore the U.S. to the accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs and to stop supplying the Saudis with weapons as they wage war against Yemen. As Marcus Stanley reminds us, the man who carried the Ukraine portfolio as Barack Obama’s veep committed to “a stable predictable relationship with Russia.”
Rhetoric, it should now be evident, is all it was. And this is all the new NSS is made of. It relies on sweeping generalities and abject insincerity of the kind Biden has always expected Americans to forget in a very short while. I can find little else in this document.
Yes, there was the withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, a good thing. But let us understand that for what it was, and was not. It was an empire’s retreat from a war two decades running that could never be won. Nothing else changed, not a single tenet of the imperium’s global objectives.
As to the democrats-vs.-authoritarians routine, the NSS has this to say:
“Some parts of the world are uneasy with the competition between the United States and the world’s largest autocracies. We understand these concerns. We also want to avoid a world in which competition escalates into a world of rigid blocs. We do not seek conflict or a new Cold War.”
I am sorry, except that I am not: You have to stand with the Chinese and others in the non–West, when — let us be frank — the most relentless liar to occupy the White House in the postwar era (and I include Richard Nixon) carries on in this fashion.
This administration has already consolidated the new Cold War that the Deep State has hankered for since the Berlin Wall came down. Biden and the amateurs around him would be lost without their rigid blocs, which are the only organizing principle simple enough for them to understand.
I did not expect much more from this NSS as we awaited its delayed release. But it is nonetheless distressing to see it all on paper now. It is our condemnation delivered in happy talk. Pabulum of this kind, we will learn if we haven’t already, disguises danger and comes with a price.
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. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. 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.
Patrick Lawrence: “Grave New World,” The fall-out, “pushback.”
– “From the earliest days of my Presidency, I have argued that our world is at an inflection point,” the text appearing above Biden’s signature begins.
– “How we respond to the tremendous challenges and the unprecedented opportunities we face today will determine the direction of our world and impact the security and prosperity of the American people for generations to come.”
You have to say “Amen” to this. It is an exact description of our circumstances. But this is the problem w/the new NSS.” PATRICK LAWRENCE
“Amen?!?” No offense; but, imo, it’s a wtf question. Whom does POTUS argue with?
W/o a doubt, The NSS, the RBO “Rules-Based Order;” &, the RBIO, Rules-Based International Order, i.e., The Divided $tates of Corporate America makes the rules; the rest of the world must do as it is told.
The muckity-mucks’ serving it up, “National Security Strategy,” @ “breakfast, lunch, dinner, & cocktail parties.” The appetizers, “human rights & democracy.” They wanna feel connected to whom they’re flocking.
Imo, the Nation has been fleeced, flocked, flabahgasted. “The problem w/that,” the SILENCE aka “the acceptance,” of all of it, from the 2020 Selection Election to living w/Biden’s-Harris’ Domestic & Foreign agenda (power, rules, and lawlessness). SILENCE. The people are tapped out; hence, the Censorship. Threats. Deception. Destruction. Death roll on. Call my perception jacked; but, twenty (20) months later; and, “The Grave New World,” led by The Funeral Director posing as POTUS masquerading as Human is in extreme decline of his own faculties; and, functions w/out a Moral Compass. A heartless, soulless POTUS, w/his teleprompter, green screen and a compliant MSMedia covering his jackass @ every failure. Sugar-coating POTUS’-V.P.’s past. Whitewashing the ‘present’ Biden-Harris presidency.
“Never Say Die,” TWENTY Months later, the Wolf @ the door, is POTUS. Shuffling along, fumbling, mumbling more, speaking gibberish, muck’n up the Script. POTUS is Not a Scientist, a Doctor or a Statesman. He’s a Fraud. A war monger “under the guise of “aiding others,” ‘$mokin Joe.” The reality is, POTUS is piss’n on the People, The PRESS, the Planet.
A “Rules-Based Order” is built on trust. There is NONE! TRUST is Missing. The Divided $tates of Corporate America is NOT trusted. The take away, “Suck it up.”
Imo, “We, the People,” will listen to the Oldigarch & his Veep, Congress, the M.I.C., & the 81 Million sycophant jackasses, when they’re on trial @ The Hague. In the meantime, it’s time to Clean HOUSE! “A Nation of sheep, begets a government of wolves.”
Best practice, DUMP the Do Nothin Right Congress. Before they go, by mandate, Congress must“Present Biden-Harris w/the 25th Amendment; and a “Selected NOT Elected, Goodbye, Forever,” party. It’s over. Give US peace.
The Biden administration is without question the most deceptive and combative administration I have ever witnessed. The root cause is corruption and incompetence at all levels. The Biden crime family that wahes its dirty laundry money in Ukraine while it plans further warlike escalations with China in addition to Russia is the greatest threat to peace and security ever. Forget the Cuban Missle Crisis as a benchmark, we are beyond that point. It is depressingly clear Biden is firmly in the employ of the globalists who want to use the USA as its never ending war economy machine and it has run out of any ideas to ensure global peace and security other than outrageous military spending that intimidates the weak and makes the strong bolder, realizing the US has fallen drastically behind on the military technology and industrial output front. The USA that was feared in the post WWII era is proven to be a repetitive war loser. Russia kicked its behind in Syria, Afghanistan ran it out of the country with AK 47s and Russia is currently destroying NATO on the battlefield of Ukriane. These events won’t go unnoticed by China who see a real possibility of invading Taiwan and beating the USA /NATOin a war. India Russia China Iran Saudi Arabia and many other countries against NATO. NATO loses and I think your article points this out quite clearly that only a positive attitude of cooperation with the ROW will provide for future Amsrican prosperity. But it’s never about prosperity for all it’s just for the few. So on it goes with no end in sight.
I prefer to use the word ‘regime’ rather than ‘administration’ to describe Biden’s government. A regime has all the right connotations and is in my view much more appropriate for the USA.
Regime (from The American Heritage Dictionary): ‘A government, especially an oppressive or undemocratic one. A usually heavy-handed administration or group in charge of an organization.’
Great article, just a couple things came to mind when reading it. First I don’t see how it can be claimed that Biden is a bigger liar than Obama was. Obama was not only as big a liar, but he was much better at it. Biden is perhaps the most blatant liar since Nixon, but not the biggest.
Second, I don’t think it’s right to characterize Biden as incompetent. His mission is to cater to the interests of the rich and super rich and he’s achieving that goal with basically no resistance.
For a perfect example, he very much wanted to escalate the war in Ukraine and blame it on the Russians. Given the extent to which most Americans believe the establishment doctrine on this war, it’s mission accomplished with remarkable success.
People think Biden stands for progressive issues in spite of the fact that his economic policies are as radically right wing as any Republican president including Trump. So he’s getting away with things Trump or Bush could never get away with (but of course Obama could). That’s not incompetence.
We are cast adrift, abandoned to the wolves, we Earthlings are essentially defenseless against these White House nihilistic neocons who have managed to infiltrate power’s core in their corruption of the Republic while further poisoning the body politic of not only our own country, but the world as well.
My only comfort, albeit bitterly cynical, is that the Commander-in-Chief himself has so much extensive experience in one of the NSS themes Mr Lawrence describes, that of international crime. Mr Biden and his family bring much success in that field to the table.
Things are getting dicey in Europe as strikes are breaking out in Britain and France. General strikes are most likely not far off. People are demanding their governments leave NATO. They know the US is endangering their health and safety. If Europe devolves into chaos, the US will find itself isolated on the world stage. The question is, will it behave like an enraged adolescent and lash out or accept defeat?
US rules based order or more appropriately US rules for US billionaires and the Deep State, Deep Governments and New World Order.
Rules that constantly changing depending of the direction of the political winds world wide. Rules that only DC will and all other members of the World Banking community will have have at their disposal. Rules that augment the empire builders everywhere, but are designed in DC for the purpose giving the ruling elite undue advantage over anyone who questions their authority.
I suppose rules based order is what we have seen throughout Syria, several countries Africa, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Haiti and several countries in south and Central America.
I get alright, rules based order is a tool of the neocon demented logic allowing them to justify everything they do.
“And by the way which one is Pink?” Roger Waters is something isn’t he?
The “rules based order” is made up by the USA for itself, and ignores or goes against international law. Russia, China, and other “autocracies” unlike the very democratic West! prefer to keep to the UN charter and international law, and allow nations to be sovereign and equal. The relationship of the USA, under the reader of the teleprompter in the White House (Pepe Escobar title!) is the same as any other POTUS-give orders, and punish those who refuse to obey.
“As Biden tells it, the U.S. is now committed to defending Taiwan militarily should China exercise its legal right to reintegrate the island into the Chinese nation.”
By what law does China have the “legal” right to reintegrate Taiwan into mainland China? I challenge anyone to show me this law.
Morally, the people of Taiwan have the right to choose their own government. This has been stated many times and is affirmed in our own Declaration of Independence and in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” – United States Declaration of Independence
“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” – Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.
There is no consistency. Kosovo and Taiwan somehow deserve the right to breakaway from Serbia and China, but Donetsk and Lugansk do not deserve the right to breakaway from Ukraine? (China has always stated they would return the riches stolen by Chiang Kai-Shek and his defeated followers and moved to Taiwan. They have never been in a hurry, but are being provoked to act by Biden.)
Hawaii’s citizens never wanted to join the US either.
We all know such breakaway republics are just Puppet states anyway. Even Ukraine has been a US puppet since the CIA overthrew its election in the Orange Revolution in 2004/5, and installed an America-trained banker married to an American CIA/State agent (who declared Bandera “Hero of Ukraine” as his fascist masters demanded). The more violent Maidan in 2014 just removed any pretense of Ukraine sovereignty and independence, with the Biden-led UkroNAZIs hell-bent on genocide of ethnic Russian Ukrainians.
“We will partner with any nation that shares our basic belief that the rules-based order must remain the foundation for global peace and prosperity.”
So long as it’s our rules.
I’m glad Patrick had the fortitude to read the 48 page document, which must have been mentally excruciating, as it was more gobbledygook from an incompetent regime of over-paid misanthropes with grandiose visions of how they would like to change the world panorama rather than disguised wording for American preeminence as their game plan for global domination.
Thank you Mr. Lawrence for reviewing all 48 pages – which is too dirty for the recycling bin and might be better discarded in a fireplace.
Rod Sterling’s hit television series “The Twilight Zone” seemed normal compared to today’s bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. who are living in La La Land. Yeah, the United States is “exceptional” isn’t it?
I had to laugh at the “twilight zone” reference. And yes, to wade through those 48 pages must have set Mr Lawrence back a bit. I did manage to read the opening gambit, but it was laced with such hypocrisy, I gave up.
Thank you, Valerie! Hey, I’m not George Carlin (my favorite) but I try my best.
Back to the serious stuff. That other pro-war nation, has an
nounce the resignation of Liz Truss. Such a loss for Merry ol’ England, but at least she combed her hair. unlike her predecessor.
The UK would have been better off with the honest, anti-war, pro-people, Jeremy Corbyn. King Arthur must be turning….ah, you know the rest.
Biden’s war in Ukraine and his NSS language really suggest that the prognostications of the Trump crowd, Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn, et.al. are shared by him. Bannon and Flynn are eager warriors in the battle they see in the near future. It is rooted in religious perspectives and it sees the continents of Asia and Africa, and increasingly South America, as being lured from U.S. hegemony by a global order that respects their sovereignties. This new global order is already in its early stage, and it is China leading the way.
Ukraine is a leverage point. If the U.S. can render Russia militarily impotent, China is deprived of a major flank in its anticipated confrontation with the West. The loudest voices proclaiming this coming confrontation are the Christian Right, and the neocons are using their fanatical fervor to promote policies that are moving us toward WWIII.
The “rules-based order” of course invites the questions: Whose rules? What are these rules? And the answers are obvious: a) the neo-liberal establishment; b) domination of global economics and politics by that establishment. So that with this–“We also want to avoid a world in which competition escalates into a world of rigid blocs. We do not seek conflict or a new Cold War”–the lying hypocrisy of US leadership is in full view. Rigid blocs and a new cold war define the actions of this administration–as for examples with Taiwan; Ukraine.
“The most relentless liar to occupy the White House since Richard Nixon” seems right to me, amidst continuous lying administrations all these years, coupled with self-serving interests like those of Joseph McCarthy.
Yet more evidence that the “people in charge” lack the ability to think outside-the-box when facing the seemingly insurmountable challenges ahead. Doing things the same way for so long is what lead us to our current predicament. What’s needed is a radical shift in how we think about things, discuss them, and consider possibilities and potentials that have long eluded us. I see none of this from any prominent “leader” in the west….They are willfully ignorant, at best, sociopathic and delusional at worst.
I really like this piece, Patrick. I must say that I have a couple of observations. One. The Washington regime should not be allowed to use the phrase ‘rule-based order’ without telling the truth. They should be forced to say Calvinball rules-based order. Anyone who doesn’t know what that means needs to read some Calvin and Hobbs cartoon strips from one of the anthologies since the strip ended in 1995. Two, these bozos in DC prattle on about democracies vs. autocracies. The unstated assumption is that the US is a shining city on the hill democracy. Sadly, it is not. Even the Economist, fer chrissakes, calls the US a ‘flawed democracy’ which is pretty rich since most of The Economist’s staff are still pissed off that Whitehall let go of the Raj. Little does The Economist know of democracy. In fact, the US is an oligarchy or a plutocracy. Pick your choose. But anyone we don’t like is an autocrat. Nonetheless, we can buddy up to Saudi, UAE, Qatar, etc. hereditary monarchies all and, therefore, autocracies. But let Putin win the Presidency in a field of eight and you hear a chorus of “election rigging”! Be careful, bozos. That way leads to Donald Trump who can, I’m sure, find a place for you on his team.
If I could find it, I’d insert that glorious Pogo cartoon from the 50s or I think 60s that ends with Pogo looking at the reader saying, We have met the enemy and he is us.
Excellent article. “It can’t be done” sums it up and confirms what many non-USians find so frustrating. I could write an essay on what ails the USA but Dr. Lawrence steals the thesis in four words: “addiction to global primacy”.
Closely related to the fundamental problem is the delusion of the indispensable nation, the bringer of democracy and freedom to the world. Recently V. Putin again – see his speech to the UN General Assembly a few years ago for his first swing at the indispensable state – reminded us that the rest of the world is not deluded. I fear we will never see an American Great Leap Forward, viz., closure of some 740 military bases around the world and some serious introspection. Strength as a nation must replace power.
‘ “The rules-based order,” predictably, makes a prominent appearance:
“We will partner with any nation that shares our basic belief that the rules-based order must remain the foundation for global peace and prosperity.” ‘
In my understanding, the phrase ‘rules-based order’ in this context is Western code for (1) ‘neoliberal free-market economics’ together with (2) ‘political elections by popular vote, provided that the winning party subscribes to (1)’. Which makes it a dictate (in code) of how any participating nation must be organized, i.e., submissive to the US-dominated system. Hardly even a caricature of cooperation, unless submission = cooperation.ina
As to the policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ on Taiwan, it is my understanding that it was Taiwan (under Chang Kai-shek) which proposed the One-China idea, claiming that mainland China was not separate from Taiwan and that both belonged to the Republic of China. In that case, it seems perfectly legitimate for mainland China (the PRC) to assert that Taiwan is also part of the same nation.
On July 22, 2021 I filed electronically a Freedom of Information
Act request with the State Department:
“State Dept. officials frequently make reference to an international “rules-based order.” See e.g., hxxps://www.salon.com/2021/05/26/tony-blinken-talks-about-a-rules-based-order–does-he-mean-the-us-gets-to-make-the-rules/ (.) But there is widespread confusion about what rules are referenced by this phrase. Ibid. I request a copy of these rules as currently in force, or if they are publicly available on the web, the URL(s) at which they are located.”
On Aril 25, 2022, I finally received a requested update on the status of my request:
“This is in reference to your email below regarding the status of FOIA case number F-2021-08591.
“The Office of Information Programs and Services’ electronic records system indicates this request is in process and has an estimated date of completion (EDC) of April 29, 2024. Please note, EDCs are estimates and are subject to change. If the request can be completed prior to the EDC, a response will be sent sooner.”
So State and White House folk can refer us to it every day of the week but it will take them nearly three years go search for it? That creates a very strong suspicion that it does not exist, yes ?
I used to think about those lines, but it increasingly means something else: unlimited rule of some committees in Washington D.C. unfettered by any kind of principle, Neo-liberal or not.
Like the price of oil should be established by those committees, and those who “share our basic belief” should refrain from pushing it lower or higher, based on “belief” rather than simple economic interest. Market shmarket.
It is a progression from “what to do when you can do anything” to “what to do when you think that you can do anything”, in the style of “Xerxes ordered his soldiers to punish the sea for disobedience” (according to hostile Greek historians, but hey, we can copy what was written about Xerxes). Mind you, no principles (Neo-liberal or any other) apply in those situations.
Excellent addition to Lawrence’s essay!