US Diplomacy — War, Never Peace

The neocons’ exceptionalist rhetoric — now standard fare — leads Washington into conflicts all over the world, in an unequivocal, Manichean way, write Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies.

Plane taking U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken from Warsaw to Jerusalem on March 26. (State Department/Freddie Everett)

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies
Common Dreams

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. – Matthew 5:9

In a brilliant op-ed published in The New York Times, the Quincy Institute’s Trita Parsi explained how China, with help from Iraq, was able to mediate and resolve the deeply-rooted conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, whereas the United States was in no position to do so after siding with the Saudi kingdom against Iran for decades.

The headline of Parsi’s article, “The U.S. Is Not an Indispensable Peacemaker,” refers to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s use of the term “indispensable nation” to describe the U.S. role in the post-Cold War world. 

The irony in Parsi’s use of Albright’s term is that she generally used it to refer to U.S. war-making, not peacemaking.

In 1998, Albright toured the Middle East and then the United States to rally support for President Bill Clinton’s threat to bomb Iraq. After failing to win support in the Middle East, she was confronted by heckling and critical questions during a televised event at Ohio State University, and she appeared on the Today Show the next morning to respond to public opposition in a more controlled setting. Albright claimed,

“… if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see here the danger to all of us. I know that the American men and women in uniform are always prepared to sacrifice for freedom, democracy and the American way of life.” 

Albright’s readiness to take the sacrifices of American troops for granted had already got her into trouble when she famously asked General Colin Powell, “What’s the use of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Powell wrote in his memoirs, “I thought I would have an aneurysm.” 

Oct. 26, 1997: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the playing of the National Anthem at the Marine Corps Marathon. (U.S. National Archives)

But Powell himself later caved to the neocons, or the “fucking crazies” as he called them in private, and dutifully read the lies they made up to try to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003. 

Caving to the ‘Crazies’

For the past 25 years, administrations of both parties have caved to the “crazies” at every turn. Albright and the neocons’ exceptionalist rhetoric, now standard fare across the U.S. political spectrum, leads the United States into conflicts all over the world, in an unequivocal, Manichean way that defines the side it supports as the side of good and the other side as evil, foreclosing any chance that the United States can later play the role of an impartial or credible mediator. 

Today, this is true in the war in Yemen, where the U.S. chose to join a Saudi-led alliance that committed systematic war crimes, instead of remaining neutral and preserving its credibility as a potential mediator.

It also applies, most notoriously, to the U.S. blank check for endless Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, which doom its mediation efforts to failure.

U.S. President Joe Biden on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Jan. 27. Sitting in on the call, from left, are National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley. (White House, Carlos Fyfe)

For China, however, it is precisely Beijing’s policy of neutrality that has enabled it to mediate a peace agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the same applies to the African Union’s successful peace negotiations in Ethiopia, and to Turkey’s promising mediation between Russia and Ukraine, which might have ended the slaughter in Ukraine in its first two months but for American and British determination to keep trying to pressure and weaken Russia. 

But neutrality has become anathema to U.S. policymakers. President George W. Bush’s threat, “You are either with us or against us,” has become an established, if unspoken, core assumption of 21st century U.S. foreign policy.

The response of the American public to the cognitive dissonance between our wrong assumptions about the world and the real world they keep colliding with has been to turn inward and embrace an ethos of individualism. This can range from New Age spiritual disengagement to a chauvinistic America First attitude. Whatever form it takes for each of us, it allows us to persuade ourselves that the distant rumble of bombs, albeit mostly American ones, is not our problem. 

Profit Driven Echo Chamber

The U.S. corporate media has validated and increased our ignorance by drastically reducing foreign news coverage and turning TV news into a profit-driven echo chamber peopled by pundits in studios who seem to know even less about the world than the rest of us. 

Most U.S. politicians now rise through the legal bribery system from local to state to national politics, and arrive in Washington knowing next to nothing about foreign policy. This leaves them as vulnerable as the public to neocon cliches such as the 10 or 12 packed into Albright’s vague justification for bombing Iraq: freedom, democracy, the American way of life, stand tall, the danger to all of us, we are America, indispensable nation, sacrifice, American men and women in uniform, and “we have to use force.” 

Faced with such a solid wall of nationalistic drivel, Republicans and Democrats alike have left foreign policy firmly in the experienced but deadly hands of the neocons, who have brought the world only chaos and violence for 25 years. 

All but the most principled progressive or libertarian members of Congress go along to get along with policies so at odds with the real world that they risk destroying it, whether by ever-escalating warfare or by suicidal inaction on the climate crisis and other real-world problems that we must cooperate with other countries to solve if we are to survive. 

It is no wonder that Americans think the world’s problems are insoluble and that peace is unattainable, because our country has so totally abused its unipolar moment of global dominance to persuade us that that is the case.

But these policies are choices, and there are alternatives, as China and other countries are dramatically demonstrating. President Lula da Silva of Brazil is proposing to form a “peace club” of peacemaking nations to mediate an end to the war in Ukraine, and this offers new hope for peace. 

Lula da Silva in Sao Paulo during his presidential campaign, November 2022. (Mídia NINJA, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

During his election campaign and his first year in office, U.S. President Joe  Biden repeatedly promised to usher in a new era of American diplomacy, after decades of war and record military spending. Zach Vertin, now a senior adviser to U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, wrote in 2020 that Biden’s effort to “rebuild a decimated State Department” should include setting up a “mediation support unit… staffed by experts whose sole mandate is to ensure our diplomats have the tools they need to succeed in waging peace.” 

Biden’s New Mediation Unit

Biden’s meager response to this call from Vertin and others was finally unveiled in March 2022, after he dismissed Russia’s diplomatic initiatives and Russia invaded Ukraine.

The State Department’s new Negotiations Support Unit consists of three junior staffers quartered within the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. This is the extent of Biden’s token commitment to peacemaking, as the barn door swings in the wind and the four horsemen of the apocalypse — War, Famine, Conquest and Death — run wild across the Earth. 

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, an 1887 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov. From left to right are Death, Famine, War, and Conquest; the Lamb is at the top. (Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

As Zach Vertin wrote, “It is often assumed that mediation and negotiation are skills readily available to anyone engaged in politics or diplomacy, especially veteran diplomats and senior government appointees. But that is not the case: Professional mediation is a specialized, often highly technical, tradecraft in its own right.” 

The mass destruction of war is also specialized and technical, and the United States now invests close to a trillion dollars per year in it. The appointment of three junior State Department staffers to try to make peace in a world threatened and intimidated by their own country’s trillion-dollar war machine only reaffirms that peace is not a priority for the U.S. government. 

By contrast, the European Union created its Mediation Support Team in 2009 and now has 20 team members working with other teams from individual EU countries. The U.N.’s Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs has a staff of 4,500, spread all across the world. 

The tragedy of American diplomacy today is that it is diplomacy for war, not for peace. The State Department’s top priorities are not to make peace, nor even to actually win wars, which the United States has failed to do since 1945, apart from the reconquest of small neocolonial outposts in Grenada, Panama, and Kuwait. Its actual priorities are to bully other countries to join U.S.-led war coalitions and buy U.S. weapons, to mute calls for peace in international fora, to enforce illegal and deadly coercive sanctions, and to manipulate other countries into sacrificing their people in U.S. proxy wars. 

The result is to keep spreading violence and chaos across the world. If we want to stop our rulers from marching us toward nuclear war, climate catastrophe, and mass extinction, we had better take off our blinders and start insisting on policies that reflect our best instincts and our common interests, instead of the interests of the warmongers and merchants of death who profit from war.

Medea Benjamin is co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace. She is the co-author, with Nicolas J.S. Davies, of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, available from OR Books in November 2022. Other books include, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran (2018); Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection (2016); Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control (2013); Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart (1989), and with Jodie Evans, Stop the Next War Now (2005).

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist and a researcher with CODEPINK. He is the co-author, with Medea Benjamin, of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, available from OR Books and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

This article is from Common Dreams.

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




22 comments for “US Diplomacy — War, Never Peace

  1. peter mcloughlin
    April 6, 2023 at 08:28

    History shows that all empires are dispensable. But they do not see it. As humanity heads for WW III they still have not opened their eyes.

  2. Realist
    April 5, 2023 at 13:51

    Reply to James White

    How did “Pestilence” get left out of the Four Horsemen (I think “War” and “Conquest” are redundant), especially when it has played such a major role in the form of Covid in all the current turmoil. The pandemic likely was deliberately engineered to be a weapon by evil men rather than an act of “God,” (or “Nature”), in fact, coming back to bite its own creators, but it was not a hoax.

    • Valerie
      April 6, 2023 at 09:22

      Agree with those sentiments. “Aids” too, i believe was not from people eating green monkeys.
      But at that time, research and technology wasn’t as advanced as recently. And yes, all this tampering and manipulating and interfering with nature and DNA etc. may prove to be the biggest “pestilence”/ plague caused by mad scientists, hell-bent on experimenting. (Mostly on unsuspecting mammals, sadly.)

  3. Dr. Rock
    April 5, 2023 at 12:40

    This is all further evidence that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
    The long held American Dream of Unipolar Global Domination, sounded real sweet, after 50+ years of the Cold War. And in that brief moment, we maybe could have done something incredible; Well, we didn’t. Instead we sought to “crush our enemies, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentation of their women”.
    Bestowing such power on the wrong kind of people was our biggest blunder. They all hold hammers, and are looking for nails. We first acted like bullies, and now, we are getting a bully’s justice, as the rest of the world schoolyard has decided that it’s their best chance to gather together, grab a sock full of pennies, and beat us bloody under the bleachers.
    Our enemies (a word that seems to have new meaning today, perhaps needing a “deserved” before it) are united against us, and our so-called allies, are starting to feel the winds of change, no longer at their, and our, backs, but blowing straight in their faces.
    We had too much power, and we abused it. Even African countries that used to be completely subservient, are now, voicing right to our diplomats’ faces, that “you toppled our governments, murdered our leaders, and crushed our economies, so you no longer get to preach about “democracy” to us”
    Latin America? Same thing! The Middle East? Need I go on?
    We abused our power, made more enemies than we know, weakened our alliances, and basically, over-played our hand, until it was too late.
    Our global adversaries, Russia, China, Iran- Don’t even trust us to keep our word, so how can they compromise with a state sponsored liar?
    Europe is slowly re-realizing that “they” are over there, in Europe, and we are over hear, an ocean away. Australia? Even more so. Japan, South Korea? Do you think they trust us? China is right next door, and we are on the other side of the planet. After losing every war for over 50 years, and then adding that Afghanistan collapse, as the “cherry on top”, would YOU trust us? I wouldn’t.
    So, our enemies no longer fear us, our allies know we can’t protect them, and every country that we have wronged in the past 100 years, is seeing a new coalition grow- the anti-United States Coalition! The enemies of our enemies, are becoming fast friends, at least enough to oppose us.
    Our key allies, like Saudi Arabia, know which way the wind is blowing, so does Japan, so does Israel (a country we should have stopped supporting in about 1957, if ever at all). The Aussies are getting jittery.

    In essence- WE ARE DONE!, it’s all over except the shouting and the crying. We had a good run, but we blew it, and now, our chickens really are coming home to roost, and this time, the world is poised to draw blood, and not just a little, but a lot. All the little people have this giant hobbled, crippled, tied to the ground, and all that is left is to cut it’s throat, and bathe in the spray of blood, which they are lining up to do.

    Bon Voyage…

    • Valerie
      April 5, 2023 at 15:36

      “and all that is left is to cut it’s throat, and bathe in the spray of blood, which they are lining up to do.”

      I believe Dr. Rock, they will just leave it to rot and stew in its own squalor and laugh and gloat from afar, if it comes to the ending you outlined.

  4. Robert Richard
    April 5, 2023 at 05:40

    Mr. Biden’s true colors were revealed January 2022 declaring the Nordstream pipeline would be stopped before Russia ever invaded, then got Ukraine to the Peace table by March 2022. The truth is being revealed by Sy Hersch to us once more just like his My Lai story got published afterwards in 1969. The Nordstream pipeline was built to withstand blows from Aircraft Carrier anchors. The plans began in the first year of Bidens presidency, 2021, to sabotage the Gazprom, EU countries owned pipeline. Seymour Hersch has more integrity than any cover story from our Forever War Whitehouse of the 21st Century.

  5. CaseyG
    April 4, 2023 at 19:10

    I wonder —-would America be a better nation if those who voted for war actually had to get up and go to war. Wars would be a lot shorter then, and the planet would be so much healthier.

  6. James White
    April 4, 2023 at 18:57

    Time to update the four horsemen of the apocalypse from Death, Famine, War, and Conquest to their actual names: Sullivan, Blinken, Austin and Milley.

    • WillD
      April 4, 2023 at 23:10

      Don’t forget Victoria Nuland, the architect of all things Ukrainian since 2014. She might be a junior member but is still quite evil and nasty.

    • Cynic
      April 5, 2023 at 00:37

      You left out Nuland.

      • Cynic
        April 5, 2023 at 00:38

        And Pompeo and Bolton.

  7. Mike
    April 4, 2023 at 18:33

    As the free-standing unaccountable war machine called NATO gloats over the doubling of its off- / de-fensive line (of attack) on its border with its neighbour Russia, it is surely ‘War and (not) Peace’. What fools. What hope is there for the planet – is climate collapse irrelevant in its imminent destruction? Tell us Sec General Stoltenberg!

  8. Jeff Harrison
    April 4, 2023 at 18:09

    Peace: The maintenance of tensions just short of open conflict.
    Handbook of the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne
    Keith Laumer, who created the CDT for his Retief series of science fiction novels, spent a number of years as an Air Attache assigned to the State Department. He knew what he was talking about.

  9. John S. Carpenter
    April 4, 2023 at 18:06

    Manichaean — a perfect term for the NeoCons. Subsumes my terms, No Brakes and No Reverse Gear.

  10. Onlooker
    April 4, 2023 at 17:29

    I am afraid there is nothing new about these facts or insights: see the classical Report from Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace, which is several decades old, but still up-to-the-minute.

  11. Kiwiantz62
    April 4, 2023 at 16:03

    This article perfectly sums up why the US Empire & it’s corrupt & so calked Rules based Order is in the process of slowly being confined to the dustbin of History? Ernest Hemingway said “How does one go Bankrupt, Two ways, gradually then suddenly”! If you apply this logic & narrative to the US Empire & say, How did the US Empire die, it happened gradually then suddenly? This is the compounding effect of America’s coercive, abusive bullying behaviour that they have inflicted on the World, its built up over decades with Warmongering violence, Economic cruelty & the abandonment of International UN Laws, one abuse after another, heaped on top of until its reached a tipping point! America has abused its Unipolar dominance both Militarily, Financially & Morally & now is losing its Hegemony due to its arrogance & hubris? This drip by drip accumulation of ill will inflicted on the World has happened gradually & now has suddenly forced the World to reject the West led by the evil US Empire & seek alternatives with the rise of other World powers & the emergence of a Multipolar World! We are witnessing this event taking place in realtime, right now! It’s happening slowly & gradually with the Global South led by China & Russia de-dollarisating & US Petrodollar abandonment by the Saudis to open up Trade in other currencies, which is the most significant leg of the three legged stool of US Hegemony consisting of the 1. USD Financial System based on the Petrodollar 2. It’s Military dominance 3. Its Political System! Knock out one leg & the whole stool collapses! And once this US Empire goes into that good night, it’s gone forever, good riddance!

  12. Ray Knowles
    April 4, 2023 at 15:53

    One could make the case that when the U.S. has a choice between a peaceful solution and war, it choices war. After 9/11, when the U.S. said the Ben Laden was responsible for the attack. The Taliban, offered to surrender the man to us, the U.S. refused and invaded Afghanistan, claiming that the Taliban had given him refuge.
    Then there was Iraq. Here, Hussein wanted to negotiate his exist from Kuwait, the U.S. refused and declared war on Iraq.
    In Syria, the CIA first tried to get the Syrian military to revolt against Bashir, and when they refused the U.S. chose to attack the country on charges that his solders had fired on unarmed civilians. Film clips show on France 24, showed those “unarmed” civilians had weapons.

  13. Tim N
    April 4, 2023 at 15:52

    Can you name me one “principled “progressive”” in the Congress? Who consistently opposes war? Funny enough, I can’t think of one. I’m pretty sure there are none. There certainly wasn’t one when the huge Ukraine war-money vote came up, was there?

  14. Realist
    April 4, 2023 at 13:42

    Don’t forget all the domestic violence pitting American identity groups against one another in the streets of our nation (and allegedly in its Capitol Bldg) that seems to be deliberately fomented through acts of both omission and commission by elements in the government, including its chief executive, and then left to burn itself out without any genuine efforts to stop it until massive destruction and often death have been realised. The American federal government doesn’t even feign attempts to reconcile the opposing factions, rather it takes up sides and spouts ever more extremist revisionist history, baseless social theory, and discriminatory actions in violation of both the constitution and enacted legislation to exacerbate the situation because, just like in the international arena, the fools in charge think that one side or the other of all humanity can be permanently vanquished and those in power will have their way. Every day in every way we are being deliberately alienated by our so-called leaders from the “other” until we will pass the point of no return, which I think is by design or madness.

    • Valerie
      April 6, 2023 at 10:28

      I believe it’s madness.

  15. mgr
    April 4, 2023 at 12:41

    Wonderful that CODEPINK has courageously called out the US as the premier war-mongering nation in the world. The sooner we correctly identify the roadblocks to peace in the world, the sooner peace has a chance.

    Judge Napolitano had a brilliant interview with Alastair Crooke, former MI-6, British ambassador and director of the Beirut institute for conflict resolution. In discussing the almost unbelievable changes that are rapidly sweeping the ME due to the mediation efforts of China, Crooke asked why it should be that all these changes are happening so rapidly and all at once, now. It’s because he said, America is not involved [hXXps://].

    The reality is that America does not want peace in the world. Instead it works to exacerbates tensions between groups in order to keep them in conflict. The strategy is to divide and conquer while creating markets for the US arms industry.

    America’s leadership in a uni-polar world for the last 30+ years is evident all around us. The wealth concentration, war and the growing environmental catastrophe that defines these years is not a flaw but a feature of US policy, which is why the dream of a US uni-polar world is effectively suicide for the world. Humanity simply cannot survive any more of American “leadership.”

    • April 4, 2023 at 21:10

      Well stated. Kudos.

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