By Moon Of Alabama
The current U.S. foreign policy is delusional. Its attempts to command the world are getting laughed at. How did this happen and what might change it?
Here are excerpts from two smart essays which discuss the theme.
Alastair Crooke asks why somehow nothing seems to be working within Joe Biden’s United States. He then observes of its global policies:
At the international geo-political plane, things don’t seem to be working either. Team Biden says it wants a ‘managed competition’ with China, but why then send Wendy Sherman (who is not noted for her diplomatic skills) to China as Biden’s envoy? Why has there been this continuous chip-chipping away at the 1972 ‘One China’ policy with a series of small, seemingly innocuous moves on Taiwan if Team Biden wants contained competition (what he said he wants in a recent call with President Xi), but falters, time after time, to instigate a serious relationship?
Does the Team not understand that it is not ‘containing’ competition, but rather playing-with-fire, through its’ opaque hints that the U.S. might support Taiwan independence?
And then, why of all people, dispatch Victoria Nuland to Moscow, if the competition with Moscow was to be quietly ‘balanced out’ as Biden’s face-to-face with Putin in Geneva seemed to signal? Like Sherman, Nuland was not received at a senior level, and her ‘Maidan arsonist’ reputation of course preceded her in Moscow. And why decimate Russia’s diplomatic representation at NATO HQ, and why have Secretary Austin talk in Georgia and Ukraine of NATO’s ‘open door’?
Is there some hidden logic to this, or were these envoys intentionally sent as some kind of ‘kick-ass’ provocative gesture to underline who’s boss (i.e. America is Back!)? This is known in Washington as ‘capitulation diplomacy’ – competitors are presented with only the terms of their capitulation. If so, it didn’t work. Both envoys effectively were sent packing, and Washington’s relations with these key states are degraded to near zero.
The Russia-China axis have come to the conclusion that polite diplomatic discourse with Washington is like water off a duck’s back. The U.S. and its European protégés simply do not hear what Moscow or Beijing says to them – so what is the point to talking to ‘tin-eared’ Americans? Answer: None.
Prof. Michael Brenner recently sent a longer diagnose of the U.S. political sphere to his mailing list. He sees the same foreign policy problems as Crooke does and tries to answer some of the questions Crooke is asking:
The United States’ mounting hostility toward China should be understood in reference to the anxieties and anguish of a declining hegemon.
[T]he great American experiment itself is now obviously in jeopardy. [..] A country that held the world in awe as the land where the ‘common man’ reigned does not passively accept its degeneration into a predatory oligarchy. It does not experience the degradation of public discourse to the point where candor is an endangered species and truth itself homeless.
As the connection to reality loosens, disengagement approaches the point where reality ceases to have any claim of primacy over illusion. One inhabits an insular world from which other things, other persons only have meanings as players in the life drama that you have scripted. When those others resist playing those roles, they are cajoled, coerced and then punished. We literally refuse to take ‘NO’ as an answer. Let’s look at the tack repeatedly taken with foreign governments to discern how this dynamic works out in practice.
On China. Anthony Blinken flies to Anchorage to instruct his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Li, that Beijing should stop doing things that the United States objects to, and instead should do as we tell them. Wang’s response, in diplomatic language, is “shove it!” Some months later, Blinken calls Wang with the identical message – and gets the identical response. In between, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, flies to the PRC where she meets Foreign Ministry officials to whom she gives a familiar shopping list of American demands spelling out how we want Beijing to correct its misbehavior. Her interlocutor, in exchange, hands her a Chinese shopping list accompanied by a lecture that boils down to “shove it!” And so on.
On Russia: The exact pattern repeats itself in meetings between Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on the American side, and senior Kremlin officials – foremost being the formidable Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov. These exchanges are punctuated by an in-person summit between Presidents Biden and Putin held in Geneva at the White House’s request. Biden’s main purpose was to calm the waters he himself had churned up by encouraging Ukrainian President Zelensky to make preparations for an assault on the Donbas. Caught by surprise at the stern Russian response, he was forced to backpedal. The diplomatic retreat was covered by a rote restatement of American criticisms re. Crimea, alleged electoral interference, Syria, human rights and Navalny (the born-again democrat who first made his mark as a rabid Muslim-phobic rabble-rouser). As per usual, Putin coolly refuted all the charges, noted some of Russia’s own complaints, and make a concrete proposal to open a round of talks on strategic nuclear arms. Washington has shown no interest in the last. So, the two men parted ways. Product? Zero.
As a final tragic-comic twist, Biden subsequently sends Victoria Nuland to Moscow – yes, the same Nuland declared persona non grata by Russia for her role as provocateur in the Ukrainian coup and notorious vilifier of Putin and the Kremlin. Her rancorous visitation pretty much slammed shut the window insofar as any serious dialogue between Washington and Moscow is concerned [..].
Beyond icing the new Cold War with Russia, did she succeed in the ancillary objective to scare the Kremlin away from too close an embrace of Beijing with a show-down over Taiwan in the offing? Anybody who believes that is possible never has bothered to study Vladimir Putin or to examine Russian history. Sadly, that category includes Washington’s top decision-makers. By comparison, name-calling is more fun and much less taxing on the gray cells.
The American plan to construct a cordon sanitaire around China exhibits a similar type of repetitive, unyielding behavior. Vietnam, a candidate to join the anti-China alliance, is paid visits by two high-powered American leaders. First, Secretary of Defense General Lloyd Austin flies into Hanoi to make the case for the Vietnamese to throw in their lot with the United States – the two parties familiar with each other from the last movie. Nothing doing. A while later it’s the turn of Vice-President Kamala Harris who punctuates her fruitless discussions with press conference remarks denouncing China and implying support for an independent Taiwan. Her hosts are not pleased.
This is not normal behavior; it is pathological. It speaks of the disengagement from reality noted above. And it is exceedingly dangerous since it disregards the actual attitudes and actions of others in the relentless effort to project onto them caricatured images, simplified conceptions of who they are and how they can be manipulated suited to the crude script we authored. Information from without, and the understanding that it encourages, are filtered and excluded whenever inconvenient. Instead, it is the introverted world of self-delusion alone that sources our distorted cognitive maps.
America’s political elites have fostered a phantasmagoric approach to the world as increasingly is evident. Its multiple manifestations in regard to China seem to include the unfounded belief that Beijing’s leaders are bluffing when they solemnly avow that moves toward Taiwan independence are intolerable, that they are prepared to go to war if necessary and expect to win any contest of arms were it to occur. While it is more likely that Washington is the one bluffing, our greatest fear should be that Biden et al actually think that they can intimidate China. That conceit conforms to mythic notions of American exceptionalism.
Until now, the war-against-China imaginings have been an elite pastime. The public has been kept in the dark as three successive Presidents have inched the country closer and closer to conflict. How Americans react when they find themselves on the brink is the crucial, unknowable ‘X’ factor in the equation.
Alastair Crooke closes his essay with a rather hopeful view:
It seems that Russia and China, seeing all this, will remain aloof and patient – waiting upon structures to crack.
That crack in U.S. structures however may become a very dangerous moment for Russia and China. Professor Brenner thinks that only the threat of a potentially very violent scenario can cause the ‘structural crack’ that brings things the U.S. back to sanity:
I fear that we’ll need something like the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when the U.S. and Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war in order to get peoples’ heads screwed on straight. At both the elite and popular level, it is only fear of war that, on a purely pragmatic basis, will break the comatose intellectual/political state that the United States is in.