alliances, America First, Antony Blinken, Blob, Cold War, containment, Foreign Affairs, George F. Kennan, globalism, international institutions, Joe Biden, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, Trump
I’ve written at length on how President Trump has conducted a foreign policy that follows America First principles unevenly at best. Now the evidence is growing that if Joe Biden becomes President, he’ll pursue a strategy that will look like globalism on steroids – in other words, an approach certain to return the nation to a diplomacy that minimizes or ignores completely America’s unique advantages on the world stage, maximizes its vulnerabilities, and needlessly increases its exposure to danger.
Aside from Biden’s own strongly globalist impulses, the main evidence so far is the news that he’s decided to appoint longtime aide Antony Blinken as his Secretary of State. Practically all you need to know about this Washington foreign policy veteran, his priorities, and the almost congenitally globalist worldview from which they spring was summed up in this New York Times headline: “Biden Chooses Antony Blinken, Defender of Global Alliances, as Secretary of State.”
For those still doubting his hallmark, The Times stressed in its homepage subhead that, “Mr. Blinken is expected to try to re-establish the U.S. as a trusted ally ready to rejoin international agreements” – which had the added virtue of making clear that Blinken (along with Biden) is thinking not only about America’s security arrangements with Europe and East Asian countries, but about the entire raft of international institutions ranging from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization.
As I’ve explained, this globalist obsession with multilateralism overlooks (1) the potential of the security alliances in particular to plunge the United States into nuclear war for stakes far less than vital; and (2) America’s matchless overall capabilities and potential to achieve security and prosperity in an inevitably unstable, dangerous world through its own power, favored geographic position, and wealth, rather than by making quixotic attempts to pacify the international environment.
At least as worrisome, Blinken seems utterly oblivious to the importance of cultivating and wielding national power when international arrangements of various kinds do offer advantages to the United States. No one could reasonably disagree with his recent observation that
“Simply put, the big problems that we face as a country and as a planet, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s a pandemic, whether it’s the spread of bad weapons — to state the obvious, none of these have unilateral solutions. Even a country as powerful as the United States can’t handle them alone.”
You’ll search in vain, however, for any awareness that the multilateral solutions in which he places so much stock will have content. As a result, countries with different strengths and weaknesses, with differing histories and social and economic priorities will be pushing for outcomes likely to differ significantly from those optimal for America. So achieving those optimal outcomes is fanciful without the leverage to compel or to bribe, or some combination of the two.
But there’s another maxim of globalism possibly exemplified by Blinken (and other likely Biden appointees) that’s potentially even more dangerous for the United States. It’s the notion that striving for and achieving triumphs in the international arena are much nobler as well as much more important endeavors than seeking success in domestic affairs. Indeed, globalists have become so convinced of the paramount stakes of foreign policy not only out of sheer necessity but for moral reasons as well that they have crowned foreign policy ambition as nothing less than the ultimate test of the nation’s character and worth.
In this vein, back in 1993, as Americans and especially their leaders were still struggling to grasp the implications of the Cold War’s end, I wrote that that epic contest
“generated some troubling theories about America’s national identity and purpose which have become all too uncontroversial. Specifically, many of us have come to believe that America will never be true to its best traditions unless it is engaged in some kind of world mission, that creating a more perfect United States is not a noble or an ambitious enough goal for a truly great people, that we will be morally and spiritually deficient unless we continue to be the kind of globe-girdling power we have been for the past half century.”
In fact, I was always struck by the fact that even a major foreign policy decision-maker and thinker such as George F. Kennan – who for most of his career was not much of a globalist at all – fell under this idea’s sway (or did during his most globalist period). Why else would he have ended his famous 1947 Foreign Affairs article outlining the anti-Soviet containment strategy with this description of the upcoming challenge:
“The issue of Soviet-American relations is in essence a test of the over-all worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.
“Surely, there was never a fairer test of national quality than this. In the light of these circumstances, the thoughtful observer of Russian-American relations will find no cause for complaint in the Kremlin’s challenge to American society. He will rather experience a certain gratitude to a Providence which, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear.”
In the Blinken context, I was reminded of these claims by this sentence from someone as embedded in the think tank-centered globalist foreign policy Blob as the likely Secretary-to-be has been. Biden, writes this author, “will be flanked and assisted by a group of ambitious, sophisticated, and energetic aides eager to leave their mark on American foreign policy—and the world.”
This observation isn’t exactly the same as identifying Blinken as a foreign policy-uber-alles type. But it’s close enough to unnerve me, and raises the question of what makes these Biden staffers believe that the vast majority of Americans want them to “leave their mark on…foreign policy – and the world,” as opposed to expecting them to reserve blood and treasure for genuinely, and nationally, vital purposes, and hoping that they’ll avoid major blunders?
The answer, of course, is “nothing,” and makes clear that if Biden foreign policy team members are is thinking of shining in the history books, they’ll lower their sights, keep their collective noses to the grindstone, and view America’s international business as a sacred trust rather than a vehicle for their personal — or even the nation’s — reputation.