James Carden – The Unreality of US Foreign Policy

The Biden administration has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that we now are governed by men and women who prioritize countries and interests other than our own

James W. Carden is a former adviser on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs at the State Department. He is a member of the board of ACURA.

Cross-posted from AntiWar.com


This weekend the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration has drawn up plans for “a sustained military campaign targeting the Houthis in Yemen.” For those who may understandably have lost count, that would make three regional wars the Biden Administration has embroiled us in over the past three years.

If nothing else the Biden administration has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that we now are governed by men and women who prioritize countries and interests other than our own. We Americans are no longer the masters of our fate; and far too many remain unaware that we are on the cusp of a third and fateful world war for which those in charge would bear an enormous share of responsibility.

So, what moves the people who hold our collective fate in their hands? What explains their vision of America and its place in the world? In my view, the ideology of the permanent state posits that:

  • It is Washington’s right, duty and moral obligation to remake the world as it sees fit, at the point of a gun if necessary.
  • That duty derives from the belief that America’s founding and subsequent achievements render us an exceptional, exemplary people. As such, there is no room for civilizational difference.
  • Untruths can and should be deployed in the service of American power.

As Hannah Arendt wrote in her blistering critique of the permanent state in the aftermath of the Pentagon Papers, ideology is “the knowledgeable dismissal of what is visible.”

And here we must consider the twin foreign policy disasters of the Biden presidency: Ukraine and Gaza.

With regard to Ukraine: The way to avoid that war, which several of us had spent the last decade warning against, had been fully visible for years, indeed, there was even a prophetic collection of essays titled “War With Russia?” published fully two years before the fighting.

But President Biden dismissed what was visible, not least to the current Director of Central Intelligence: That NATO’s expansion to include Ukraine was the reddest of all red lines for Russia. It was also fully visible that Russia viewed the Maidan Revolution of February 2014 as a national security threat since it threatened its hold on its naval base at Sevastopol, a base which three former Ukrainian presidents urged the post-Maidan government to rescind Russia’s rights to. It was also fully visible that Putin, made suspicious by previous regime change “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, would view the November 2021 US-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, signed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as a statement of hostile intent. That intent was later publicly, if clumsily, revealed in a speech made by Biden in March 2022 in Warsaw when he declared “for God sakes this man [Putin] cannot remain in power.”

With regard to the war on Gaza, the ersatz warlords in Tel Aviv dismissed the evidence provided by centuries of history that the situation in Gaza, which amounted to the imprisonment of 2.3 million people thanks to Israel’s ironclad control of Gaza’s border, including its exports and its imports of food and medicine, its water supply, its access to the sea and the air, was bound to result in a violent uprising.

More dangerous still is Washington’s steadfast refusal to see the world as it is. In their reaction to these latest American-funded wars, the Global South and large swathes of the non-English speaking world are sending a message to Washington: The old way of doing business is over.

Consider South Africa’s suit against Israel in the International Court of Justice. Writing in The Nation, Tony Karon, a South African anti-apartheid activist, observed that with the case, South Africa is sending a message that,

…accepting US leadership over global events means accepting the slaughter of tens of thousands of Palestinians and ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands more….South Africas legal action breaks the spell of US hegemony that paralyzes so much of the world community from taking action to hold the genocidaires accountable.”

South Africa is, of course, a founding member of the BRICS. And, as the sharp-eyed chronicler of American decline Cameron Macgregor points out, “The BRICS union represents a watershed moment for the world… Today, the BRICS sponsor over 100 meetings every year and new members are flocking to join their ranks. Kicking off ’24 the BRICS have added: Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.” And it should have come as no surprise that it was China –  not the US, not the EU  – which brokered the astounding diplomatic breakthrough between Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this year. All of which is to simply point out that the old rules no longer apply: The world is moving on (even if our elites are not) from American hegemony and the so-called unipolar moment.

In the end the ideology of the permanent state prevents them from seeing what is true, what is unfolding under their very noses.

Leaders of a post-Biden America will need to accommodate themselves to the emerging multipolar order in which America will be a, but not the, principal factor. This will be the most important job of any future Trump or Kennedy administration. Whether the permanent state allows them to do so is another question – one with the greatest ramifications for the future of this country.

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