Tuesday January 18, 2022

Biden’s promise

December 01, 2020

With President Donald Trump all but conceding to the transition team that will take over after January next year, interest now shifts to President-elect Joe Biden’s choices for cabinet. On the national security front, the imperial-military lobby will have reasons to be satisfied. If Trump promised to rein in, if not put the brakes on the US imperium, Biden promises a cocktail of energising stimulants.

While campaigning for the Democratic nomination, Biden tried to give a different impression. Biden the militarist was gone. “It time to end the Forever Wars, which have cost us untold blood and treasure,” he stated in July 2019. Pinching a leaf or two out of Trump’s own playbook, he insisted on bringing “the vast majority of our troops home – from the wars on Afghanistan and the Middle East”. Missions would be more narrowly focused on Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Support would also be withdrawn from the unpardonable Saudi-led war in Yemen. “So I will make it my mission – to restore American leadership – and elevate diplomacy as our principal tool of foreign policy.”

This was an unconvincing display of the leopard desperately trying to change its striking spots. During the Obama administration, the Vice-President found war sweet, despite subsequent attempts to distance himself from collective cabinet responsibility. These included the current war in Yemen, the assault on Libya that crippled the country and turned it into a terrorist wonderland, and that “forever war” in Afghanistan. In 2016, Biden claimed to be the sage in the administration, warning President Barack Obama against the Libyan intervention. An impression of combative wisdom was offered. He had “argued strongly” in the White House “against going … to Libya,” a position at odds with the hawkish Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who insisted on something a bit more than going to Libya. After the demise of Muammar Gaddafi, what then? “Doesn’t the country disintegrate? What happens then? Doesn’t it become a place where it becomes a – petri dish for the growth of extremism?” So many questions, so few answers.

The Iraq War is another stubborn stain on Biden’s garments. His approval of the invasion of Iraq has been feebly justified as benign ignorance. As he explained to NPR in September last year, he had received “a commitment from President [George W.] Bush he was not going to go to war in Iraq.” Bush looked him “in the eye at the Oval Office; he said he needed the vote to be able to get inspectors into Iraq to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein was engaged in dealing with a nuclear program.” Then came the invasion: “we had a shock and awe”.

Excerpted: ‘Biden’s Promise: America is Back(wards)’