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Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blinken’

Tony Blinken: the good, the bad, and potentially ugly – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on November 24, 2020

Blinken maintains that the failure of U.S. policy in Syria was that our government did not employ enough force. He stands by the false argument that Biden’s vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was a “vote for tough diplomacy.” He was reportedly in favo of the Libyan intervention, which Biden opposed, and he was initially a defender and advocate for U.S. support for the Saudi coalition war on Yemen. In short, Blinken has agreed with some of the biggest foreign policy mistakes that Biden and Obama made, and he has tended to be more of an interventionist than both of them.

https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2020/11/23/tony-blinken-the-good-the-bad-and-potentially-ugly/

Written by
Daniel Larison

President-elect Biden has reportedly chosen his longtime foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken as his nominee for Secretary of State. Blinken had previously served as Biden’s national security advisor when Biden was vice president, and he was also deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration. It was always a given that Blinken would be receiving one of the top jobs on Biden’s national security team, and the president-elect is expected to announce his choice for repairing the State Department on Tuesday.

Blinken is a respected, credentialed member of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment, and his record is accordingly mixed. While advocates of restraint will find a few cautiously hopeful notes in his appointment, there are other things that should give us pause.

Like Biden, Blinken has been and remains a strong supporter of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nonproliferation agreement that restricted Iran’s nuclear program that was by most accounts successful until President Trump withdrew from the pact two years ago. Blinken has said that a Biden administration would reenter the deal as the basis for pursuing a follow-on agreement with Iran. He also supports extending the New START treaty with Russia that would cap and reduce our respective nuclear stockpiles, so his appointment is a positive signal that the Biden administration will keep the remaining arms control treaty alive for the next five years. 

Blinken is respected internationally, and he will be in a good position to repair many of the relationships that were fractured by Mike Pompeo’s reckless swaggering. It will be refreshing to have a secretary of state who values the work of the department he will be leading instead of working overtime to wreck it and demoralize its diplomats as Pompeo has done. Insofar as repairing and rejuvenating the State Department will be one of the main tasks for the next secretary, Blinken is eminently qualified to do it.

When it comes to questions of military intervention, Blinken’s record is much less reassuring. According to journalists Robert Wright and Connor Echols, who have created a system for grading Biden’s possible appointees against a standard of progressive realism, Blinken’s support for military restraint has been quite poor. 

Blinken maintains that the failure of U.S. policy in Syria was that our government did not employ enough force. He stands by the false argument that Biden’s vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was a “vote for tough diplomacy.” He was reportedly in favo of the Libyan intervention, which Biden opposed, and he was initially a defender and advocate for U.S. support for the Saudi coalition war on Yemen. In short, Blinken has agreed with some of the biggest foreign policy mistakes that Biden and Obama made, and he has tended to be more of an interventionist than both of them.

The war on Yemen is an important example of how Blinken started off with a terrible position, but seems to have learned from that mistake. In 2015, Blinken was defending the Obama administration’s disastrous decision to back the intervention in Yemen. Like many other former Obama officials, Blinken has changed his view of the policy that Obama started. More recently, he was one of many leading former Obama administration officials to sign a letter in 2018 in support of the effort to end U.S. involvement in the war. Biden has pledged to end U.S. support for the Saudi coalition, and together with Blinken’s changed position, it suggests that there is good reason to expect that this will happen early in the new year. Yemen will be the most important early test to determine whether Biden and Blinken can make a clean break with the errors of both the Obama and Trump administrations.

While there are encouraging signs that a Biden administration will undo some of the outgoing administration’s more harmful policies, Biden and Blinken remain wedded to an overly ambitious and costly strategy of primacy, however. When Blinken co-wrote an article with Robert Kagan in early 2019, he dismissed alternative foreign policy visions that called for the United States to scale back its role in the world. They blow off arguments for restraint on the grounds that it would repeat the errors of the 1930s.

On the issue of Syria, Blinken and Kagan asserted that the United States “made the opposite error of doing too little.” That is a disturbingly hard-line interventionist view to hold so many years after the war in Syria began. They called for the “judicious use of force,” but it seems impossible to square that with a belief that Washington should have intervened more forcefully in the Syrian nightmare. If a similar crisis occurs in the coming years, it seems likely that Blinken will be among those urging Biden to use force.

There is no question that having Blinken as secretary of state will be a huge improvement over the current occupant of that office. After four years of demoralization and terrible leadership, the department can begin to recover from the damage that has been done to it. It’s also clear that Blinken was a better choice than some of the others that Biden could have picked. Advocates of restraint may find Blinken to be receptive to some of our arguments on certain issues, but we should also be prepared to hold him accountable if he endorses more misguided interventions in conflicts where the U.S. has no vital interests.   

Written by
Daniel Larison

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Biden: A War Cabinet? – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on November 6, 2020

If a return to “normalcy” means having the same old politicians that are responsible for endless wars, that work for the corporate elite, that lack the courage to implement real structural change required for major issues such as healthcare and the environment, then a call for “normalcy” is nothing more than a call to return to the same deprived conditions that led to our current crisis.

https://original.antiwar.com/?p=2012341309

by Mariamne Everett

“Let’s bring decency and integrity back to the White House.” I can’t count the number of times I have heard and read this phrase uttered by U.S. expats here in Paris, France. As one of many American expats living here, of course I share in the desire for an end to a Donald Trump presidency. But at what cost? And will a Biden presidency – which promises a return to “normalcy” – really merit the sigh of relief that so many think it will? Below I summarize some of the most troubling information I have uncovered about some of the most likely foreign policy picks for key positions in a Biden cabinet.

Susan Rice for Secretary of State

Susan Rice, who was also reportedly being considered for the role of Biden’s Vice President, served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations and as National Security Advisor, both under the Obama administration.

While Benghazi has been the focus of much criticism of Rice, she has received virtually no scrutiny for her backing of the invasion of Iraq and claiming that there were WMDs there. Some of her statements:

“I think he [then Secretary of State Colin Powell] has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don’t think many informed people doubted that.” (NPR, Feb. 6, 2003)

“It’s clear that Iraq poses a major threat. It’s clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that’s the path we’re on. I think the question becomes whether we can keep the diplomatic balls in the air and not drop any, even as we move forward, as we must, on the military side.” (NPR, Dec. 20, 2002)

“I think the United States government has been clear since the first Bush administration about the threat that Iraq and Saddam Hussein poses. The United States policy has been regime change for many, many years, going well back into the Clinton administration. So it’s a question of timing and tactics. … We do not necessarily need a further Council resolution before we can enforce this and previous resolutions.” (NPR, Nov. 11, 2002; requests for audio of Rice’s statements on NPR were declined by the publicly funded network.)

She has also been criticized extensively for her record on the African continent, which judging by the following quote at the beginning of the 1994 Rwandan genocide seems to have been to adopt a “laissez faire” attitude : “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?”

Susan Rice’s past rhetoric also includes choice generous words for African dictators. One great example is former prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, a man who ordered security services to open fire on protesters during its controversial 2005 election, has a track record of imprisoning journalists, used food aid as a political tool and stole land in south Ethiopia. In her speech at his funeral, Susan Rice described him as “brilliant” and a “close friend“.

Although Rice has often been portrayed as someone who is anti-Israel, her mild criticisms pale in comparison to her staunch record and discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

In a speech given at the AIPAC Synagogue Initiative Lunch back in 2012, Rice boasted about vetoing a UN resolution that would deem Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land as illegal, and further characterized the Goldstone Report as “flawed” and “insisted on Israel’s right to defend itself and maintained that Israel’s democratic institutions could credibly investigate any possible abuses.” Her position has changed little since then, as recently as 2016, she proclaimed that “Israel’s security isn’t a Democratic interest or a Republican interest—it’s an enduring American interest.”

Tony Blinken for National Security Adviser

Tony Blinken is also an old member of the Obama administration, having served first as VP Biden’s National Security Advisor from 2009 to 2013, Deputy National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2015 and then as United States Deputy Secretary of State from 2015 to 2017.

Blinken had immense influence over Biden in his role as Deputy National Security Advisor, helping formulate Biden’s approach and support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“For Biden…”, he argued, “and for a number of others who voted for the resolution, it was a vote for tough diplomacy.” He added “It is more likely that diplomacy will succeed, if the other side knows military action is possible.”

The two of them were responsible for delivering on Obama’s campaign promise to get American troops out of Iraq, a process so oversimplified and poorly handled that it led to even more chaos than the initial occupation and insurgency.

Blinken seems to be of the view that it is up to the US, and only the US, to take charge of world affairs : “On leadership, whether we like it or not, the world just doesn’t organize itself. And until this [Trump] administration, the US had played a lead role in doing a lot of that organizing, helping to write the rules, to shape the norms and animate the institutions that govern relations among nations. When we’re not engaged, when we don’t lead, then one or two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place – but probably not in a way that advances our interests or values – or no one does. And then you get chaos or a vacuum filled by bad things before it’s filled by good things. Either way, that’s bad for us.”

Blinken also appears to be steering Biden’s pro-Israel agenda, recently stating that Biden “would not tie military assistance to Israel to any political decisions that it makes, period, full stop,” which includes an all out rejection of BDS, the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Movement against Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Michèle Flournoy for Secretary of Defense

Michele Flournoy was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2009 to 2012 in the Obama administration under Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.

Flournoy, in writing the Quadrennial Defense Review during her time as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy under President Clinton, has paved the way for the U.S.’s endless and costly wars which prevent us from investing in life saving and necessary programs like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. It has effectively granted the US permission to no longer be bound by the UN Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force. It declared that, “when the interests at stake are vital, …we should do whatever it takes to defend them, including, when necessary, the unilateral use of military power.”

While working at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a “Top Defense and National Security Think Tank” based in Washington D.C., in June 2002, as the Bush administration was threatening aggression towards Iraq, she declared, that the United States would “need to strike preemptively before a crisis erupts to destroy an adversary’s weapons stockpile” before it “could erect defenses to protect those weapons, or simply disperse them.” She continued along this path even in 2009, after the Bush administration, in a speech for the CSIS : “The second key challenge I want to highlight is the proliferation – continued proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, as these also pose increasing threats to our security. We have to respond to states such as Iran, North Korea, who are seeking to develop nuclear weapons technologies, and in a globalized world there is also an increased risk that non-state actors will find ways to obtain these materials or weapons.”

It is extremely important to note that Flournoy and Blinken co-founded the strategic consulting firm, WestExec Advisors, where the two use their large database of governmental, military, venture capitalists and corporate leader contacts to help companies win big Pentagon contracts. One such client being Jigsaw, a technology incubator created by Google that describes itself on its website as “a unit within Google that forecasts and confronts emerging threats, creating future-defining research and technology to keep our world safer.” Their partnership on the AI initiative entitled Project Maven led to a rebellion by Google workers who opposed their technology being used by military and police operations.

Furthermore, Flournoy and Blinken, in their jobs at WestExec Advisors, co-chaired the biannual meeting of the liberal organization Foreign Policy for America. Over 50 representatives of national-security groups were in attendance. Most of the attendees supported “ask(ing) Congress to halt U.S. military involvement in the (Yemen) conflict.” Flournoy did not. She said that the weapons should be sold under certain conditions and that Saudi Arabia needed these advanced patriot missiles to defend itself.

Conclusion

If a return to “normalcy” means having the same old politicians that are responsible for endless wars, that work for the corporate elite, that lack the courage to implement real structural change required for major issues such as healthcare and the environment, then a call for “normalcy” is nothing more than a call to return to the same deprived conditions that led to our current crisis. Such a return with amplified conditions and circumstances, could set the stage for the return of an administration with dangers that could possibly even exceed those posed by the current one in terms of launching new wars.

Mariamne Everett is an intern at the Institute for Public Accuracy currently living in France.

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