Opinion Opinion | Can the Foreign Policy Elites Survive Biden’s Rejection?
Opinion | Can the Foreign Policy Elites Survive Biden’s Rejection?
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When President Joe Biden followed through on former President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan surrender plan last month with his complete military withdrawal, he also jettisoned the band of analysts, diplomats and advisers who got us waist-deep in the big sandy: the foreign policy elite.
“This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,”on Aug. 31. Shattered and scattered by Biden’s refusal to stay the Afghanistan course for another year, another five years, another 20, elements from the foreign policy establishment have denounced the president for ending that trillion-dollar program of nation-building and deep-dish military intervention. Council on Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass, the de facto leader of the American foreign policy elite, led the pack by “both a major intelligence & policy failure with tragic consequences.”
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Other long-time foreign policy influencers adopted the Haass stance. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the New York Times’, has to “the forever wars” as an “imbecilic political slogan.” Former German ambassador to the United States Wolfgang Ischinger says the president’s lack of consultation with NATO allies presented a “serious loss of trust, and that will require a significant reassurance effort by Washington.” Other foreign policy mavens who have backed the 20 Years War have burst blood vessels with indignation. As Kabul was falling, for one more push to victory. Deflecting blame for the Afghanistan disaster from themselves, , , and literally blamed you and me for the mess. Former Trump administration national security adviser , one of the architects of our Afghanistan policy, urged Biden to “reverse course” by putting boots back on the ground and letting the bombs fly once again. Other prominent — such as John Bolton, Leon Panetta, and David Petraeus — filled the airwaves with their lamentations over the Biden policy.
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A widespread narrative on social media misleads on the value of military equipment left behind in Afghanistan."The current regime that just gifted the Taliban with $80+ billion worth of military grade weapons wants your 9mm pistols," reads an Aug. 17 text post on Facebook. "THINK ABOUT IT.
Why does it matter that so many from the foreign policy elites have converged on Biden’s policy with such furor? It signals the president’s official repudiation of the Blob —for the transpartisan American internationalists behind our foreign policy since World War II — in a stinging and apparently irreversible fashion. In his speeches, Biden has de-anchored our foreign policy from its permanent war footing and its hot pursuit of anti-America jihadists everywhere and all the time. Biden’s new guiding principle, repeated again and again in his , is that American intervention would be limited to where it contributes to our “vital national interest.” This can be viewed as a repudiation of aggressive war-making everywhere, which would be a major course correction if implemented, or a loophole that would allow him to declare a vital national interest and intervene again at his first impulse. If he means , that it was a mistake to attempt nation building in Afghanistan and that a more modest mission of counter-insurgency should be adopted to protect the U.S. from terrorism, that shifts the foreign policy elite’s stock from a majority share to a minority. “I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past. The mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country,” Biden said. Presumably, Biden’s rhetoric leaves unspoiled the U.S. positions on China and Russia, where the vitality of national interest is gargantuan.
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Our elites failed to build nations in Iraq and Afghanistan while, at the same time, their own nation is falling apart on their watch. Look at what a generation of policies built on free-market dogmas, beloved of Republicans and Clinton Democrats alike, has done to America. Under the rule of elites who believed that what was good for the market was good for Americans, a hollowed-out middle class saw jobs go abroad, communities collapse and the superrich accumulate a greater proportion of national wealth than at any time since the Gilded Age.
Sensing that they been routed by Biden and the Afghanistan drubbing, the foreign policy elite has sought to bargain its way back into the administration’s good graces by arguing that foreign policy wizards like Hall of Fame baseball pitchers have a few bad outings. “Even if they made the wrong calls,”of the foreign policy elite, “how do we know that other decisions would have worked out any better?” Playing the same game was Haass. “We got it wrong in Libya, we got it wrong in Vietnam,” he conceded. “But over the last 75 years, the foreign policy establishment has gotten most things right.” Writer (aka ) had a gas with that line, quipping in mock agreement with the A+ Haass had just given the Blob. “Just look at how well we have done in South America since 1946, or the Horn of Africa, or the Caribbean,” Luppen wrote.
The Haass confession indicates that the foreign policy elite might not have deserved the reverence — or at least the respect — they garnered from so many in the press corps for so long. If the consensus view on foreign policy is only 30 percent or 40 percent right as Haass suggests, why did reporters so faithfully seek their views when reporting on foreign affairs? It’s not that dissenting voice on foreign policy go completely unheard but that the illusion of consensus the Blob has formed looms so large that dissenters are easily marginalized or ignored. The natural time for a full-throated Blob defense of its Afghanistan policy — or heightened press coverage of a withdrawal — should have been during the Trump-Biden campaign, when the two candidates assumed withdrawal stances so similar that anoted they were “in the same area code, if not the same zip code, on the issue.” Even if you believe in the Blob’s omnipotence — I don’t — the press could have covered the Trump-Biden break from the consensus more closely. And if not during the campaign, then , when Biden was telling NATO withdrawal was proceeding? It’s not like the press had to go searching for top sources saying the war was doomed: The two contenders for the presidency were on record saying they’d end it. It’s almost as if the press believes the forever war was destined to last forever.
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America just got punched in the mouth, and that punch will sting for decades to come.America’s final, chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan was a self-inflicted punch in the mouth. It followed a quick succession of bruising body blows: the collapse of a regime that the U.S. had spent $2 trillion defending, the return to power of a Taliban foe that had been ousted 20 years earlier, the loss of 13 service members in a terrorist attack that seemed to be an ill omen for the future. Whatever America’s global strategy might have been before August, it’s going to be something different going forward.
Now that we’ve checked out of Afghanistan, the press could acknowledge that it was a mistake to quote the elite so faithfully when flipping a coin might have produced a better answer. If the foreign policy elite failed us, surely journalists should have been more skeptical of their pronouncements. At the very least, in the post-Afghanistan period journalists would be wise to broaden their call lists to include doubters and naysayers and other noninterventionists.
Haass deserves singling out not because he’s any more responsible for Afghanistan policy but because he’s its most candid advocate. In another tweet,the U.S. “open-ended presence” in Afghanistan because it was not an occupation but like the missions in South Korea, Germany and Japan where the U.S. had been “invited.” In so far as the comparison was accurate, it described places where the U.S. had helped create governments that “invited” them in, not independent nations that had put out the welcome mat. This unwillingness to put Afghanistan in the U.S. “loss” column with Libya and Vietnam says more about the foreign policy elite’s diminution than several special issues of Foreign Affairs ever could.
The Afghanistan surrender differs from the Vietnam surrender in one important way. The Afghanistan surrender has come packaged with a presidential epilogue that says we won’t do this again. That nation building is a mistake. That the war was not vital to our national interest. In Vietnam, there was no such spoken presidential epilogue and President Richard Nixon’s Vietnam mastermind, Henry Kissinger, continued to lead American foreign policy under Nixon’s successor, President Gerald Ford, without once admitting his errors. Some people on the right lamented the “Vietnam syndrome” — a sensible reluctance to enter foreign wars — but the foreign policy standards for intervention remained. In the Vietnam example, the Blob not only survived its failure, it thrived in its wake.
For Biden, fallout from the Afghanistan withdrawal abroad complicates agenda at home
President Biden's approval rating was on the decline as COVID-19 cases surged. That was before the Taliban's rapid takeover of Afghanistan.An adult is back in the White House, his supporters often said.
Whether or not Biden sticks to his new principles or not, what we’re currently witnessing through the Afghanistan lens is the crackup of a foreign policy elite that has held sway for 75 years. You can rightly say Trump weakened the foreign policy elite by setting his timetable for the Afghanistan withdrawal and that Biden deserves credit for dealing that policy the last blow. In may be too early to say Biden has dethroned the foreign policy elite — his Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, is as Blob as they come. But Biden has established a new standard for intervention, and as long as he and it prevail, policy merchants will work to incorporate it into their platforms. The Blob never disappears, it always adapts.
Who should be the new foreign policy king? Send nominations to. My were for the Iraq war before they were against it. My feed believes in multipolarity. My feed is very busy right now with a foreign affair of its own.
Allies embraced Biden. Did Kabul lay bare "great illusion"? .
BRUSSELS (AP) — Well before U.S. President Joe Biden took office early this year, the European Union's foreign policy chief sang his praises and hailed a new era in cooperation. So did almost all of Washington's Western allies. The EU's Josep Borrell was glad to see the end of the Trump era, with its America First, and sometimes America Only policy, enthralled by Biden's assertion that he would “lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this June 11, 2021 file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron, center right, and U.S.