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A Historic Turning-Point in American Politics

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UPDATE: on January 26th, Newsweek headlined “Mitch McConnell Wins Filibuster Battle as Primary Pressure Builds on Chuck Schumer”, which (as is explained in the following) means that unless Senate Democrats now use “the Nuclear Option” — which they resist doing — Biden’s Presidency will be a failure.

The success or failure of Joe Biden’s Presidency will be determined more by the policies that he establishes in order to deal with America’s raging coronavirus-crisis than by anything else. And the fates of both of America’s political Parties will also largely depend upon these decisions, which he is making at the very start of his Presidency. In normal times, an American President’s first 100 days in office are crucially important; but, this time around, the first 30 days will probably be decisive. The signs, thus far, are not looking good, for his success. Here is why:

On January 22nd, Politico headlined “Republicans bludgeon Biden’s big stimulus plans” and reported that the Senate’s Republicans have decided to block President Biden’s Covid-19 relief package unless Biden will cut it in ways that would prevent it from doing what Biden has long been promising to do. Either he will fulfill his promises on Covid-19 policies, or he will compromise with Senate Republicans. However, there is a way in which Biden and the Senate’s Democrats would become enabled to overcome that block (it’s called “the Nuclear Option”), but doing so would delay the legislation and would require changing the rules of the Senate, which would require even further delays. Democratic and Republican Senators would then basically lock horns in battle against one-another and fight to the political death, over Covid-19 (coronavirus) policies. Whichever side would quit the contest sooner would be embarrassed amongst its electorate, and would therefore produce a significantly weakened Party. 

The victorious side will probably control Biden’s Presidency. Either the Democrats will outlast the Republicans, who will be profoundly embarrassed (especially because the polling shows that the position of congressional Republicans on coronavirus-policy is rejected overwhelmingly by the American public), or else the Republicans will outlast the Democrats, who will be profoundly embarrassed (by having caved so fast to congressional Republicans on this matter where Biden and congressional Democrats have an overwhelming political advantage over their supposed ‘opponents’).

If Democratic Senators win on it, then not only will Republican Senators lose the support of some Republican voters (who favor passage of Biden’s proposal and who therefore don’t want Republican Senators to force a delay of its passage), but Republican Senators who had voted with Democrats on this will be challenged in 2022 and 2024 primaries by more-extreme Republican candidates who will call the incumbent a “RINO” “Republican In Name Only” for having capitulated to the Democrats. So, some of the less-extreme Republican Senators will probably lose their seats. If, however, to the contrary, Republicans win, then not only will President Biden have been defeated in his first legislative initiative (and his Presidency will have been hobbled at its very start), but Democratic Senators who have sided with Republican Senators on this and who will be running for re-election in 2022 and 2024, will be challenged in primaries by progressive Democratic candidates who will call that Democratic incumbent a “DINO” “Democrat In Name Only.” So: either the Republican Party in the Senate will be moving farther to the right, if Democrats win on the coronavirus legislation, or else the Democratic Party in the Senate will be moving farther to the left if Republicans win on it. And there is no way in which Biden’s campaign promises to function as President in a bipartisan manner will be able to be achieved. 

In other words: this is going to be a fight to the political death of either the Democratic or the Republican Party. And the chasm separating the two Parties is virtually certain to become even wider than it has been.

Any compromise on coronavirus-policy by Biden would be widely seen (by Republican and many independent voters) as his conceding to the Republicans the superiority of their position regarding any area on which he had conceded (such as Republicans’ belief that “deficit spending is bad”) — and his doing that would greatly weaken him going forward (especially because Americans support Biden’s announced Covid plan by over 2 to 1, and 59% even of Republican voters support Biden’s requirement regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing at commercial establishments).

Any compromise by the Republicans on it would likewise be damaging to them. However, they don’t control the federal Government now, and, so, they wouldn’t be blamed as much. Nominally, Democrats control all three electoral branches of the federal Government.

Furthermore: Biden will get more of the praise or blame for whatever legislation ends up resulting from this than will the Republican Party. Whereas Republican voters will be able to say “We lost because the damned Democrats control the Government,” Democratic voters won’t be able to say “We lost because the damned Republicans control the Government.” If Democratic voters turn out to be disappointed with the outcome, then they won’t have any excuse for it — other than to increase yet further their hatred of Republicans if Biden and the Democrats turn out to be the capitulationist side.

In any case, Biden is obviously not going to be able to fulfill on his promises that he will be a bipartisan President. That fact (the mythological character of ‘bipartisanship’ in today’s America), alone, is certain to weaken him — though not nearly as much as would be the case if he holds firm, refuses to compromise on Covid-19, and defeats congressional Republicans on this issue that’s vastly more important to Democratic Party voters than it is to Republican Party voters.

This situation is similar to what had pertained when Barack Obama became President in 2009 and dumped his proposed “public option” the moment he won the Presidency in November 2008. However (as was made manifestly clear during the 2008 Democratic primaries, when Obama handily beat Biden, Clinton, and Edwards), Biden’s hold on the Democratic Party won’t be nearly as solid as Obama’s was, if Biden capitulates on this issue, which is so important to Democrats. Whereas a comprehensive public option, or else universalized Medicare, is a do-or-die issue only for some Democratic Party voters, conquering Covid-19 is a do-or-die issue for virtually all Democratic Party voters.

Back in 2009, the Republican crisis that the incoming Democratic President was dealing with — the economic collapse and the lie-based invasion/occupation of Iraq — wasn’t killing four thousand Americans per day like the coronavirus-crisis now is. Just as Trump will be blamed for America’s disastrously poor performance in the coronavirus-crisis (a higher infection-rate than any other medium-sized or large nation), Biden will get either the praise or the blame for his effectiveness or ineffectiveness at reversing that Republican failure. Congressional Republicans will politically benefit if Biden fails. Any compromises that Biden allows on the Covid-19 relief package are not going to buy for him a “We are all in this together” response from Republicans in Congress, but will only buy for him a less effective policy, which will (quite reasonably) be seen by the American public as being, essentially, a Democratic policy (which had failed).

This is the way that America’s Party system now functions: the incentive for our political leaders is not to benefit the American people, but to benefit the given political leader’s own Party, in competition against the other Party, in an extremely polarized electorate. But is it actually instead merely a competition between Democratic Party billionaires (who fund Democratic candidates) versus Republican Party billionaires (who fund Republican candidates)? Has the electorate become virtually irrelevant, so that the Government now reflects only those billionaires, who fund whatever politicians serve billionaires’ personal interests? (And those personal interests are always wanting more tax-dollars to buy the weaponry that their armaments-firms make, and less to buy “social welfare programs,” such as Covid relief payments.) 

Regardless of which side ends up winning on the Covid-19 relief law, that side will likely control the U.S. Government for a long time to come, because the other Party will be so politically damaged — discredited — by having lost this fight, which is a do-or-die battle between America’s Republicans and America’s Democrats.

Actually, however, Democrats have far more “skin in this game” (or at stake) in this battle, than Republicans do, because Democrats care vastly more about the coronavirus-issue than Republicans do. For example, on 21 October 2020 (which was already well into the “second wave”), Pew bannered “Only 24% of Trump supporters view the coronavirus outbreak as a ‘very important’ voting issue” and reported that, “the widest differences are on the importance of the coronavirus outbreak. About eight-in-ten Biden supporters (82%) say the coronavirus will be very important to their vote, compared with just 24% of Trump supporters.” Consequently, if Biden and congressional Democrats cave on this, then they are actually not serious about winning on it. By contrast, this issue is, indeed, a do-or-die matter for Democratic Party voters. Whereas congressional Republicans can afford to lose on it, both Biden and congressional Democrats simply cannot (without greatly weakening their Party).

Normally, America’s two Parties play a ‘good cop’ versus ‘bad cop’ routine with each other, in which both Parties represent positions that are acceptable to all of America’s billionaires, who provide most of the money that’s donated in political campaigns (and it’s the decisive money, so that the politicians usually “compromise” upon a policy, which represents the billionaires’ views — such a “compromise” represents only billionaires, regardless of which ‘Party’ wins). But that deceit won’t be able to work for Democratic Party politicians, this time around, though it still could work for Republican ones, since those voters don’t care nearly as much about Covid-19. Therefore, a Republican capitulation on it wouldn’t be fatal for the Party. To them, it would be only a minor loss. But a Democratic capitulation on it could sink Biden’s Presidency and any Democrat who participated in such a capitulation. Democratic Party voters would find such a capitulation very hard to accept, and progressives who might challenge capitulationists on it, in Democratic Party primaries in 2022 and 2024, would therefore stand outstanding likelihoods of winning.

In the past, Democratic Party voters (just like Republican Party voters) continued voting for the Party no matter how bad it became; but, this time, that might turn out not to be the case. This time, “bipartisanship” could actually sink the Democratic Party — or else cause it to replace lots of its incumbent ‘moderate’ or ‘centrist’ office-holders. (After all: Biden was supposed to be the ‘moderate’ or ‘centrist’ candidate in the Democratic Party Presidential primaries; so, this is not as if there would be a compromise being sought between congressional Republicans and a President Bernie Sanders. Democrats had already made their compromises, when they voted for Biden in the 2020 Democratic Party primaries. He was ‘Mr. centrist’; and, so, compromising with the Republicans now would only move the Democratic Party itself even farther toward the right, and thus away from what the Party’s voters want.)

Furthermore, on Sunday, January 24th, “according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday, … the more than two-thirds of Americans who approve of his [Biden’s] leadership on the coronavirus includes 40% of Republicans — a notably high level of support from across the aisle a year into the pandemic. An overwhelming 97% of Democrats and 70% of independents also back Biden’s management of the crisis in his early days in office.” Question #1 in that poll was “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19)?”  69% answered “Approve.” 29% answered “Disapprove.” Only 2% did neither. The pollsters said: “Four in five (81%) support federal mask requirements, including nearly all Democrats (99%) and a majority of Republicans and Independents (59% and 83%, respectively).” Another poll, issued the following day (on January 25th) found that 59% of Republican voters “support” Biden’s proposed Covid-relief spending amount, of $1.9 trillion. In other words: there is overwhelming public support for the announced Covid-relief proposals by Biden. If he refuses to instruct his Party-leadership in Congress to do whatever they must do in order to defeat the Republicans on this, then he is accepting defeat not only of himself, but of the overwhelming majority of Americans who support his announced plan. Why would he do something like that? Perhaps in order to satisfy his political mega-donors (who made him the President)? It would enormously weaken the Democratic Party.

Also on the 24th, The Hill  bannered “Biden officials hold call with bipartisan group of senators on coronavirus relief plan”.  Then, on January 25th they headlined “Moderates vow to ‘be a force’ under Biden”, and reported that,

“The numbers are so tight. All of us want this place to work. We’ve got a golden opportunity to make it work, we really do. And our bipartisan, bicameral group [the most strongly billionaire-controlled members of Congress] is going to be a force, and when I say a force, we’re going to try to find that middle,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), the most outspoken Senate Democratic centrist. 

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), another member of the group, said their objective was to “try to get results and avoid a lot of the stalemates that we’ve had in the past.” 

In the House, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus added 16 new members, bringing its total to 56 members.

Either Biden wants not to beat the Republicans on this, or else he is willing to compromise in ways that Republicans have never done in this century — or both. But regardless of what the reason is, the indications, as of the fifth day of his Presidency, were that his Presidency would become a colossal failure — not only for the American people, but also for his own Party. After all: he would then be ‘compromising’ even to the right of most Republican voters, on this matter. And whom would he then actually be serving, in order to do that?

As was said earlier here: “The victorious side will probably control Biden’s Presidency. Either the Democrats will outlast the Republicans, who will be profoundly embarrassed, or else the Republicans will outlast the Democrats, who will be profoundly embarrassed.” Furthermore: “Democrats have far more ‘skin in this game’ (or at stake) in this battle, than Republicans do, because Democrats care vastly more about the coronavirus-issue than Republicans do.” However, despite all of that, there seems to be no public indication that the leading congressional Democrats actually want to win this battle. They — and not congressional Republicans — appear set to become politically very embarrassed, and defeated, in whatever Covid-19 legislation becomes passed. As the progressive Democrat and investigative journalist David Sirota headlined, about this, on January 26th, “Reminder: This Never Ends Well. Signals of retreat on the $2,000 checks echo Democrats’ disastrous surrender on the public option in 2009.”

Furthermore, the Brookings Institution, in its detailed article about eliminating Senate filibusters, noted that, “For his part, Biden told reporters in July that ‘depend[ing] on how obstreperous [Republicans] become … I think you’re going to just have to take a look’ at abolishing the procedure.” So, Biden certainly has to be aware, by now, that he must demand that the Senate’s leader, Democrat Charles Schumer, not only take the Nuclear Option, but go all the way to abolishing filibusters altogether, for anything — ending the practice, altogether. If Biden won’t go for a democratic (and that means majority-rule, on all matters except where the Constitution itself specifies instead a two-thirds majority) Senate, then Biden’s Presidency will inevitably fail. Apparently, he’s aware of this, himself. The choice is his to make, but he would need to make clear to the public that Senate filibusters are anti-democratic and need to be eliminated altogether. Only then could he put the pressure on Schumer to get it done. This is the time to do it.

If any of America’s billionaires who invested millions of dollars in getting Biden into the White House wants really to beat the Republican Party, then why are none of them now flooding their ‘news’ media with articles and commentaries making clear that this issue is do-or-die for Biden’s Presidency? Why isn’t Biden himself saying he’s going to beat congressional Republicans on Covid-19 policy — not compromise with them on it? What does all of this ‘bipartisanship’ indicate about the political reality in today’s America? Is this political reality (the fakery of ‘bipartisanship’) what’s being reported on by America’s mainstream ‘news’ media? Or, are Americans being informed of it (that it is  fake), instead, only in independent news-media, such as publish the present article?

For any Party, there actually are some things on which they will not compromise. If Covid-19 policy isn’t one of those policy-issues for a Democratic President and for all Democrats in Congress, at a time like this, then what does that Party actually stand for? If they will capitulate on this, then what won’t  they capitulate on? That is why this issue will constitute a historical turning-point in American politics. It is a very stark test of American ‘democracy’. It is that, if anything is. Will the U.S. Government pass this test, of whether or not this nation is a democracy? Will the American people get the coronavirus-policy that all the polls show that they overwhelmingly want? Perhaps the answer will be clear on this, within the next week or two.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

Americas

Witnessing Social Racism And Domestic Terrorism In Democratic America

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With just less than two weeks away from President-elect taking the office, the United States of America witnessed the worst of the worst it could ever do, since its discovery. Anti-democracy moves and violence is what American leadership stood against around the world and in particular in recent times since the Arab Spring, but the same ‘Mini Arab Spring’ was faced by America itself. The brave soldiers of America who took arms and enjoyed Saddam’s palace could not protect its own legislative branch, details about which make the very beginning of the American Constitution. The savior of democracy is struggling democracy at home as white supremacists and Trump supporter militias stormed at the US Capitol. Before having a critical outlook through the lens of Johan Galtung’s triangle of violence, it is potent to dig into what exactly is causing this situation in America. This started as protests at the National Mall which soon after Trump’s incitement turned into riots at the Capitol Building by masses without masks, painted with Republican colors and wrapped in MAGA merchandise. This storm over Congress seats came after months long instigation of Donald Trump’s claims about rigging in elections and his refusal to accept the results and especially when on Wednesday the Congressmen gathered to count the electoral votes and officially declared Biden as the next President of America. Amidst this siege over Capitol, arrests and vandalism of state property; Joe Biden was officially validated as the 46th President of the United States of America.

Apart from what became highlight of that week about Capitol Hill being invaded by pro-Trump supporters, critically analyzing the situation, it is evident enough that MAGA riots and Black Life Matters riots were quite evidently, differently handled by the state forces. This discrepancy in response to BLM can be better explained through Galtung’s 3 sides of violence. Galtung’s triangle shapes around three joints of connections: direct, cultural and structural violence, while the former has its roots in the latter two. Structural violence is defined as the unequal access and advantages to one racial, political, ethnic or religious group than the other in social and political orientations of systems that govern the state. Structural violence or social racism is evident in the varying responses that despite warnings about possible attacks during the electoral vote counts, Police did not seek advance help to prevent it, rather National Guard was deployed an hour after the protestors had already breached the first barricade. While in the case of BLM, the aggression of the Police and National Guard was evident in their gestures. While the anti-racism protests in June last year faced militarized response, none was done with anti-democratic riots.

While social racism is evident in America, it is yet to be witnessed what is to come next. Speaker of the House of Senate, Nancy Pelosi has already indicated removing President Trump from his office through the 25th Constitutional Amendment. Along with this, Joe Biden’s remarks about the situation also have long-term repercussions as well as expectations. Repercussions might come in terms of him calling the protestors as “domestic terrorists”. The FBI defines domestic terrorism as: “Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.” America, since more than 2 decades is already fighting its war against terrorism in various segments of the world, the use of this word at home, although might bring support for Biden’s sympathies for BLM and democracy, yet it might have long-term impacts. Mentioning of expectations, Americans at home and abroad, both desire to see actual reforms followed by on ground implementations to counter structural violence. Along with this, Biden shall have to re-construct the de-constructed notion that political violence and threat to democracy is far away from America and is for third world countries. The states upon which America used to show serious concern and used to send arms for their national interests are showing their worry over the situation in America which is even termed as ‘coup’. Having pin-pointed all this, Biden’s era needs a lot of reconstruction before it opts to enter any third world country or show its presence in any new Spring for democracy outside America.

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Joe Biden and his first contradictory foreign policy moves

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Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Those who thought that the elderly American President, formerly Barack Obama’s vice-President, would step into the international limelight as the wise and moderate statesman he had been during the election campaign have had to revise their judgement.

Just a few weeks after taking office, Joe Biden abruptly brought the United States back onto the Middle East stage with a dual political-military move that has aroused considerable perplexity and protest in the United States and abroad.

As Pentagon spokesman John Kirby pointed out, the first surprise move decided directly by the President was to order an aerial bombardment against two bases of militiamen believed to be close to Hezbollah and Iran, located in Syria near the border with Iraq.

Between 22 and 27 people, whether militiamen or civilians, are reported to have died in the attack, which took place during the night of February 25.

The order to strike the pro-Iranian militias was motivated by Biden’s need to react to an attack in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, at the beginning of February against a U.S. army logistics base, which resulted in the death of a Filipino employee of the base.

Commenting on the incident, Pentagon spokesman Kirby said: “The airstrikes have destroyed warehouses and buildings used on the border by pro-Iranian militias Kathaib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al Shuhaba and have conveyed the unambiguous message that President Biden will always act to protect American personnel. At the same time, the action is intended to deliberately pursue the goal of de-escalating tension in both eastern Syria and Iraq’.

Apart from the fact that it sounds ambiguous to justify a surprise attack on the territory of a (still) sovereign State like Syria with the need to “reduce tension” in the region, President Biden’s initiative has aroused not a few perplexities also in the United States, in addition to the obvious protests of the government in Damascus.

While many Republican Senators and Congressmen have approved of Biden’s actions because, as Republican Senator Pat Toomey has argued, “Biden has the right to respond with weapons to the recent attacks supported by Iran against American interests”, members of his own party have not hidden their criticism and perplexity because allegedly the President did not respect the exclusive prerogatives of Congress in terms of “war actions”.

Democratic Senator Tim Kane was very harsh and explicit: “an offensive military action without Congressional approval is unconstitutional”.

His colleague from the same party, Chris Murphy, told CNN that “military attacks require Congressional authorization. We must require that this Administration adheres to the same behavioural standards we have required from previous Administrations…

We require that there be always legal justification for every American military initiative, especially in a theatre like Syria, where Congress has not authorised any military initiative”.

With a view to underlining the inconsistency of the White House’s justification that the attacks were to ‘reduce tension’ in the region, Democratic Congressman Ro Khana publicly stepped up criticism by saying, “We need to get out of the Middle East. I spoke out against Trump’s endless war and I will not shut up now that we have a Democratic President”.

As we can see, the criticism levelled at President Biden has been harsh and very explicit, thus marking the premature end of the ‘honeymoon’ between the Presidency and Congress that, in the U.S. tradition, marks the first hundred days of each new Administration.

President Biden’s military show of strength appears to be marked not only by the doubts over constitutionality raised by leading members of his own party, but also by the contradictory nature of the motivations and justifications.

According to the White House, in view of reducing tension in Syria, bombers need to be sent, without prejudice to the need to “convey a threatening signal” to Iran, at the very moment when the President himself is declaring he wants to reopen the “nuclear deal” with Iran, i.e.  the dialogue on the nuclear issue abruptly interrupted by his predecessor.

In short, the new President’s opening moves in the Middle East region do not seem to differ too much from those of his predecessors who, like him, thought that military action – even bloody and brutal – could always be considered a useful option as a substitute for diplomacy.

This military action, however, seems scarcely justifiable in its motivations if it is true that President Biden intends to reduce the tension in relations with Iran, which have become increasingly tense due to initiatives such as those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who at the beginning of last year ordered the assassination of the highest-ranking member of the Iranian military hierarchy, Qassem Suleimani, who was shot by a drone near Baghdad.

President Biden’s other move that, in a delicate and sensitive theatre such as the Near East, appears at least untimely, was to authorise CIA to declassify the report on the assassination of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, killed in 2018 on the premises of the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

The CIA report bluntly accuses Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of ordering the murder of the dissident journalist. Its publication, authorised by President Biden, has sparked a storm of controversy inside and outside the United States, thus seriously calling into question the strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which over the years has been painstakingly built with the dual aim of counterbalancing Iran’s presence and influence in the Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as well as controlling the extremist impulses of rich and dangerous regional partners such as Qatar.

Prince Bin Salman, now firmly established as sole heir to the Saudi throne, is a compulsory counterpart of the United States.

In vain (and recklessly), President Biden has publicly declared his preference for a direct dialogue with King Salman.

The 85-year-old King, however, is not only in poor health conditions, but has also clearly told the Americans that he has the utmost confidence in “his sole and legitimate heir” to whom he has already actually delegated the management of the Kingdom’s affairs.

President Biden’s Administration, and its new Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, have never made a secret of preferring another Crown Prince as a potential counterpart, namely Mohammed Bin Nayef, who is very close to CIA thanks to the good offices of the former Chief of the Saudi intelligence services, Saad Al Jabry. Nevertheless, in the complicated world of the Saudi Court, things do not always proceed in the simple and straightforward way preferred by the Americans.

Mohammed Bin Najef is currently in prison on corruption charges and is therefore definitely out of the race for the throne, while his CIA liaison, Al Jabry, has self-exiled to Canada to escape the ‘persecution’ he believes has been orchestrated by the Saudi courtiers.

If the United States wants to keep on playing a role in the Middle East and possibly exercising a stabilising function in a region which was greatly destabilised by George W. Bush’s unfortunate Iraqi adventure, which effectively handed Iraq over to the Shi’ites close to their Iranian “brothers” and gave Iran the keys to control the Persian Gulf, the President and his Secretary of State will have to rely on a good dose of political realism, leaving out of the dialogue with Saudi Arabia the ethical considerations which, although justified, do not seem appropriate, also because America has never seemed to have had many scruples when it comes to physically eliminating its ‘adversaries’ with very hasty methods, be they an Iranian general, two dozen unidentified Syrian militiamen or their relatives.

In short, the early stages of Biden’s Presidency do not look very promising. Allies and adversaries alike are waiting for the United States to get back on the field in the most sensitive areas with pragmatism and realism, two factors that seem rather lacking in Joe Biden’s preliminary foreign policy moves.

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Biden’s Syria strikes don’t make him a centrist Democrat – they make him a neocon

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Biden’s Syria strikes last week left many of his supporters, including me, surprised.

The Syria strikes don’t make Biden the centrist Democrat that we knew we were getting – they make him a neocon. 22 Syrians died as a result, as the US forces aimed at Iran-backed militias in Syria in an attempt to take down adversaries – not to disturb an imminent attack on civilians or to stop genocide, for example.

My own initial analysis of Biden’s foreign policy outlook pinned him as a classical Democrat, but his first moves put him further and well beyond the center to the right than what generally defines a classical foreign policy Democrat. 

Humanitarian reasons as a justification for the use of force is what separates hawkish centrist Democrats from the neocons on the right. And that’s not a small difference. For neocons, spreading democracy and regime change suffices. But that’s not the case for Democrats. The Biden Administration knows this very well. That’s why what counts as “humanitarian” in Syria is key for the Biden Administration and that’s why “humanitarian” is getting a very ugly, tortured reading in the first State Department statements. This week the State Department’s Spokesperson Ned Price tweeted that the State Department commemorates the one year anniversary of the death of 33 Turkish soldiers who “lost their lives protecting innocent Syrian civilians in Idlib from the brutality of the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers”.

As a quick refresher, Turkey entered Kurdish northern Syria after Donald Trump gave Turkish leader Erdogan the green light to settle his score with the Kurds who were bravely fighting ISIS in Syria as American allies. That was back in late 2019. Then Erdogan overplayed his hand by entering a completely new Syrian province with no Kurds in order to expand Turkish presence in Syria. At the time, Erdogan turned to his party with the words: “we are now the hosts here”, indicating that Erdogan thought that he was running the show in the newly invaded Syrian province. Russian President Vladimir Putin then taught Erdogan a lesson by striking the Turkish base and killing 33 Turkish soldiers in a preview of what was in store for Turkey if Erdogan forgot who actually calls the shots in Syria. At no point in time, were the Turkish soldiers on a humanitarian mission, as represented by the US. Turkey clearly invaded Kurdish Syria to displace and settle score with the Kurds, flattening and erasing whole villages, and then continued south into uncharted, not Kurdish territories before it got a slap on the wrist by Putin. Erdogan then had to go to Moscow to give explanations and bow to Putin in an attempt to patch things up.

This is why the State Department’s reading of what happened is truly troubling. The State Department not only closed its eyes to Turkish human rights violations but now even tries to represent and commemorate them as humanitarian and good. That is ugly and dangerous. And it’s a blatant lie.

The Biden Administration’s first moves show that Biden is mostly likely forgetting who elected him and why. This is not what the progressive left that put him in office signed up for. One month in is too soon to be already disappointing fans and supporters.

The Biden Administration’s foreign policies will be similar to Trump’s policies but what’s more dangerous is that they will be couched in hypocritical, polished human rights and humanitarian rhetoric lauding big human rights abusers as well-intentioned humanitarians. I don’t know who I prefer then – the straight-forward Trump with whom what you get is what you see in foreign policy and who was easy to criticize because he stated his intentions clearly, or the professionally seasoned and refined Biden who is much better at dressing his true policies in hypocritical narratives that serve as a smokescreen for the slowly crystallizing idea that in foreign policy, Biden is just a more polished Trump.

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