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Neoliberalism in Chile and the cost of human life

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Henry Kissinger meeting with Pinochet

Neoliberalism in Chile has a long history of failed promises, repressive policies, and authoritarian ideologies that cost the lives of thousands of Chilean citizens. Chile was praised for its new reforms and adoption of neoliberalism that promised more equality for everyone. In reality, an oppressive regime was born on the back of these promises that terrorized the people of Chile for seventeen years. Neoliberalism was born in Chile in 1973 and it died the same day, when human rights and human dignity were sacrificed in the name of economy and for the ideas of a few people that decided to overlook the terrorizing situation in Chile, just to prove a point about their economic thoughts. There is no miracle in Chile, and the thousands that died and suffered in Chile are the proof.

The Downfall of Salvador Allende

On September 4, 1970, presidential elections were held in Chile. Salvador Allende, the candidate of the Popular Unity coalition won with 36.2% of the votes. Upon assuming the presidency, Allende carried on a socialist platform that aimed to nationalize large-scale businesses in Chile, such as copper mining, telecommunications, and banking. Besides that, Allende wanted to drastically improve the socio-economic situation of the poorest people of Chile by implementing new policies to support socio-economic welfare, provide employment in new public work projects or the newly nationalized industries. Salvador Allende served as the President of Chile from 1970 until the military coup d’etat in 1973. He was the first Marxist elected President in a liberal democracy in Latin America. He was described by his friend Fernando Alegria as a tireless fighter and a bold president that was defeated by a two-headed enemy: The United States of America and local military saboteurs (Alegria, 1994).

The local military saboteurs were under the command of Augusto Pinochet. Augusto Pinochet was the Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Armed forces. On September 11, 1973, he overthrew the democratically elected President Salvador Allende. The presidential palace was shelled while Allende was in it. It is believed that Salvador Allende committed suicide. Pinochet was the lead plotter of the coup while his position as Commander-in-Chief allowed him to coordinate with both the military and the national police. Following the coup, a military junta, with the help of the U.S was established that exercised both legislative and executive power in the new government of Chile. The constitution and the Congress of the country were suspended, all political parties and activities were banned and a curfew and strict censorship were imposed. Augusto Pinochet self-declared himself as the President of the Republic, becoming de facto dictator of Chile until 1990. The U.S backed military coup and Pinochet’s seventeen-year dictatorship, are seen as aberrations in Chile’s twentieth-century history of multiparty democracy and institutional stability, two parameters that were very unusual in Latin America (Joseph & Grandin, 2010, pp.121-122).

The Implementation of Neoliberalism

The new military junta under the influence of foreign third parties and individuals implemented a new economic liberalization. Chile was the first country where its citizens were forcefully subjected to a new economic system that was called neoliberalism. Neoliberalism was first mentioned by the Austrian-British economist Friedrich Hayek. Hayek’s ideas were divided into two parts. In the first part, Hayek suggested that the concept of free markets responds to the needs of every individual. As a result, markets had to be operated freely, while the government would be limited to allow order to arise spontaneously in society. In the second part, which is depicted in his book The Road to Serfdom (1944), Hayek suggested that central planning of an economy does not respond to the needs of the individual. The two parts are interconnected and result in only one possibility according to Hayek. A totalitarian regime. Hayek believed that the government should have its limitations. He promoted the idea that the central role of the government should be to maintain the rule of law with as little intervention as possible. It must be projected as a civil association that provides a framework for every individual to follow their own projects (Hayek, 1960).

Friedrich Hayek’s remarks and ideas were highly influential for politicians like the President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher, in particular, based the ideology of the British Conservative Party on the ideas of Friedrich Hayek. She championed the ideas of unfettered free markets, the idea of shrinking the government and cutting taxes alongside state-provided services. However, the ideas of Friedrich Hayek about the implementation of free markets and his opposition towards totalitarian regimes made him a controversial figure. Naomi Klein, a Canadian author, and journalist describes his ideas as a shock doctrine, where people are forced to accept a new reality for their own good either through economic hardship or brutal government policies (Klein, 2007). His free-market ideology is associated directly with the totalitarian regime of Augusto Pinochet, since he was one of the key economic advisors, together with Milton Friedman that was close to Augusto Pinochet. He always thought that no one is qualified to have unlimited power, yet he was standing behind a dictator. While he is championed by many right-wing politicians as a defender of liberty, he is despised by many left-wing politicians who see him as a hypocrite that stood behind a murderous dictator whose forced economic implementations brought misery and pain to thousands of Chilean citizens.

The Involvement of the United States of America

It is important to remember that the situation in Chile did not happen without the help of the U.S. The involvement of the U.S in Chile happened for two reasons. To implement the idea of the domino theory and to protect the interests of U.S companies in Chile. The domino theory was the predominant Cold War theory for the U.S. It suggested that if one country in a region would eventually become communist, then the surrounding countries and regions would follow up in a domino effect. The first time that the domino theory was mentioned was back in 1954 in a press conference when the U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to communism in Indochina.

“You have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the “falling domino” principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences”. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The domino theory was used by various U.S administrations to justify and American intervention around the world. Richard Nixon used the same theory for his foreign policy and to justify his intervention in Chile. In 1977, he defended the U.S actions to destabilize Allende’s Chile. In an interview with British journalist David Frost, Nixon stated that a communist Chile and Cuba would create a “red sandwich” that could entrap Latin America between them (Qureshi, 2010, p.56). After Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan followed the same rhetoric to justify the situation in Chile while he expanded in Central America and the Caribbean region.

The protection of the interests of U.S companies in Chile was the second reason why the U.S intervened in Chile and why it was supporting the Pinochet regime. Back in 1970, before the presidential elections, neither the Richard Nixon administration, nor the current Chilean government, nor U.S. companies with businesses in Chile such as the Anaconda Copper Mining Company or the International Telephone & Telegraph, wished to see an Allende presidency because of his alleged communist sympathies. Threatened by the nationalized acts of Salvador Allende, the two major U.S companies, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company and the International Telephone & Telegraph expressed their dissatisfaction for the Allende government through the Nixon administration. Henry Kissinger was the national security advisor to Richard Nixon. According to declassified files from the CIA, Kissinger met with high-level officials to discuss the future of Chile that depended on the 1970 elections. The elections represented the potential for important economic relations to collapse or continue. After the complaints of the U.S companies that had economic interests in Chile, Richard Nixon was left with two choices: political maneuvering or brute force. He chose the first option. Based on the declassified notes that were given from Richard Nixon to Richard Helms the director of CIA, there were direct orders to “make the Chilean economy scream” during the Allende presidency by conducting a campaign to create a deep inflation crisis, funding opposition leaders and encouraging the Chilean military to overthrow Allende. In the end, the U.S achieved its goal and Salvador Allende was overthrown and a more American friendly government was installed. From that point, the neoliberal policies were implemented and Chile was used as an experimental country for radical economic reforms.

The Role of the Chicago Boys

These economic reforms were imposed by a group of Chilean economists known as The Chicago Boys. They were all educated at the Department of Economics of the University of Chicago under the guidance of the neoliberal economist Milton Friedman. Friedrich Hayek was also a member of the Chicago Boys helping them implement his neoliberal ideas. After the coup in 1973, many of them returned to Chile and were appointed in high government positions by Augusto Pinochet as economic advisors. They are credited with transforming the economy of Chile into the best performing economies in Latin America and into one of the most business-friendly in the world. However, there is also a lot of criticism against them. Some economists, such as the Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Jumar Sen have argued that their policies did not provide any help to the population of Chile but were intended to serve the interests of U.S companies in Chile and Latina America.

The neoliberal reforms of the Chicago Boys can be divided into two phases. The first phase expanded from 1973 until 1982 and has been described by the author Naomi Klein as the Shock Therapy period. At this phase, most of the radical reforms were implemented. The Chicago Boys adopted a laissez-faire economic system, where transactions between private parties did not have any economic intervention from the state (regulations and subsidies). They promoted the idea of a free, neoliberal market in contrast to the centrally-planned economy and nationalization plans that were advocated by Salvador Allende. As a result, Chile was transformed into a liberal and world-integrated economy. Besides that, businesses were re-privatized, price controls were abolished and the capital flows were deregulated. Their main objective was to lower the inflation rates at the expense of a sharp recession. They met their objective as they managed to lower the inflation rate from 508.1% in 1973, to 20.7% in 1982. The economy expanded for a while from 1977 up until 1980. Milton Friedman described this reorientation of the Chilean economy as the Miracle of Chile in 1982. In an interview back in 2000, Milton Friedman said:

 “The Chilean economy did very well, but more importantly, in the end, the central government, the military junta was replaced by a democratic society. So the really important thing about the Chilean business is that free markets did work their way in bringing about a free society”. Milton Friedman.

However, his remarks regarding the Chilean economy did not represent the reality of a miracle. From 1975 up until 1980, the economic growth rate was below the potential growth rate of Chile (Ffrench-Davis, 2002). In the early 1980s, Latin America was hit with a devastating debt crisis that paralyzed all the Latin American countries. Chile was hit the hardest with a GDP decline by 14% in comparison to other Latin American countries that had a GDP decline by 3.2%. This debt crisis led to a bank run which led to the devastating economic crisis of 1982. It was clear that the economic shock therapy did not work, and the miracle that Friedman was cheering for was not that real after all.

The second phase of the neoliberal reforms is described as Pragmatic Neoliberalism that expanded from 1982 up until the end of the dictatorship in 1990. With the ongoing crisis, the Chicago Boys’ radical economic rhetoric was replaced by a pragmatic approach. The new economists had to apply pragmatic measures to reverse the situation. They socialized two major Chilean banks and seven more that were at the edge of collapse. The Central bank of Chile socialized much of the foreign debt. Many critics of this policy compared these actions with the presidency of Salvador Allende. However, this pragmatic policy brought economic growth, questioning the radical methods of the Chicago Boys. The GDP growth went higher after the 1982 crisis and continued to surpass other economies in Latin America. The Chilean economist Ricardo Ffrench-Davis has a critical evaluation of the situation:

“The unnecessary radicalism of the shock therapy in the 1970s caused mass unemployment, purchasing power losses, extreme inequalities in the distribution of income, and severe socio-economic damage. The 1982 crisis as well as the success of the pragmatic economic policy after 1982, proves that the 1973–1981 radical economic policy of the Chicago boys harmed the Chilean economy” Ricardo Ffrench-Davis.

The Dark Side of Economic Liberalization

The history of neoliberalism in Chile is not just about economic reforms. Unfortunately, it is also a history of state terrorism and human rights violations by the Pinochet regime. The forced economic reforms and the intervention from the U.S allowed Augusto Pinochet to promote his state terrorism towards the people of Chile. According to a 2004 report from the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture or Valech Commission, the number of victims of human rights violations accounts for around 30.000 people that were tortured while at least 2.500 were executed. Also, almost 200.000 people were forced to exile while many people experienced illegal detaining from the regime forces. Prisoners of the regime were exposed to different methods of torture, like electric shocks, waterboarding, beatings, and sexual abuse. The central instrument of terror was the disappearing subversives, where people were disappeared by the Pinochet regime. People that were considered leftists, socialists, or communists were the main target. In addition to the horrors, Pinochet was infamous for detaining people and throwing them out of helicopters. Around 1300 people disappeared, and still even today hundreds of them are yet to be found. The systematic suppression of any political ideology that went against the regime was described by historian Steve J. Stern as political genocide, as a systematic project aiming to destroy an entire way of doing and understanding politics and governance (Stern, 2010). The regime was extremely brutal to leftists and often portrayed them as the enemies of the state. The fake portrayal of leftists as dangerous revolutionaries resulted in the legitimization of the Pinochet regime. For seventeen years, Augusto Pinochet with the support of the U.S managed to use effective brainwashing propaganda to portray leftists as criminals and as the enemies of Chile. Unfortunately, Augusto Pinochet was never formally convicted for his crimes against humanity, as he died in 2006 before he was tried. Today the portraits of the victims of the brutality of Augusto Pinochet and the people that disappeared and still haven’t been found are displayed in the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, in Santiago Chile.

The Long Road of Democracy 

In 1990, when the regime fell and democracy was restored, the people of Chile were promised that this time the economic reforms will benefit the people. The citizens of Chile believed their government and waited patiently for a more equal distribution of the wealth of Chile. Thirty years later, Chile is in flames, and it seems that the neoliberal model has once again failed the people of Chile. On October 18, 2019, the largest and most extensive citizen mobilizations took place in Santiago, the capital of Chile. The mobilization began when the President of Chile Sebastián Piñera, announced that the fare for a metro ticket in Santiago would rise from 800 Chilean Pesos to 830 (USD 1.15). The news hit Chilean people, and they took to the streets to protest against the decision. “This is not just about 30 pesos, it is about the last 30 years,” said an angry protester. Thousands of protests share the same view. For the last thirty years, while Chile’s GDP has grown, making the country the wealthiest in South America, people wonder why the situation in the country remains the same. In a country where the minimum wage of at least 70% of the population barely reaches USD 700 and where it is estimated that almost 36% of the population in the cities lives in poverty, people question their government and the implementation of neoliberal policies. While the wealth is growing for the large corporations and foreign companies with interests in Chile, protesters come to realize that neoliberalism was born and will die in Chile.

The history and the progress of neoliberalism in Chile is a controversial concept. Many economists praise the efforts of the Chicago Boys and follow the same rhetoric as Milton Friedman, calling for a Miracle in Chile. However, thousands of people that suffered under the regime of Augusto Pinochet, people that lost their jobs and their land due to privatization processes, people that could not feed their families, victims of the brutal state terrorism, and families that still have not found their relatives after so many years, strongly disagree with the opinions of a few privileged economists that see people as statistics and not human beings. In reality, there is no miracle in Chile. While the country is wealthy, the people are poor and social unrest is rising in the country. Neoliberalism in Chile was born on a dark October day in 1973, on the back of a ruthless dictator and bureaucratic economists, and it died on a stormy October day in 2020, filled with rage, frustration, and disappointment. The future lies in the hands of the Chilean people.

Bachelor's Degree in International Relations & Political Science. Columnist focusing on Global Affairs

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Was Trump better for the world than Biden, after all?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Joe Biden and the State Department just approved a major deal with the Saudis for 500mln in choppers maintanance. Effectively, the US sold its soul to the Saudis again after the US intelligence services confirmed months ago that the Saudi Prince is responsible for the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration is already much more inhumane and much worse than Trump. Biden doesn’t care about the thousands of American citizens that he left behind at the mercy of the Taliban, the Biden administration kills innocent civilians in drone strikes, they are in bed with the worst of the worsts human right violators calling them friendly nations. 

Biden dropped and humiliated France managing to do what no US President has ever accomplished —  make France pull out its Ambassador to the US, and all this only to go bother China actively seeking the next big war. Trump’s blunders were never this big. And this is just the beginning. There is nothing good in store for America and the world with Biden. All the hope is quickly evaporating, as the world sees the actions behind the fake smile and what’s behind the seemingly right and restrained rhetoric on the surface. It’s the actions that matter. Trump talked tough talk for which he got a lot of criticism and rarely resorted to military action. Biden is the opposite: he says all the right things but the actions behind are inhumane and destructive. It makes you wonder if Trump wasn’t actually better for the world.

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Biden’s worrisome construct of security and self-defense in the first year of his term

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Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe

US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy is failing so far. He can’t get the Iran nuclear diplomacy on track. The Afghanistan withdrawal was a disaster seen by all, placing an unusually high number of weapons and armaments in the hands of the Taliban and leaving everyone behind, to the point that one wonders if it was intentional. The US military has been able to accomplish far more impressive and bigger logistics tasks in the past, so when they want to they can do it.

More worrisome, however – and because it is also oriented towards future impacts – is Biden’s construct of vital concepts such as security, international peace and self-defense which has already displayed a consistent pattern during the first year of his term. The signs are already there, so let me bring them out to the surface for you.

Treating a counter-attack in self-defense as an original, first-move strike

This is a pattern that can be noticed already in Biden’s reading of what constitutes defense. It first struck me in a place where you might not think of looking. It originated from the criticism of the previous Trump administration’s support for the destructive Saudi Arabia campaign on Yemen, leaving Yemen as the biggest famine and disaster on the planet. To avoid the same criticism, the Biden administration decided to do what it always does – play technocratic and legalistic, and hope that people won’t notice. On the face of it, it looked like Biden ended US participation by ending the “offensive” support for Saudi Arabia. Then in the months after the February decision, reports started surfacing that the US actually continues doing the same, and now most recently, some troops from Afghanistan were redirected towards Yemen. Biden didn’t end Yemen; he set up a task force to examine and limit US military action only to defensive capabilities, which sounds good to a general observer. It reminds me of that famous Einstein saying that all the big decisions were to be taken by him and all the small decisions were to be taken by his wife, but there hasn’t been one big decision so far. So see, it just turns out that everything falls under defense, ask the lawyers. Usually no one would object to the well-established right to defend yourself. The problem with that is that the US is actually in Yemen. Treating any counter-strike and any response to your presence as an original, first-move attack is not only problematic but it also simply doesn’t work in legal terms. It goes along the lines of “well, I am already here anyways, so your counter-response in self-defense is actually an attack and I get to defend myself”. If the issue was only with terrorist or rebel organizations (because let’s face it, who cares about the Houthies in Yemen?) I don’t think we would be discussing this. But as you guessed it, this approach can already be traced as a pattern in Biden’s thinking and the way he forges alliances, draws red lines and allows things to happen, and it stretches to areas that most people definitely care about such as a possible military conflict between the US and China.

Let’s take the newest development from today. The US just announced that it has entered into a trilateral partnership with the UK and Australia in the Indo-Pacific, which is encirclement of China par excellence. Where it gets interesting is that the trilateral partnership is purported to be only for “advanced defense capabilities”. The equivalent of this is someone from another city squatting at the door step in your apartment, inviting two others to join, and then when in the morning you push them and step on them to go to work, the squatters claiming that you attacked them and calling the police on you in your own apartment. This is Biden’s concept of self-defense: since I am already here in your space, you are attacking me.

The US is trying to start something with China but it doesn’t know how to, and China seems completely unconcerned with the US.  Chinese leader Jinping doesn’t even want to meet Biden, as became clear this week. China doesn’t care about the US and just wants to be left alone. They already said that in clear terms by reading it out loud to Wendy Sherman last month. Biden didn’t have to ask for a meeting in that phone call this week because he already knew the answer. Wendy Sherman got a clear signal on her China visit that the US president won’t be getting that coveted red carpet roll-out any time soon.

So the story says that the US is going all the way to the other side of the world and staging military presence there but only to defend itself. The US has no choice but to move in to defend all the US citizens at risk in the Indian Ocean — that’s the stand-up comedy line of the week. It is staging military presence right at China’s doorstep — if not in Chinese waters, and the idea is “yes, that’s your turf but now that I’m here, if you push me to leave, you are attacking me”. This is the strategy of narcissists and those that are looking to point the finger to their opponent when they just don’t have anything, so they stage something. China is in the long-term game, playing against itself. The US is that number 2 that’s trying to create provocation. In the Indo-Pacific, the US is biting more than it can chew. China is not a big mouth or one to throw around military threats. That’s the US style: “be very careful, we might bomb you if you don’t do what we say”. A dog that barks doesn’t bite. On the other hand, China is more like a Ferrari — it will go from 0 to 200 in seconds and then it will go back to its business. The US and Biden will be left whimpering but no one will jump to save the US from its own folly because self-defense in the US packaging is not even bought by the US government itself. Even they don’t buy their own packaging. So why should anyone else?

Treating embarrassing discoveries and things that don’t go my way as a threat to international peace

This one is a big one. With this one, Biden is playing with the queen, namely action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter in the name of international peace and security. A threat to international peace and security is grounds for action under Chapter 7 which includes military action, and it’s never to be spoken lightly. Words have consequences. The UN Security Council rarely specifies grounds for action under chapter 7 for threats to international peace and security but it’s enough to take a look at the practice: resolutions were passed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, in response to 9/11, against Kaddafi who was marching toward Benghazi to wipe out the people in 2011, in relation to genocide, etc. Grounds for a threat to international peace can’t be “because I don’t like the way things are turning out for me”.

Peace and security are not like beauty – in the eye of the beholder. There has to be an actual or imminent attack and actual military action or violence. Loose interpretations of threats to peace and security are a sign of weak leadership.

Leaders who construct dissent and criticism as terrorism in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, as I have argued about the FBI previously in the left media, are weak leaders. In smearing Martin Luther King, the FBI argued national security. As director Oliver Stone said in Cannes this summer, when he was investigating the JFK assassination, every time he was getting close, he heard “national security”. 

You can see a lot about the character of a nation by the way it constructs security, and notice traits such as narcissism, weakness, cheating. The Biden Administration has to know that a threat to international peace and security can’t be “things that make my government look bad”. In 2001, the world followed the US in Afghanistan because there was an actual military attack. The world won’t follow the Biden administration on a bogus threat to international peace that can best be summed up as a major embarrassment for the US government. Suggesting a link is a threat to the fabric of international society. Not only is it a sign of national narcissism but also a sign of arbitrariness and authoritarianism. Treating criticism and the exposure of US government crimes as if it were a military attack is what horror movies are made of. What’s next? Droning journalists?

Treating issues which are a subject to treaties, rules and negotiations as a threat to international peace  

The Biden security construct stretches to various regions, including my own. This first struck me with Biden’s executive order regarding the Western Balkans when he tied blocking these countries from EU accession to a threat to international peace, which carries significant consequences. If a country, let’s say Bulgaria, is exercising its lawful right to veto EU processes, hypothetically, based on Biden’s understanding, the US could table a resolution for Chapter 7 action to punish an EU member-state for blocking the accession of an EU candidate because that’s a threat to international peace. That could hypothetically lead to military action against an EU country making use of its veto. Biden doesn’t have a veto in the EU. Do you know who does? Bulgaria. So until Biden becomes an EU country he doesn’t have a say.

Biden was visibly irritated that the process of EU accession has been stalling for quite some time, especially with N. Macedonia and Albania at the EU’s doorstep, so he decided to give it a go. Let’s not forget that the Balkans are a favorite Biden region and this goes back to the 1990s. I have written about it before: Biden is stuck in the 2000s when if you mentioned the Western Balkans the words international peace were a guaranteed association. Not anymore. Negotiations, rules and voting are the peaceful and reasonable way to resolve issues, agree or even not agree in some situations, and are the opposite of war and aggression. Treating these ways as a threat to peace is just the rhetoric of those who can’t get their way. But it’s also indicative of a worrisome trend with Biden that anything that the US government doesn’t like can be dressed as a threat to international peace, which carries the most significant of all consequences in the international arena.

Treating lawful counter-measures as a threat to national security

Perhaps the best and most fascinating example of lawful counter-measures I ever heard was brought by Andrew Clapham at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. Here is the story. The UK issued unlawful sanctions on a country. In response, lawful counter-measures by that country targeted jam exports because a jam factory in Scotland was the key to turning the elections. The targeted counter-measures worked, hit jam exports, discontent people in the region voted the other way and the government that put in place the sanctions to begin with was ousted. This was a brilliant example that you hit where it hurts and you do it lawfully. Counter-measures don’t have to be identical. The US likes to put tariffs on Louis Vuitton bags in retaliation when it deals with France, for example. In the Trump trade wars, Europe would hit bourbon and jeans exports as a counter-measure. You hit their signature product. Not all counter-measures are illegal and count as an attack. International law is full of examples.

Similarly, lawsuits against a government are a lawful counter-measure. This area reveals another part of Biden’s worrisome construct of national security. A threat to sue the US government cannot in and of itself be a threat to national security. Tortured reading of what is national security is a sign of weak leaders, narcissists, those on the losing end, or straight up losers – or all of the above. 

Treating lawful counter-measures as a cause for self-defense is not only a sign of a wrong understanding of self-defense, but is the ultimate sign of narcissism. Usually those who attack know better and brace for impact in anticipation of the counter-measures. Narcissists, on the other hand, cry that they are being attacked when they receive a counter-strike in response. Strategists know better.

Mistreatment of whistleblowers, critics and opponents as spies and as a threat to national security

This one is an easy one. Only losers treat whistleblowers and critics as spies and as an automatic threat to national security. Take the treatment that Gary Stahl has received at the hands of the Biden Administration and the FBI, for example. Again, the US government doesn’t get to construe a huge embarrassment (in what will soon be revealed to shows the true criminal nature of the US government) as a threat to international peace. This is a problem for America. Not only doesn’t China plan to attack militarily the US any time soon over what’s to come, but China is largely unconcerned with the US and would like to be left alone. Any talk about a risk of military conflict could only mean that it is the US that plans to attack because they are embarrassed they got caught red-handed and the world will see the US government’s true nature. Talk of threat to international peace has a very high threshold. No one cares about how America would feel – that’s your problem, not an issue of international peace. 

The Biden concept of security is that of an ugly, pretentious, old woman who is told she can’t enter because her ticket is not valid. She then throws a feat screaming she was attacked, beaten and insulted, expecting everyone to be on her side. But the world simply doesn’t care about the problems of this pain-in-the-ass anymore. The US government will have to try much harder if they want to present the issue as anything close to security and self-defense, let alone a threat to international peace. That tune is old and there are no buyers. 

The US surely thinks very highly of itself if they think that a scandal like that is worthy of a military conflict but literally no one else sees the US as this important anymore. This scandal will matter only to America in what it reveals about all the layers of the US government across rank, institutions and administrations. That’s it. It ends there. Any talk of Chapter 7 threshold is war mongering and no one will care. 

People talk about the Biden doctrine on Afghanistan but the Biden doctrine that will be sealed in history will be something along the lines of “Anytime I get caught, it’s a threat to international peace and security.” This is how Biden will be remembered in history: for creative writing endeavors in the security field and no substantial foreign policy achievements. 

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Biden’s credibility restoration plan

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Although damages of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan cannot be easily undone, by taking a series of wise steps, Biden can send a strong signal that America is coming back.

Joe Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan has shattered his reputation as a safe haven for allies. This is while, he pledged to restore U.S. leadership after Trump by confronting China’s and Russia’s growing totalitarian ambitions, restoring historic alliances with European allies, and ending the never-ending conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

But he is not the only President whose decision has eventually damaged the United States’ global reputation. Donald Trump’s capitulation deal with the Taliban, Barack Obama’s indolence in Syria, and George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq have all tarnished the United States’ credibility around the world. The question now; however, is no longer whether Biden and his predecessors should have acted differently. It’s how the United States can minimize the damage.

Biden should begin by speaking the truth. So far, the President has failed to admit the failure of his withdrawal plan. Biden ought to be straightforward with himself, the American people, and the whole world.

Biden’s policy should, of course, vary depending on the area and global conditions. To promote its interests in the Indo-Pacific area, the United States should station a few ambassadors, including a Navy or Coast Guard attaché, in the Pacific Island countries of Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. In addition, a considerable number of troops currently stationed in Afghanistan should be redeployed to the Pacific. Finally, Biden’s administration should engage with U.S. defense contractors to speed up the transfer of military equipment to Taiwan. Getting Taiwan its armaments swiftly would be a powerful show of support as a steadfast ally, as well as provide modern platforms to prevent a Chinese amphibious invasion.

The Biden administration should also do all in its power to rebuild relations with European partners. For the very first time, NATO invoked Article 5, which identifies an assault on one member as an assault on all. Since then, soldiers from a variety of countries have fought and died alongside US troops. Nonetheless, Biden decided to leave Afghanistan without consulting the governments of these countries, leaving them to plan emergency rescue efforts for their populations. Close allies of the United States are understandably enraged. America’s behavior is being chastised in Paris, Berlin, and the British House of Commons on both sides of the aisle.

Last month, at a meeting of regional leaders in Baghdad, Macron made it clear that, unlike the Americans, he was dedicated to remaining in the Middle East. “Whatever the American choice is,” he stated in public remarks in Baghdad, “we will maintain our presence in Iraq to fight terrorism as long as terrorist groups function and the Iraqi government requests our assistance.” It was a clear example of Macron’s idea of “strategic autonomy,” which implies European independence from U.S. security policy, and an attempt to use the United States’ humiliation to underline that Europe and Washington were not always on the same page. At an emergency G7 summit, Mr. Biden is said to have turned down allied requests to extend the August 31 deadline for exit.

The Biden administration’s recent decision not to penalize Nord Stream 2 pipeline participants has enraged Europeans as well. Poland and Ukraine underlined their worries in a joint statement about the ramifications of choices taken on the pipeline without the participation of nations directly impacted, claiming that Nord Stream 2 poses both geological and ecological risks to Europe.

As a result, whether it’s diplomatic recognition of the Taliban regime, humanitarian aid for the Afghan people, or any other major issue, the US should not take any more action without engaging partners. Mr. Biden should also dispatch senior members of his national security team to Europe and other regions of the world to reinforce America’s commitment to their security.

As to the Middle East, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, in a Foreign Affairs article described “America’s opportunity in the Middle East,” suggesting that diplomacy may work where previous military interventions have failed. The United States’ involvement in the area is frequently portrayed in military or counter-terrorism terms, and as a binary option between going all-in or going all-out. Instead, Sullivan advocated for a strategy that relied more on “aggressive diplomacy to generate more long-term benefits.”

Accordingly, the President and his team in Vienna should get the new Iranian administration back to the negotiating tables and rejoin the JCPOA and ease the tensions in the Middle East. Also, the United States should do all possible in Afghanistan to secure the safe transit of Afghans who qualify for U.S. visas to the Kabul airport – and to keep flights flying until they are able to leave. This should apply to both Afghans who dealt closely with the United States’ military, and to those who engage with U.S. media and humanitarian organizations and must get visas from a third country. In addition to ensuring that the United Nations and humanitarian groups have the resources they need, the United States should cooperate with its Security Council allies to guarantee that the Taliban does not hinder the free flow of help.

Moreover, to follow any influx of jihadists to Afghanistan, intelligence agencies will have to rededicate resources and increase surveillance. They must be pushed to coordinate their efforts on the Taliban in order to keep the most threatening groups under control. The United States could set an example by agreeing to accept a fair share of any displaced Afghans. Neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan, which already have millions of Afghan refugees, are closing their borders.

Biden may not be able to prevent all of the disastrous repercussions of the Afghan catastrophe, but he must act now before the harm to U.S. interests and moral stature becomes irreversible. By taking these steps, he can send a strong statement to the world that he has learned his lessons and that America is coming back.

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