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Joe Biden is putting the band back together.
As a Washington Post reporter tweets, the president-elect is “emphatically embracing the foreign policy establishment spurned” by Donald Trump. “Biden foreign policy begins with telling the world: ‘America’s back,’” explains what purports to be a straight-news piece, by another Washington Post writer. Biden, we learn, pledges to rejoin the Paris climate accord, the World Health Organization, the Iran nuclear deal, and to restore U.S. aid to the corrupt Palestinian leadership.
Let’s just say, Biden’s band has some big fans in Washington, D.C., and Brussels. To understand how this dynamic works, here is the Guardian describing Antony Blinken, likely our next secretary of state:
While Mike Pompeo has remained a domestic politician throughout his tenure as secretary of state, giving the lion’s share of his interviews to conservative radio stations in the midwest, for example, Blinken is very much a born internationalist.
He went to school in Paris, where he learned to play the guitar (he played Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall at graduation) and play football [soccer], and harboured dreams of becoming a film-maker. Before entering the White House under Barack Obama, he used to play in a weekly soccer game with US officials, foreign diplomats and journalists, and he has two singles, love songs titled Lip Service and Patience, uploaded on Spotify. . . .
. . . All those contacts and the urbane bilingual charm will be targeted at soothing the frayed nerves of western allies, reassuring them that the US is back as a conventional team player. The foreign policy priorities in the first days of a Biden administration will be rejoining treaties and agreements that Donald Trump left.
No longer will our foreign-policy elites play to the boorish slack-jawed yokels who listen to AM radio and watch football (football) in Kansas City. Blinken, cosmopolitan polyglot, will kick around soccer balls with well-bred diplomats on weekends, and on weekdays he will rejoin “treaties and agreements” ratified by the European Union and China, but not by the United States Senate.
We are indeed headed back to Obama-era “normalcy.”
As it happens, Pompeo wasn’t on conservative radio this week, but in the Saudi Arabian city of Neom with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and head of the Mossad to meet with officials, including Mohammed bin Salman. The normalization of relations between the Sunni Arab world and State of Israel is one of the biggest foreign-policy stories of the past two decades — almost entirely ignored by our media for partisan reasons.
Because while Blinken might have served under Bill Clinton, as staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as a principal in a global lobbying firm, and as a top adviser in the Obama administration, he’s never come in the vicinity of a genuine peace deal.
Not long ago, Blinken lectured, “Israel has never been — until now, unfortunately — a partisan political issue. And I think it’s very bad for the United States and for Israel that someone tries to turn it into one.” But who made Israel a partisan issue? The Trump administration, which moved the embassy to Jerusalem — fulfilling a promise that Obama and numerous other presidents had made but failed to keep — or internationalists like Blinken, who sided with the theocrats of Iran over the democratically elected leaders of the liberal Jewish State?
It wasn’t Pompeo who appeared at 2012 conferences put on by Israel-antagonists J Street to mollify the hard-Left. It was at that conference that Blinken argued no Middle East peace could be achieved without the Palestinians. That ossified position is back in vogue, but it is now entirely debunked by the facts on the ground.
It was also Blinken who had farcically claimed that “Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender than John Kerry,” even as every pro-Israel organization and the entire political establishment in Israel — left, right, and center — were strenuously disagreeing. Kerry, friend of the Iranian mullahs and the PLO, is Biden’s new “climate czar.” Let’s hope that he’ll be kept clear of any foreign-policy decisions. Blinken, on the other hand, promises to revive the Iran deal.
According to Newsweek, Blinken also now advocates a “tough stance” on Russia. “When President Trump stands with Vladimir Putin on the world stage and takes his word about Russia’s attacks on our elections over that of our intelligence agencies, that exacerbates the problem,” Blinken noted in September. That’s great.
One, though, might be tempted to ask: Where was Blinken when Biden was pushing the Russia “reset”? The thing is, we know: He was with Biden when the then vice president told Putin lackey Dmitry Medvedev that the Russian president was a powerful leader, that resetting our relationship was vital, and that Russia’s accession to the WTO was “the most important item on our agenda.”
Then again, Russia policy is complicated. Admitting that you were mistaken, and altering your position to align with new evidence, is a sign of maturity. It would be nice, though, if the next of head of the United States Department of State wasn’t wrong on nearly every major issue.
In Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent obsequious interview with Barack Obama — is there any other kind? — the former president blames his failed intervention in Libya on Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Blinken. All of them, Obama claims in the first volume of his autobiography, “lobbied hard” for the United States to join Europe. (Think of all the senators Obama could also be blaming if he had gone to Congress and properly gotten military authorization.)
Blinken now also admits that Obama’s Syria policy — which was connected with the administration’s placating of Iran — was a disaster. “I believe anyone who had any responsibility for our Syria policy has to look themselves in the mirror and say we failed — period,” he told Goldberg in a piece titled, “Joe Biden’s Haunted Legacy in Iraq” — in which we learn that Biden’s position on Iraq, a position that Blinken also supported, was a failure.
Many smart people have pointed out that Biden’s return to the Eurocentric foreign policy of Blinken is far preferable to, say, the elevation of ideologues such as Senator Chris Murphy or Ben Rhodes. Still, there are many catastrophic blunders crammed into Blinken’s long résumé. Perhaps we should be thankful that Biden isn’t elevating an autocratic former novelist like Rhodes to be his foreign-policy guru. But the institutionalists have done tremendous damage as well.
Blinken was wrong about Israel, the Palestinians, and the prospects of peace. He was wrong about Iraq. Wrong on Iran. Wrong on Syria. Wrong on Russia. Wrong on Libya. Wrong on China. If you ever failed as much at your job, you wouldn’t have one. In Washington, you get to run the place.