WORLDVIEW: Trump’s foreign policy more benign than Biden’s?

761Views 6Comments Posted 27/10/2020

By Jonathan Power

Any day now the news will come that the US and Russia have decided to renew the important nuclear arms reduction of around 1000 warheads each that was agreed by Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitri Medvedev. Another feather in Trump’s foreign policy hat? Yes, indeed.

In fact, his record on foreign policy is said by his supporters to be better than both the Democrat and Republican presidents before him. Most important, he has not started any new wars.

This has led Edward Luce, the Financial Times’s wise man in Washington, to write under the provocative headline, “The case for re-electing Donald Trump”, that “the highest number of checks on Trump’s ‘promises kept’ sheet are on foreign policy”. He points to the drawing down of US troops in Afghanistan and the Middle East; Isis losing its territory; the identifying of China as the chief threat to the US and Europe; and the forcing of US allies to think harder about providing Nato with more funding, rather than piggy-backing on America.

 He should have added Trump’s softly, softly approach to Kim Jong-un, President of North Korea, which at the least has probably slowed the country’s rate of growth in nuclear weapons.

 The US has an almost unique kind of foreign policy establishment- made up of either neo-conservatives or liberal interventionists. Both are tough on Russia and prone to intervening in foreign disputes. They are often liberal on social, human rights, and economic issues but hard-line on military and foreign policy. They are well represented among Joe Biden’s advisors.

In Europe, only the UK of former prime minister Tony Blair has had a similar “neo-conservative/liberal interventionist” foreign policy orientation, while at the same time being center-left on domestic social and human rights issues.

Another scalp?

So this raises the interesting question of whether Joe Biden if he wins next week’s election will emulate Trump or will he become yet one more Democratic scalp for the foreign policy neoconservatives and liberal interventionists, also known as the “Blob”? “Blob”, a wonderfully pejorative term, was coined by Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor, which is rather ironic because on many big issues, not all by any means, Obama and Rhodes signed on to its prescriptions.

If readers want a prompt on what the Blob has been up to in recent times they should look at the suggestion made two years ago that Nato should defend Montenegro. Most Americans couldn’t place it on the map, yet the Blob was angry that Trump wouldn’t go nose to nose with Moscow over its standing. Unsurprisingly, once the Blob ran head-on into Trump’s “no” the issue has faded far away. In reality, tiny Montenegro isn’t important to anyone but itself.

Another more recent example is from last week when Herbert R. McMaster, Trump’s former national security advisor, and a strong neo-conservative, compared the US withdrawal from Afghanistan today to the 1938 so-called Munich appeasement of Hitler.

It was the pressure from similar well-placed civilian and military opinion, and including nearly all the foreign affairs columnists in the important newspapers, that pushed Obama to raise the number of American troops in Afghanistan sharply to a total of 100,000. It did no good, as Obama now concedes.

Obama was also talked by them into supporting the Anglo-French toppling of the regime of Muammar Gadhafi in Libya-in particular by his advisors, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. If not seeing themselves as neo-cons on foreign policy they sang from the same hymn sheet on a number of issues, including Libya. (There is often such a blurring of the lines of division between liberal interventionists and neo-cons.) The consequences live on in Libya- a devastating civil war, large-scale human rights abuses, and an economy that was driven into the sand. At least Gadhafi, for all his outrageous faults, kept peace and law and order and delivered on economic progress. Obama has since said this was his worst foreign policy mistake.

One time when Obama did get it right was when he decided- at the last moment, it should be said, thanks in big part to Rhodes’s advocacy- not to go into Syria. If he had it would have become another Iraq or Afghanistan or Vietnam, a never-ending war.

A key issue for the future is going to be the attitude towards Ukraine. Trump has earned opprobrium for being too lenient with President Vladimir Putin. Trump raised feathers at home among the Blob when he said the responsibility for Russia’s action in Ukraine should be blamed on Obama, not Putin. Every time Trump meets shakes Putin’s hand and talks very quietly to him sometimes without even his own interpreter present, the Blob sees the modern equivalent of “reds under the bed”. Yet in truth, the impending nuclear arms deal is the first time that Trump has done something new that Putin desires. On every occasion possible Trump has rebuffed Russia, abrogating previous nuclear arms treaties, extending Nato’s borders and troops ever nearer Russia, and sending sophisticated arms to Ukraine. He keeps 60,000 military personnel in the Middle East, partly to deter Russia from further involvement. He has increased military spending by more than Russia spends altogether. (The Democrats in Congress, including Biden, supported him on this.)

This leads us to an important point. The line is fuzzy when it comes to comparing Biden (and Obama) with Trump. Trump has continued Obama’s military intervention in Somalia, massively stepping up bombing operations.

He has supported arms sales, as Obama did,  for Saudi Arabia’s cruel war with tiny Yemen, killing tens of thousands of women and children. He has reversed himself on Syria, saying he is no longer withdrawing all US troops. A significant number were needed, he recently said, to protect Syria’s eastern oil field.

Trump sabotaged the carefully wrought de-nuclearisation deal with Iran. He has forced Europe to join the US in squeezing the Iranian economy to the point of ruin.

Trump has used sanctions more than any other recent president. Currently, at least a quarter of the world’s population is under some type of US sanctions regime.

Some are imposed on Chinese companies. In fact, he has parked his early love-in with President Xi Jinping in some underground parking place. He has become increasingly confrontational, first attacking China with large tariff increases because of China’s theft of intellectual property, accusatory towards Beijing for allowing the coronavirus to spread, and bearing down sharply on what he perceives as China’s attempt to undermine the US with cutting-edge digital technology.

The Democrats, once again, following the Blob’s attitude, have accepted this hardline approach with barely a thought for the long-term consequences. Both Trump and Biden seem to be unaware of the risks of driving Beijing into Moscow’s arms.

In conclusion, one can only say that Trump has been all over the ideological map, trusting no school of thought, only his own instincts. Sometimes he goes against the grain of the Blob. Other times he follows its prejudices. Often his opinions and policies turn on a dime.

What will Biden do if he wins? He has the advantage of great experience in foreign policy and the wisdom gained from it, unlike either Obama or Trump. While a senator he opposed the Second Gulf War against Iraq. As vice-president, he opposed the war in Libya. He has promised to restore US membership of the Paris Accord on climate change, which Trump hates. He will want to pursue further nuclear arms control treaties with Russia. He is unlikely to intervene militarily in a new crisis. He will end supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. He will slow down the rise in the Pentagon’s budget.

But he will still be tough on China. He has already made the crass mistake of publicly calling Xi a thug. (And Putin too.) He won’t shift ground easily on Ukraine.

There is no case for re-electing Trump because of a supposedly benign, anti-war, foreign policy. If he did some good things they have been more than outweighed by bad things- mainly things that the Blob wanted him to do.

Biden’s instincts will be to question the Blob’s counsel. His age and experience give him a perspective that his younger colleagues don’t have.

We can dare to hope that Biden won’t take the Blob’s advice as often as Obama consciously but regretfully did and Trump unwittingly and happily did.



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Comments 6

George Klk

Panama | WORLD VIEW: Unfair Assessment of Trump. WORLD VIEW has not considered the facts and China's threat. China's threat has been articulated in speech by Xi himself. China's Xi has always been to supersede the U.S. for global dominance. China's global dominance can be achieved through government... political, religious and economic influence. China has gained tremendous strides to achieve this... $1.2 trillion U.S. intellectual property thefts and... forced transfer of U.S. I.P. and China has used it to hack the... U.S. Pentagon! WORLD VIEW HAS NOT CONSIDERED THE FACTS STATED!!! WORLD VIEW HAS NOT CONSIDERED...ONE FACT!!! The United States has $trillions$ that kept the global economy functioning throughout the global, criminal underground challenges. The U.S. had to bear the massive debts to keep the peace. China has taken every advantage to gain political global leverage. Fact....The U.S. had to pay a larger share of the cost to NATO. The U.S. eventually will fall with concessions the... U.S. democrats are providing in exchange for $millions in... considerations ($$$), foundations and other lucrative... U.S. / foreign deals at the detriment of the United States. CNN and other news media will not allow commentaries by critics on their websites in their attempt to bias their opinion articles in favor of a democratic vote for the presidency. What China has been doing for the wealth of U.S. businessmen in their home land has forsaken the wealth and politics of the United States. U.S. democrats have provided democratic voters everything but... JOBS...MANUFACTURING...STEEL INDUSTRY AND SAFE KEEPING OF U.S. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY!!! CHINA HAS USED THEIR CHEAP LABOR AND INDISCRIMINATELY POLUTED THE AIR THEY BREATH AND WATER SOURCES. is president Trump recklessness to back out of the... Paris climate agreement? Ironic and irresponsible. China's pollution is carried by the winds to... California and the rest of the states with possible deadly pollutants causing cancers! Yes...WORLD indiscriminately lacking in their facts on an important political crises. To add to the news media crises... Facts are not listed as complete with annotations and essential analysis because of unfair and un-objective bias by the pretentious majority of the news media, including...CNN...ANTI-TRUMP CAMPAIGN. The mere fact the... U.S. democrats do everything for democratic voters including providing... $TRILLIONS$ for free college / university education has a negative indirect effect...U.S. businesses leave for foreign made manufacturing. This has always been the case but never addressed in the... U.S. political news media until recently, when 60 MINUTES, interview was asking the tough questions to Joe Biden. Joe Biden stated something to the effect of providing free education and the money would come from raising taxes. 60 minutes mentioned that would send U.S. jobs over seas! Joe Biden answer...Donald Trump is doing that. Trump is doing that? 60 MINUTES, let him off the hook and cut the clip...? THE FACTS, RECENT EXAMPLE OF THE... UNFAIR, UN-OBJECTIVE, BIAS OF THE MAJOR NEWS MEDIA. THE TRUTH AND THE FACTS, VOTE AND KNOW THE SCANDALS.

26 days ago

So I touched a nerve. My name calling offends you mhogan. I couched it within the framework of an appropriate response to the gross and racist name calling by your cohort Oh ya. And by the way, if name calling so offends you, why do you continue to engage in such a lovefest with the orange dotard whose whole schtick is childish and racist name calling of any and every one who disagrees with him. You right wing nutjobs are just so unable to be self-aware in the least. That curse is only on those who have spent a life of fear , convincing themselves everyday that they are better than others, but that they are still being abused and their god given rights are being taken away from them. The truth though is that all that simply hides a deep sense of insecurity that all white americans feel. Deep down they know that what they did to black people, native indians and others deserves retribution....severe retribution. But as I have said before, mhogan, be thankful that black people are right now only fighting for equality. They have every right to actually seek revenge. And that is the fear that consumes you and every other white man in america, even if they are not able to realize it yet. So I have given you something more than name calling to think about, if that is at all possible for a "maga" mind.

26 days ago

Ajd, it would be refreshing if you contributed to this site something other than name-calling.

26 days ago
George Klk

Panama | Foreign Policy Nations U.S. Diplomacy Links - $$$ - Currencies. U.S. National Security risks has always been linked to...Currencies. Former President Nixon linked (backed) U.S. currency with Saudi Arabia oil. U.S. / Saudi Arabia will always be linked for life until... Iran / China / Russia - Cuba / Venezuela finds a way to disrupt this... major global economic operation. China has used destabilizing economic operations to even the... global financial field to their advantage.... Coronavirus from Wuhan, international flights. China Huawei 5G network devices, a major investment to continue intricate, underground, monetary, global and economic control. U.S. presidential candidate Biden will use his influence to control the oil currency of Ukraine that may place the... United States at a compromised...NATIONAL SECURITY RISK! Biden...has worked out a shady money laundering deal with... Ukraine and apparently, secretly covered this deal with his son...Hunter. Now, the U.S. policies are...U.S. presidential candidate... BIDEN & SON! Now, what will it be? HUNTER BIDEN FOR NEXT U.S. PRESIDENT? After all, if Biden is elected President of the United States... [ALL] of this disappears with no investigation as part of the... NORM...FOR THE STORM POLITICS OF...IMPUNITY. China can...EASILY...see a future elected U.S. Biden, president as an equal partner to gain widely favorable status with the... United States. Biden...LOVES OIL...CHINA HAS OIL...a nice formula prediction theory. Biden smile spells the love of...OIL...with his son...HUNTER. BLACK GOLD THAT IS...not from the Beverly Hills. The MIDDLE EAST SAUDI ARABIA...OIL...FROM THE NIXON POLICY. EUROPE'S GERMANY...OIL FROM RUSSIA. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOE BIDEN & SON...OIL...FROM UKRAINE. RUSSIA INVASION OF CRIMEA AND BORDER STANDOFF WITH UKRAINE. RUSSIA PUTIN AND U.S. BIDEN PRESIDENCY...(FUTURE WAR). A future Biden U.S. presidency at war with Russia under his watch will cost... thousands of U.S. American lives...Coronavirus spreads. China...LOVES...the U.S. / Russian wars and the cost and casualties... effecting the United States and the international global adverse trade impacts. National Security? Elect Joe Biden for U.S. president? World War 3? For what? Open U.S. / Mexican borders and a woman's job to push... Socialism...Ocasio, a U.S. Socialist Democrat? Can the U.S. news media count the cost of the economy with the... consequences of a...Joe Biden & Son, Ukraine oil? U.S. president Trump has been attacked by the news media even before his election, especially in regards to Russia. How ironic... Joe Biden is deep in this corrupt scandal of money laundering in the very...[oily - bloody hands] of a border Russia / Ukraine oil shady deal. Panama waits for the... DRAGON (CHINA) TO RISE OUT OF THE ASHES... AS THE U.S. AND RUSSIA FIGHT ESCALATING SKIRSMISHES AT THE BORDER DOOR OF RUSSIA. Future U.S. president, Biden & Son, cover their tracks with... political impunity and wealth! Thousands of American lives at the hands of a... Joe Biden & Son, a U.S. president?

26 days ago

My only response to Oh ya is that you are probably the most( and this is hard with the company you keep) mysoginistic and racist right wing nutjob on this site. To your credit, you are not smart enough to even try to disguise it or you simply are the typical white self-rightious gringo who think he is entitled to rule the world. But I am here to tell you that you are a dinosaur. As I have said before, be thankful that you will probably be dead so you won't have to see your grandkids, your nieces and nephews grow up to look like those beautiful black and brown people who you despise so much. You are a sad and lonely miserable soul who brings nothing of value to society. So just as himpty's days are numbered, so are his magas......lemmings all over the cliff.

27 days ago
Oh ya

Jonathan pooped back again. China owns Biden so we know he will not be tough on them. And yes Biden has years of experience selling his office in foreign policy. And camel toes will put sleepy out to pasture in a month and run the country in the dirt like her native land India. But not to worry Johnny Biden is not going to win

27 days ago
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