How Biden puts the foreign policy blob on his side

Russia’s aggression has enabled the Washington mandarins not only to resurrect their creed, but also to storm the beachheads of their own adversaries, where the realists and non-interventionists who insist on the importance caution and caution and the perils of military adventurism dominated the field for a decade. Not anymore. As Andrew J. Bacevich, who led a crusade against militarism abroad, put it in The Nation, Washington’s elites are back: “Practically overnight, the cronies of American power were hailing war in Ukraine as signaling the coming restoration of a global Pax Americana. As for Afghanistan: Fuhgettaboutit!

Already, the traditional, warmongering wing of the GOP is mobilizing to once again promote the idea of ​​American supremacy abroad. On Monday, the National Review Institute, for example, plans to host a foreign affairs forum at the National Press Club with the Reaganesque headline “Recommitting To Peace Through Strength.” Speakers will include stalwart Republican hawks such as Sen. Tom Cotton, Rep. Mike Gallagher and Elliott Abrams. It’s meant as a backlash to the recent “Up From Chaos” conference at the Washington Marriott that brought together JD Vance, Sen. Rand Paul, Michael Anton and others on the Trumpian right who oppose foreign entanglements in Ukraine and elsewhere. . Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger is proposing a bill allowing Biden to deploy troops to Ukraine to restore his “territorial integrity” if Putin used chemical or nuclear weapons.

And as during and immediately after the Cold War, the push is bipartisan. The former head of Obama’s Defense Department, Evelyn Farkas, for example, has just been appointed executive director of the McCain Institute, based in Washington. Farkas said: “We must not only condemn the illegal Russian occupations of Ukraine and Georgia, but we must demand a withdrawal from both countries by a certain date and organize coalition forces ready to act for the to apply. She added: “The Americans, along with our European allies, must use our military to push back the Russians – even at the risk of direct combat. Senator Chris Coons, a close Biden ally, said America should consider “when we’re ready to take the next step and send not just weapons but troops to help defend Ukraine.” “.

Another sign that the Blob is regrouping comes in the form of the regular hour-long phone meetings on Ukraine and Russia that the Biden administration has been conducting since February with major Washington think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Atlantic Council, the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), and the German Marshall Fund. Administration informants included National Security Council official Eric Green and Department of Defense official Laura K. Cooper.

What is the purpose of these sessions? According to one participant, it is possible to ask pointed questions, but “the whole point is to carry water for the administration. They strengthen the think tank community. They want him to defend them publicly. They send follow-up emails which reinforce the affirmation cycle.

NSC official Amanda Ensour is responsible for sending emails to attendees that contain what are called “noteworthy comments” regarding Ukraine and Russia that bolster the administration’s positions. These Washington think tanks – particularly the Atlantic Council and CEPA – play a role in influencing both administration policy and public perception of it. The Atlantic Council, for example, has a number of former ambassadors, including Alexander Vershbow, John Herbst and Daniel Fried, who frequently comment on events in Russia and Ukraine and are in contact with administration officials. Biden at the NSC and the State Department. In late December, the Atlantic Council released a statement signed by establishment figures such as former Clinton administration deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott, demanding that the Biden administration build up US forces. in Europe in the face of the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since then, he has been at the forefront of pushing Biden to move faster and harder to arm Ukraine with heavy weapons against Russia, an approach the administration has begun to adopt.

Herbst explained to me: “The administration still has to do more. It has moved faster in recent weeks thanks to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley. It was essential. He added, “We are politicians and, yes, we have been in touch with the administration, leading the charge publicly on this. We also get a lot of interest from Congress on this.

Driving many opponents of Russian revanchism is a desire to return to the 1990s, when America stood tall and proud in the face of tyranny, before it was all discredited in the quixotic crusade of the George W. Bush administration. to transform the Middle East. the East into a bastion of democracy. Now, as Putin flounders in Ukraine, the Blob is getting stronger than ever as it smells of victory over Moscow.

Nothing symbolized the Blob’s enduring hold more clearly than the memorial service at Washington’s National Cathedral last week for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. As UN ambassador during President Bill Clinton’s first term, Albright was a thorn in the side of then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher and then-National Security Adviser, Tony Lake, who both whitewashed the idea of ​​US military intervention in the Balkans to stop Slobodan Milošević’s war of ethnic cleansing. In his impassioned eulogy, Biden drew an implicit parallel to the 1990s, when the democratic crusade flourished in the Balkans against Milošević, and today, when a new push to defend freedom is taking place in Ukraine against Putin.

“It didn’t escape me that Madeleine was a big part of why NATO was always strong and galvanized, as it is today,” Biden said. He went on to call it a “foreign policy community bond.”

Albright was a founding member of the Washington establishment – a former professor at Georgetown University, an aide to former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski during the Carter administration, and a former wife of Joseph Albright, a descendant of the Medill-Patterson newspaper dynasty. And the establishment came out in force for his ceremony. The contrast to an earlier service at the Washington National Cathedral in September 2018 for John McCain, an inveterate cold warrior, was instructive. McCain had expressly decreed that incumbent President Trump should not be invited. At the service, her daughter Meghan wept that it marked the “death of American greatness”.

Albright’s ceremony, which was attended by many foreign Democrats, including Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who met everyone from USAID Director Samantha Power to Secretary of State Antony Blinken during of his journey, suggests a different outcome. The crusading vision for democracy abroad that Albright represented was not buried. He looked stronger than ever. Poland’s new ambassador to Washington, Marek Magierowski, who attended the ceremony, told me it testified to the vitality “not only of pro-democracy thinking, but also pro-NATO and pro-collective security.” .

If the 1990s served as a touchstone for the Washington foreign policy establishment—a singular time when, as James P. Rubin, a former Albright spokesman, recently recalled, America was “respected, admired and feared around the world” – so the assembled 1,400 guests demonstrated that almost everyone in Washington’s foreign policy circles wanted to associate with her. It was Albright, after all, who predicted in his last column for the New York Times on February 23 that entering Ukraine would be a colossal blunder: “Instead of paving the way for Russian greatness, invading Ukraine would ensure Mr. Putin’s infamy by leaving his country diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and strategically vulnerable to stronger and stronger power. united western alliance.

She was right. The war in Ukraine not only revived NATO, but also the broader impulses it represented. Having played defensively since the wicked wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s “power sidekicks” aren’t just winning. They won.


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