There is much talk about “transition” to a new US administration now that Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden is due to be inaugurated on January 20. There is the usual media speculation about whom the president-elect is going to appoint in his cabinet.
A potential Biden team is touting hawkish policymakers who held senior positions in the previous Obama administrations when Biden also served as the then vice president. These names include Susan Rice, who was national security advisor, Michelle Flournoy who was a top official at the Pentagon, and former State Department policymaker Anthony Blinken. All of these people were associated with launching disastrous wars in the Middle East and North Africa, as is Biden himself.
Before he became vice president in the two Obama administrations (2008-2016), Biden spent 47 years as a lawmaker in Congress where he held key positions supporting American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There is no sign that in his older life (Biden turned 78 this week, the oldest elected US president ever) that he may have softened his foreign policy stance. He has quickly dropped any suggestion of appointing more progressive members of the Democratic party to his future cabinet. Biden is emphasizing “national unity” and working with the Republican party. That means his administration will take a conventional rightwing position on international relations.
Indeed, over recent decades the Democratic party has become the party of choice for the US foreign policy establishment, the intelligence apparatus, the Pentagon and Wall Street. In short, the ruling class, or “deep state”. Biden with his reassuring talk of reengaging with “allies” and NATO is thus a much-preferred presidential figure than the maverick Donald Trump whose brash, erratic style only served to frustrate Washington’s hegemonic ambitions. When Biden says that “America is back”, what he really means is “back to business-as-usual”, which portends a return to untrammeled US militarism and interventionism in foreign affairs.
It is notable that Biden’s bid for the presidency was given fulsome support from former Republican White House figures, Pentagon chiefs, and Neo-Conservatives and Liberal imperialists alike. Those endorsements are a foreboding portent of what to expect from a Biden administration.
During the presidential debates, Biden sought to make himself appear more hawkish than Trump with regard to Russia and China. The Democrat spouted ridiculous accusations about alleged Russian interference in elections and said he would hold President Vladimir Putin to account. Biden also debased himself by calling President Xi Jinping a “thug”. Not so long ago when Biden was vice president and doing business deals with China, there are images of him toasting Xi with glass in hand. So Biden’s views are expedient and malleable depending on the need de jour. That unscrupulous quality should serve as a warning that this new president will not act as a matter of principle or in the interest of peace. He will act according to whatever is expected of him by the American deep state and its imperialist planners.
Under Biden, international relations will be no less fraught than under the Trump administration, or indeed any other past administrations. So what does it mean to talk about “transition” when the US ship of state – as always – remains on a course of aggressive foreign conduct?
Every US administration since the Second World War has been at war or some other campaign of aggression. Trump was no different, and neither will Biden.
Joe Biden has hinted he will engage with Russia in arms control talks. Fair enough. He has also hinted he will return the US to the international nuclear accord with Iran. Again, fair enough. All that remains to be seen.
In the meantime, Washington continues pursuing a policy of blocking Russian energy trade with Europe as well as ramping up explosive tensions with China over the South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other disputes. Biden and his future vice president Kamala Harris are ardent supporters of Israel and will no doubt do Israel’s bidding in continuing to adopt a recklessly hostile policy towards Iran.
Whether Donald Trump in the White House or Joe Biden, whether a Republican or Democrat as president, the cynical reality is that American foreign policy remains constantly aggressive and militarist. That is the reality of US power in the world and the imperative of serving corporate capitalism and its diktats. What only ever changes is rhetoric and personal style. American presidency truly is a puppet show to conceal the war machine.
Perhaps sometime in the future if the US begins to break up its oligarchic, corporate power structure through a genuinely democratic revolt, then we might be able to talk meaningfully about “transition”. Until then, the world can only brace itself for more of the same American rogue-state misconduct and its nauseating veneer of virtuous “exceptionalism”.