Joe Biden in the White House: Under No Illusions

Although it might seem like futile advice, it is nonetheless worth remembering the torrent of illusory expectations that Barack Obama’s victory inspired in 2008. A reflection of the deep penetration of the neo-colonial message, the triumphalist chants that leading members of Europe’s and Latin America’s progressive intellectual bourgeoisie intoned in the runup to the inauguration of Obama’s presidency were swiftly silenced before he had so much as put his hands to work (assisted by Joe Biden) and dedicated enormous efforts to saving the banks from the sub-prime mortgage crisis, completely forgetting about the millions who were victims of their fraudulent practices. Given that some of same chants as 2008 can already be heard, albeit moderated in tone, the time is ripe for a review of previous events to avoid falling prey to new, and predictable, frustrations.

Biden arrives at the White House with a more ethnically diverse team than that of Donald Trump, which was almost entirely populated by white men. However, beyond questions of ethnic and cultural diversity, the transition team is intimately linked to American big business. The State Department will be headed by Anthony Blinken, a moderate hawk but a hawk nonetheless, who believes that his country should have intensified its presence in Syria to avoid the Russians getting involved. Blinken supported the Iraq invasion in 2003 and the armed intervention in Libya, which culminated in the destruction of the country and the lynching of Moammar Gadhafi. He has also said that “force can be a necessary adjunct to effective diplomacy,” consistent with the establishment’s traditional way of thinking. In short, we should be under no illusions here.

Biden’s pick for the head of the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin, is of African American heritage; a four-star general with 41 years of military experience, his confirmation in the Senate could be jeopardized for two reasons. First, because the law dictates that only military officials who have left the service at least seven years previously may occupy the role, and Austin only just left in 2016. Second, because he was a member of the board of directors of Raytheon until recently, which is one of the big players in the military-industrial complex and a leading supplier of the U.S armed forces. Furthermore, as a man with a keen eye for business, Austin is also a partner in an investment fund specializing in the trade of military equipment. The hegemonic media, always willing to accommodate the goings-on in Washington, will label these “small inconsistencies.”

The second tier of the State Department has none other than Victoria Nuland as its high profile representative in the role of undersecretary for political affairs. Nuland is a super hawk who gave encouragement and distributed small bottles of water and cakes to the mob in Kyiv’s Independence Square (similar to the one which stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in Washington) that besieged the Ukraine government’s headquarters and which overthrew the legitimate government there in Feb. 2014. A telephone call between the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine and Nuland, unexpectedly leaked to the press, will forever have its place in the annals of diplomatic history: During the call, when the ambassador informed Nuland that the European Union was not particularly keen on the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych’s government, Nuland snapped back with “Fuck the EU!” It is not gratuitous to add that this gentle soul is married to Robert Kagan, a far-right author of various books in which he extols the manifest destiny of the United States, openly defends the Israeli occupation of Palestine and reproaches European governments for their cowardice about accompanying the United States in its universal civilizing crusade. Quite the family affair.

If the above were not sufficient to dispel any hopes from the change of president in the United States, I finish here with two quotations from an article that Biden published in Foreign Affairs [i], entitled “Why America Must Lead Again.” In it, Biden launches furious attacks against Russia and China. About the former, he writes that Russian civil society is bravely resisting the oppression of “President Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic authoritarian system.” About the latter, he reasserts the need to “get tough” with the Asian giant. Otherwise, he assures us, China will continue “robbing the United States and American companies of their technology and intellectual property.”[ii]

With the people that Biden has recruited for the key roles in his administration and with the rhetoric pouring from his own pen, it will remain difficult for the world to breathe easy and trust that, with Trump’s departure, the tensions within the international system will significantly decrease.

[i] Foreign Affairs, March-April 2020, Volume 99, No. 2, pp. 64-76

[ii] The journalist Rick Gladstone, in an article published in The New York Times on Nov. 7, 2020, after the Biden article in Foreign Affairs, says that Biden referred to Xi Jinping as a “thug.”

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