Saturday, July 30, 2022 — Moon of Alabama
Yesterday, on July 28/29 2022 three independent entities stated the obvious fact that the president of the United States is just a front puppet who has no power to fulfill the promises he makes during various interactions with foreign leaders. The dangers evolving from this state are enormous but rarely noted.
Andrew Bacevich, the head of the Quincy Institute, writes:
Something much bigger than POTUS — call it the MIC or the deep state — has de facto veto power on all matters related to national security.
Writing in the New York Times, veteran foreign correspondent Edward Wong reports that the Biden “administration’s approach to strategic priorities is surprisingly consistent with the policies of the Trump administration.”
What ought to be surprising at this juncture is Wong’s surprise.
In practice, the power wielded by the most powerful man in the world turns out to be quite limited. Factors at home and abroad constrain presidential freedom of action.
Two factors stand out, one structural and the other ideological.
The structural factor refers to the institutions whose wellbeing is dependent upon maintaining arrangements that devolved during the Cold War and survived the Cold War’s passing. Call it what you will — the Blob, the Deep State, the military-industrial-congressional complex — it exercises a de facto veto power on all matters related to basic U.S. national security policy.
The ideological factor rests on explicit or tacit claims of American Exceptionalism: That it is incumbent upon the United States to lead the world, with leadership tending in practice to become a synonym for global primacy and primacy tending to be expressed in military terms.
With regards to Joe Biden’s recent call with China’s president Xi Jinping, Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism makes a similar argument:
National leaders never have complete freedom to act; even autocrats have constituencies or power blocs they have to appease.
In the US, it has become clear that the President has limited degrees of freedom on foreign policy matters; the military/intel interests call the shots.
Mind you, there are factions so a President can push the needle to a degree; that’s why, for instance, Obama was able to check Clinton’s plans to escalate in Syria. But the flip side is that Presidents who want to improve relations with pet enemies get nowhere. In the Oliver Stone interviews, Putin recounts how he had productive discussions with Bush and they agreed on concrete de-escalation measures. Follow ups were unanswered.
Eventually Putin got a written bafflespeak climbdown. That and other examples led Putin to conclude that US presidents are hostage to bureaucratic and commercial interests.
Biden is a visibly very weak president. And it appears that that has enabled the neocons to have an even bigger say over foreign policy than usual.
One assumes Xi has to understand that. Yet the Chinese readout has Xi starting from lofty first principles to contend that the US and China, as leading world powers, have a duty to promote peace, global development, and prosperity. From that, Xi reasons that seeing China as a strategic rival is “misperceiving” US-China relations and misleading the world community.
Who is Xi talking to when he goes on like that? It certainly is not to Biden.
On the very same day as Yves published the above, the Global Times, the prime international outlet of the Chinese Communist Party, acknowledged Biden’s inability to keep promises by publishing an editorial which makes the same observation:
China-US relations have not only failed to get out of the plight created by the previous US government, but have stagnated and even deteriorated.
The root lies in that these positive statements by President Biden have not been translated into the US’ practical actions. In other words, from the perspective of many Chinese, there is something wrong with Washington’s execution.
For the next step, the US side should translate the positive momentum formed in this latest exchanges into dynamics that fully reflects the execution capability, seriously consider China’s statements on strategic track which are rational and in line with the two countries’ interests and concerns, truly meet China half way, properly manage and develop China-US ties. Particularly, the US needs to show positive execution capability on cores issues that have major impact on bilateral ties.
In this context it is interesting to see the lectures given by Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to the minion in Washington who plays his counterpart:
The ministers discussed current developments in Ukraine. Sergey Lavrov laid out Russia’s principled approaches in the context of the special military operation in the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Lugansk People’s Republic and Ukraine. He emphasised that its goals and tasks will be fully achieved.
Mr Lavrov said that US sanctions were aggravating the situation and that US promises to make exemptions for Russian food shipments had not materialised.
As for the potential prisoner swap between the countries, Mr Lavrov strongly advised a return to professional dialogue in the context of “quiet diplomacy” without any dubious media leaks.
Reviewing the Blinken-Lavrov call the former Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar asks:
Such conversations as yesterday’s suffer from being totally opaque. Blinken can’t even articulate the substantive issues bothering Biden —the cracks in the western unity.
Curiously, the Biden faces two crisis situations with explosive potential at the moment — in Ukraine and over Taiwan. Indeed, it is crystal clear that both have been precipitated by Washington. Yet, the manner in which Biden is handling them couldn’t be anymore dissimilar.
In the case of Taiwan, Biden didn’t hesitate to call up Chinese President Xi Jinping to calm the tensions. But he has chosen a different path to communicate with President Vladimir Putin.
For sure, into the six month of the conflict in Ukraine, Biden has finally decided to bite the bullet and resume high-level contact with Moscow. But he opted to get through to Putin through his state secretary!
The problem here is, although US-China relations are tense, Biden never took it to a personal level. He never used derogatory language to spite Xi Jinping, as he did to Putin repeatedly.
Did Biden deliver on Taiwan? It is obvious that he did not. A call with him is rather useless.
The problem of a call to Moscow is not that Biden denigrated and insulted Putin. The Russian president is a professional. He doesn’t take such things personally. What he cares about is that stuff gets done, that promises once made are being held. The real problem, as the three first writers quoted above state, is that Biden has no say in pretty much anything.
Biden could prevent Nancy Pelosi’s fancy but dangerous travel to Taiwan by simply canceling her passport for national security reasons. There is supreme court sanctioned precedence for doing that. Instead he is risking a full blown military response by China.
As for Blinken – for the last two decades he has been little more than Biden’s errand-boy, a grifter with no real influence in the deep state bureaucracy. There the Victoria Nulands and other scheming neocons are running the real show. They are carrying their grandparents subjective grievances and are out to revenge those – no matter the costs.
Any president who wants to really run U.S. policies must be a hard nosed brut. He must ruthlessly fire people left and right whenever they even think about sabotaging a stated policy. This must be done down to the third and fourth level of the state department, intelligence and pentagon bureaucracies. The justice department and the internal revenue services must be used to keep congress under control. Any senator, representative or staff who tries to resist the agenda has to be publicly exposed as the utterly corrupt egoist they all are.
That would be a ‘dictatorship’?
Well, look how Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin run their businesses, largely to the benevolence of their people. Both got reelected by their relevant constituencies.
There is no way Joe Biden will achieve that.