The approaching Biden-Harris administration is finding itself saturated by an avalanche of unsolicited advice from the media about what it should do once in office.
Until the recent news about hacking of U.S. government agencies, which was supposedly done by Russia, practically all the establishment kibitzers demanded the return to America’s world leadership, a role they believe has been lost during President Trump’s term, and warned against resets or summits with Russia, at least while the awful Vladimir Putin is still in charge. In the meantime, Washington should be patient and, while waiting for Mr. Putin’s eventual exit, maintain a limited dialogue in the nuclear arms arena and try to foil the Russia-China entente by playing a modern version of the Nixon-Kissinger game that helped instigate Soviet-Chinese rivalry. Of course, reaching out to the anti-Putin Russian opposition is also a must.
Now, however, the language got much tougher and President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s team has begun discussing retaliation actions, including a possible cyberattack against the rival nation’s own infrastructure. This is despite warnings from many U.S. intelligence officers and experts to be careful because there is no 100% knowledge of all facts.
“The hyperbolic, evidence-free media reports on the ‘fresh outbreak’ of the Russian-hacking disease seems an obvious attempt by intelligence to handcuff President-elect Joe Biden into a strong anti-Russia posture as he prepares to enter the White House,” Ray McGovern and Joe Lauria wrote in a piece via ConsortiumNews.com.
Even before the hacking news, the U.S. conducted a series of rocket launch tests during NATO exercises in Romania, firing long-range missiles into the Black Sea with the capability to hit Russian territory.
All this means that the warnings of growing numbers of influential foreign policy experts who assert that the world is “sleepwalking into nuclear catastrophe” should be taken seriously.
For those of us unwilling to accept the fate of hapless bystanders waiting for doomsday to arrive, why not offer our own unsolicited advice?
First: Forget about Mr. Biden’s claims that America is back — we’re at the head of the table once again. Not only does this statement sound pathetic in the face of our country’s long list of internal and external problems, but it is also dangerous since it drives us further along the path of other failed empires from the Romans to Soviets, who made similar claims. It is time to accept the reality that the brief era of U.S. unipolar world domination is over and act accordingly with a sober realization that the world’s table is round, not rectangular with one boss at the top. The famous photo of Mr. Biden chairing a meeting of the Ukrainian government, presiding over the sad state of that country’s affairs, is a perfect metaphor for what such “leadership” is worth.
That said, it was a pleasant surprise to read news about a report with incoming National Security Council adviser Jake Sullivan’s name on it expressing ideas that contradict the interventionist neocon and liberal internationalism championed by the establishment.
“The United States cannot renew America’s middle class unless it corrects for the overextension that too often has defined U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War era,” the authors wrote. “There is no evidence America’s middle class will rally behind efforts aimed at restoring U.S. primacy in a unipolar world or waging a cosmic struggle between the world’s democracies and authoritarian governments. … Most Americans, the report continues, “are more concerned with proximate threats to their physical and economic security.”
It remains to be seen whether the establishment accepts this report and starts acting accordingly or whether such seeming rationality will go the way of George W. Bush’s more “humble” foreign policy.
Second: Stop using force, or other overt and covert actions, to promote democracy around the world. Americans who indeed adhere to Western values do not claim that they are superior to the people of other nations. Those who do are violating the same values that they are trying to impose. Bombs, sanctions and regime change operations have contributed to devastation and misery for tens of millions of people around the world while inflicting huge human, material and moral damage on America itself.
Third: Transform NATO into IATO — the International Anti-Terrorist Organization. The IATO should consist of well-armed international rapid response forces ready to liquidate terrorist threats in any part of the world. With its present expansionist mood and insatiable financial appetites, NATO is a problem rather than solution to the world’s security.
Fourth: America can lead in certain areas but must do it by example rather than force. Money saved from America’s futile attempts to be a world hegemon should be used for domestic social and infrastructure development and for working with other nations to resolve global health and environmental crises and shortages of food, water and energy resources.
Fifth: It is obvious that during the period of U.S. hegemony after the collapse of the USSR, the security of both America and the world is in much worse shape than ever before. Isn’t it time, at long last, to rethink failed, three-decade-long establishment consensuses on foreign policy?
Of course, many will consider this “crying in the wilderness,” but it is better than doing nothing.
Edward Lozansky is president of American University in Moscow.