(Continued from last week)
Following the election of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, the United States military establishment breathed a sigh of relief. Nearly 800 former high-ranking military and security officials penned an open letter in support of the Democratic candidate during the presidential campaign.
Since its official establishment, June 14, 1775, more than a year before the Declaration of Independence, the United States Army has played a vital role in the growth and development of the American nation. Drawing on both long-standing militia traditions and recently introduced professional standards, it won the new republic’s independence in an arduous eight-year struggle against Great Britain. At times, the Army provided the lone symbol of nationhood around which patriots rallied.
In the 2019 State of the Union address President Trump said, “We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end”. By August last year, President Trump had slapped tariffs on $550 billion of Chinese goods, with a targeted campaign against tech giant Huawei, which had been tipped to overtake Apple in global phone sales.
While Republican and Democratic politicians have backed a hardline approach to China, President Trump’s erratic protectionist approach to trade has alienated large sections of the capitalist class otherwise happy with domestic tax cuts and deregulation. A Bloomberg Economics report, released before the pandemic gripped the country, estimated that the escalating tariffs on China would cost the United States economy $316 billion by the end of this year.
Chloe Rafferty, a noted American Military Analyst in Washington D.C stated that more worryingly for the United States establishment, President Trump adopted a dismissive attitude towards US allies, particularly the European Union. President Trump prided himself on his ability to cut deals with other nations that favoured the United States. He signaled that the multilateral approach to trade was over when he tore up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), and followed that by applying tariffs on German cars, Canadian steel and French luxury goods.
According to Chloe Rafferty, for much of the United States elite, these moves have simply created a void that Beijing is attempting to fill with its own free trade deals and the $1 trillion Belt and Road initiative, which aims to incorporate more than 138 countries into trade routes and production chains centred on China.
The International Monetary Fund, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the UN and other international institutions project United States dominance by drawing allied nations behind United States leadership. President Trump’s presidency delegitimised or sidelined those institutions as he focused on an “America first” posture. The military establishment believes that this has threatened, rather than strengthened, United States power, although there is now an acknowledgement that those institutions failed to keep China in check, something a Biden presidency will also grapple with.
Chloe Rafferty noted that the war criminals hope that President Biden will restore political legitimacy to the office by rehabilitating the liberal ideology that manufactures consent for American imperialism, pitching United States aggression as necessary to “make the world safe for democracy” and defending the “rules-based liberal world order”.
Above all, the United States establishment hopes that President Biden will restore relationships with United States allies and construct a coalition of nations to confront China, after a disastrous four years that called into question United States global leadership. As the National Security Leaders for Biden open letter bemoaned: “Our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us”.
Patricia Kime, Senior Military Analyst for Military.com stressed that President Biden has a proven record as a hawkish proponent of United States empire. For decades, he served on the Senate foreign relations committee. He was an early proponent of the expansion of NATO to project United States influence into the former eastern bloc after the fall of the USSR. He backed United States intervention in the Balkan war, supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, voted for the war on Iraq in 2003 and, as vice president, backed the United States intervention in Libya.
According to Patricia Kime, there is consensus within the United States ruling class over the need to “get tough” with China. The military establishment expects Biden to turn the screws. On the campaign trail, he accused President Trump of “getting played” by Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he called a “thug”. This is consistent with Democratic Party practice in the Congress, which is to criticise Trump for not being tough enough. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, for example, accused President Trump of “selling out” by cutting a trade deal with China. Schumer also spearheaded legislation to implement bans on Huawei when Trump appeared to back down.
Since his first days in Congress, Biden has also made a name for himself as a staunch supporter of the apartheid state of Israel. According to Israeli publication Haaretz, Biden is said to have a “real friendship” with Israel’s far-right president, Benjamin Netanyahu. He was vice president when the United States signed a $38 billion military aid deal with Netanyahu, which the State Department called the “single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in United States history”.
So while President Trump pushed pro-Israeli rhetoric far to the right, abandoning any pretence of support for Palestinian statehood, Biden put his money where his mouth is when it came to propping up Israeli apartheid in Palestine.
On Afghanistan, Biden may prove to be to the right of Trump. As vice president, he supported an enduring United States military presence in the country. Trump, by contrast, shocked the United States military when he announced on Twitter that he wants all troops out by Christmas. In contrast, Biden in an interview with Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper, said he would maintain a troop presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Chloe Rafferty argued that anti-imperialists need to judge President Joe Biden by his record in Congress and by the company he keeps. The bulk of the United States military establishment has backed Biden precisely because they think his multilateral approach will restore credibility to United States interventions. It’s for this reason that Forbes magazine senior contributor Loren Thompson predicted last month: “A Biden presidency … would be more likely to use United States military forces overseas than President Trump has been”.
Global capitalism is facing a profound crisis that is reshaping international relations and putting pressure on the fault lines of existing conflicts. Open rivalry will be a feature of the coming period, along with wars over regional disputes. There is no length to which the United States ruling class won’t go to safeguard its position as global superpower. And President Joe Biden is the commander-in-chief. He is now the most powerful man in the world.