Greenfield, Mass. (Special to Informed Comment) –
Remember the mid-March snowball fight with some boys in our 8th grade class at St Helena’s School in Wilmington, Delaware? The snow was wet and made for hard, icy snowballs, so I hid my young sister Monica behind a parked car. You joined me against the other boys who had started pitching snowballs; but none of us on both sides, all classmates, really wanted lasting enmity. When over, no resentments, no grudges.
It’s the contrast of this youthful experience with your foreign policy today – specifically your perilously hostile attitude toward China and Russia, both nuclear powers, and China, an economic giant, in need of
You ran on “diplomacy first” (US people having wearied of “forever wars”), “no more support for the Yemen war” and negotiating a U.S. return to the
You have sustained the war in Ukraine since February 2022 by massively arming Ukraine with $54 billion in weapons and aid. Thus, the US is a party to the war and, consequently, in a strong position to be proactive in insisting on a ceasefire and negotiations as the UN Charter calls for. In fact, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley “ has publicly voiced support for diplomacy between Ukraine and Russia,” while your Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pushes for sustaining the war. Isn’t the State Department mission to lead in diplomacy not war?
This war has become your war, while the majority of Americans now support negotiations to end the war in Ukraine “as soon as possible.” And you risk – in remaining inflexible to negotiations – nuclear war and ongoing recession, inflation and food shortages for millions in Africa and Asia, while the country Ukraine is being wrecked by Russian bombing. All to bring down Putin, as you said in an unsupervised moment. Let’s call it regime change, a haplessly failed habit of the US government in at least three of our recent wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Joe, do read and heed the words of someone you putatively admire: On November, 4, Pope Francis tweeted: “In the garden of humanity, we are playing with fire, missiles and bombs, with weapons that bring sorrow and death, covering our common home with ashes and hatred. I extend my heartfelt appeal to everyone that the war in Ukraine be ended and that serious peace negotiations begin.”
Why are you ramping up tensions with China at a time of climate breakdown when the two largest climate polluters need to collaborate on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, if humans and other life are to survive this century? Further, the US military is the largest institutional contributor to the climate crisis in the world; and as the US continues to expand its military budget, so also do NATO and China, worsening climate-threatening emissions. The hot war with Russia and economic war and enmity with China, then, threaten the world with climate catastrophe, while the U.S. fails to meet its pledge to fund climate resilience and alternative energy sources for developing countries.
The world of nations is not the simplistic binary that you persist in describing: “rule-of-law” democracies mainly the West (good) versus authoritarian regimes elsewhere (bad). There are many weak democracies, especially our own in which billionaires determine elections about 90% of the time and wealth determines the votes of Congress for legislation – making the U.S. a plutocracy. Some consider it a political and economic oligarchy essentially at the bid of giant corporations, freed by the Citizens United decision inviting massive corporations “to take ownership of … much of the American political process.” The preamble to the Constitution might as well begin “We the Corporations” not “We the People,” notes Ralph Nader. A recent federal report revealed that the authoritarian United Arab Emirates has spent $154 million since 2016 to “push policies in Washington that favor it.” Big money in politics, which goes to both parties, is toxic for democracy.
The top European Union foreign affairs and security appointee Josep Borrell defies your binary worldview, Joe, admitting that Europe has a “lot of authoritarian regimes.” Similarly, France’s former ambassador to the United States and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Gerard Araud warns that the U.S “frequently violates international law” and violates its “so-called” ‘rules-based order’ with no consequences. Why must the U.S. insist on being the world’s unipolar “leader,” he posits, and not work “on an equal basis” with countries of the Global South. Try to put yourself in your alleged enemy’s shoes, he advises; ‘”try to see the world from Beijing.’”
Reverend Liz Theoharris, co-founder of the Poor People’s Campaign, designates the US ”an impoverished democracy.” And she ponders why “few candidates (democrat and republican in 2022) bothered to talk about poverty, food insecurity, or low wages” or to run on platforms such as renewing the Child Tax Credit to lift families out of poverty. Forty million by government statistics live in poverty, but an addition 95-100 million live one paycheck from health crisis and eviction and poverty. “Bobby Kennedy, even Lyndon Johnson, spoke about the poor. Now you can’t say the word poor and
To your credit, Joe, you have tried on the domestic front with your ambitious Build Back Better bill and have succeeded with the lesser Inflation Reduction Act. But in this plutocratic democracy of ours, we cannot even achieve what so-called authoritarian regimes have. How is it that China and Cuba, for example, have achieved higher life expectancy than ours; have provided Covid vaccines to developing countries when your government has not; provide free health care, including abortion, and education to their citizens; and do not have the extremes of wealth and inequality that our country does?
Which legacy do you want – plutocracy, impoverished democracy, record inequality, ever-expanding militarism, or a just economic recovery, a livable world, peace and diplomacy in Ukraine before a brutal winter sets in, and the U.S. as member of the family of nations, not its self-deemed patriarch? The boy I remember would choose the latter.