The most dangerous and destructive people on earth are the self-aggrandizing misanthropes who hold omnipotent hatred for the rest of humanity rooted in the unshakeable belief of their absolute racial superiority. Heightened tensions that have been created in the second decade of the 21st century by President Xi Jinping’s so-called “Chinese Dream,” his illegal maritime expansion across the Pacific Ocean, his soft globalism in Europe, Africa as well as South America under the guise of the “Belt and Road Initiative,” and most recently, his pre-invasion saber-rattling over the Republic of China, also known as Taiwan, call into memory the historical thesis about Han cultural superiority as well as the Chinese imperial “benevolent authority cum oppressive dominance” of its neighbors for the past three millennia. Over glorifying the superiority of “five thousand years of Chinese culture,” while being outrageously numb about its countless devastating catastrophes for the Chinese people and the rest of its neighboring countries, this tyrannical prophet of “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” defines the competition between the People’s Republic of China and the rest of the world as a cosmic confrontation of irreconcilable ideological antagonism between democratic liberalism and Marxist “class warfare.” In reality, President Xi’s worldview is nothing but the automatic rehashing of Confucius’s antediluvian hierarchical regime, in which a minority rules absolutely over the majority with expected wisdom and benevolence. Thus, in President Xi’s future global paradise, the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee and its Politburo from their Olympian Heights would exercise a benign tyranny over their racially inferior states across the globe.
Contrary to the incessantly lying official Chinese propaganda, however, the People’s Republic of China’s path to utopian Communism is more an ideological garbage than a well-planned road to ubiquitous prosperity for mankind. As I already opined in a Frontiers of Freedom’s publication on August 6, 2012, and in a follow-up editorial on August 9, 2012, in The Washington Times, “China’s Approaching Implosion,” historically, China has been driven by permanent tensions between the despotic state’s boundless hostility toward society and the frequently violent anti-state sentiments of the Chinese people. Turning Deng Xiaopeng’s dictum of “Black cat or white cat, if it can catch mice, it’s a good cat,” into protecting the Chinese economy from the evil political influences of the democratic West under the slogan of “Chinese self-reliance” as well as “new development concept,” the future President for Life Xi Jinping in his ideological blindness is completely destroying his overambitious country. Instead of filling his concept with pragmatic content, he has subordinated sound economic strategy to empty promises concerning the eradication of the covid pandemic with useless Chinese vaccines and the stemming out of devastating corruption in the real estate market, in connection with the domestic banking sector. This ideological curse has resulted in protracted stagnation of domestic production and in sizable decline of the export as well as import of goods and services. Moreover, his attempts to promote China’s national currency internationally have been exposed as another mixed bag in President Xi’s amateurish “dog and pony show.”
Since foreign policy has always been a function of domestic policies, President Xi’s most recent Taiwan adventure is as discombobulated as his phantom “Socialism cum Communism with Chinese Characteristics.” His and his colleagues’ belligerent threats of imminent invasion must be taken very seriously. Therefore, the Democratic Republic of China and its supporters must be ready to repel this illegal aggression. Letting Beijing have its way in Taiwan, will embolden President Xi to expand China’s presence internationally by state-led military means to serve its nefarious political interests. The policy must be unequivocal: if China attacks, it must be defeated. This defeat must be crushing and extremely humiliating for President Xi personally too. Relentlessly bombarded by the Communist Party’s slogan of “turn your heart to the General Secretary,” meaning Xi Jinping, the United States of America, its European and Asian allies cannot show mercy to the tyrant.
Although the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machine has succeeded, for the being, to convince the majority of the people that in the present troubled times internationally the country needs a strong leader, the accompanying revival of the ‘Cult of Personality” will unquestionably lead to total political, economic and financial catastrophe. Again, contrary to President Xi and his colleagues’ belief, the People’s Republic of China will never become the hegemon of the world. Its quintessentially racist ideology, hidden in the utopian idealism of prostituted Marxism, is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Yet, only reacting and building defenses against global Chinese ambitions are not enough. The United States of America and its allies must take the initiative and expose in its entirety the evil nature of Chinese expansionism. To demonstrate the urgent need to stand up to Beijing, it would suffice to call attention to the most recent vote of China on August 10, 2022, in the United Nations Security Council concerning its veto of listing Abdul Rauf Ashgar as a global terrorist. Having been the long-serving deputy emir of Pakistani jihadi organization Jaish-e-Muhammad, he has planned and actively participated in countless terrorist acts in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and beyond. The Chinese representative was the single opponent of Resolution 1267 of the Sanction Committee. Clearly, if allowed, China’s exclusively ideological globalism will transform into genocidal terrorism. For all these reasons, the People’s Republic of China must be stopped before it might destroy the planet.
Proof that the idiocy of intellectuals in academia and of hopelessly incompetent bureaucrats ensconced in their ivory towers knows no limit has been demonstrated abundantly in the post-Mao treatment of the People’s Republic of China by the United States of America, the member states of the European Union and other states allied with them. Having anointed themselves “foreign policy realists,” they declared that they alone have found the all encompassing diacatholicon to all the problems of mankind by always yielding to the blasterous threats of every tyrannical regime on earth. Specifically, under the dictum that “no one should humiliate the People’s Republic of China,” which in practice has meant endless concessions to Beijing, the democratic nations across the globe in general and the United States of America in particular, have been declared “warmongers” when they refused to lose or be humiliated by the tyrant de jour in mainland China. As always, the United States of America has been singled out for relentless criticism of its alleged animosity against the hard working Chinese people who want nothing else but to become as free and prosperous as their kins in the West. Clearly, these baseless theoretical illusions have shown the unrealistic yearning of these self-appointed foreign policy Messiahs for a world in which tyrannical aggressors always have their ways to the detriment of all the peace loving peoples worldwide. President Biden’s and his son’s corrupt dealings with the highest echelons of the Chinese Communist Party during the former’s tenure as Vice President only reinforced Beijing’s belief in as well as contempt for the decadent and greedy American politicians who would sell out their country for enriching themselves personally.
While this intellectual nonsense as well as political corruption are strategically as well as morally revolting, it surely has motivated tyrants all over the world to at least become more demanding or, in more extreme cases, march to the edge of nuclear abyss. The Chinese Communist Party-led People’s Republic of China has been no exception. Beginning twenty years ago, at the turn of the century, Beijing has undertaken the most extensive military buildup since World War II. In addition to destabilizing the entire continent around the Pacific Ocean, President Xi has openly demanded a new world order, in which his country would be the sole superpower. Boasting the second largest defense budget after the United States of America, Beijing has claimed sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and the surrounding maritime areas. Defying international law, Beijing has repeatedly threatened free navigation and has aggressively militarized countless coral atolls as well as artificially built additional reefs to expand the offensive capabilities of mainland China beyond its continental shores. All these have been done in contravention of a United Nations-backed Arbitration Tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s outrageously sweeping claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Of course, quite imperiously, Beijing dismissed the ruling as “sham” and non-binding on the People’s Republic of China.
Without a shred of doubt, the China threat is real. While the White House’s China policy does not extend beyond “preventing war and maintaining peace in Asia,” the recent developments surrounding Taiwan shall force the United States of America and all the affected states on the continent to prepare for war and win it decisively. Clearly, if invaded, Taiwan will surely be China’s Afghanistan and Ukraine combined. The recent highly provocative military maneuvers around the independent island, under the pretext of the American House Speaker’s visit, could royally misfire on the Chinese military. Although better than twenty or even five years ago, the Chinese military is nearly not as strong as Beijing is trying to depict. Mainly, it has been weakened by a staggering degree of corruption and the almost complete lack of combat experience. Moreover, the culture of the “one child policy” under Mao, has resulted in generations of spoiled men who have resented discipline. Finally, the readiness of the Chinese military will prevent a successful invasion and occupation of the Democratic Republic of China.
For all these reasons and challenges, the White House must undertake decisively resolute policies to forge an ironclad containment of the People’s Republic of China. The United States of America, combined with Japan, India, Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia, will always be stronger militarily, economically and financially than the People’s Republic of China. Although it might sound bold, the White House must contemplate abandoning America’s long standing “One China Policy” and recognize the Democratic Republic of China as a sovereign state that in reality it has been since 1949.
Historically, as so many Chinese lies, Taiwan has never been originally a part of mainland China. With the exception of some migration of the Hoklo people from Fujian and Guangdong areas of southern China, the Ming Dynasty only established a base of operation on the island in 1662. Following the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, the Qing Dynasty ceded the island, along with Penghu, to the Japanese. In 1945, the government of the Republic of China, led by the Kuomintang, took control of Taiwan. In 1949, Chiang Kai-shek established the Democratic Republic of China that includes the islands of Kinmen, Wuqui and Matsu.
Although the United States of America and the European Union have recorded many failures in foreign policies in the last thirty years, the Free World cannot lose against Communist China, as it could not afford to abandon Ukraine to the Russian Federation. China’s aggression shall be nipped in the bud before it will develop into a full scale illegal war. Nothing less than the future of a free and peaceful world is at stake.
I’m not in the habit of saying that Nancy Pelosi is right. But if she wants to visit Taiwan next month as part of a congressional delegation to several countries in the Indo-Pacific, she really ought to go. Canceling the trip now would be a capitulation to tyranny.
Canceling now would mean that Congress buckled in the face of Chinese threats and the Biden administration wavering. It would establish the principle that Beijing has veto power over the travel plans of senior U.S. officials. It would tell the world that America is more interested in mollifying Xi Jinping than in supporting the democratically elected Tsai Ing-wen. It would be another example of self-deterrence, Biden-style. And America would be weakened.
Pelosi would be the first speaker of the House to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich in 1997. The Chinese Communist Party was no happier 25 years ago than they are today. Back then, the People’s Republic said that Gingrich’s support of Taiwan was “improper” and “contradictory.” China’s rhetoric has grown harsher as it has grown stronger. Earlier this year, when Pelosi first scheduled a visit in April, a Chinese government spokesman called it a “malicious provocation.” He pledged that China would respond “resolutely.” Then Pelosi got COVID. She had to cancel.
Last week the Financial Times reported that the trip was back on and rescheduled for August. Once more, the jackals in Beijing began to howl. The enslavers of Xinjiang, the oppressors of Hong Kong, the bullies of the Indo-Pacific acted as if they were the victims. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian threatened that China would “take determined and forceful measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The Chinese propaganda machine spoke forebodingly of consequences for the United States. A former editor of Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party’s version of Pravda, wrote of Pelosi, “If the U.S. can’t restrain her, let China restrain her & punish her.”
Punish her? Any hostile action taken against the speaker of the House of Representatives, no matter her party and no matter the circumstances, would be an act of war. Is China willing, much less prepared, to provoke armed conflict with the United States over a co-del? If so—and I doubt it—then China is itching for a fight and will ramp up its demands no matter what Pelosi decides.
If the visit does happen, China will respond for sure. But the cost it might impose on U.S.-China relations still will be less than the price of cancellation. Neither China nor the United States is prepared for a major confrontation. Better to take the hit to the relationship now than let Xi Jinping dictate Nancy Pelosi’s—or anyone else’s—itinerary.
As usual, President Biden is not helping. Asked about the controversy on July 20, he said that “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now” and “I don’t know what the status of it is.” Thanks for letting the world know what the joint chiefs are telling you, Joe. And what a way to go to bat for a fellow Democrat. Another command performance.
Biden’s mention of his upcoming call with Xi—it took place on July 28—suggested that he doesn’t want Congress to get in the way of presidential diplomacy. That’s understandable. The elected branches always compete for foreign-policy influence and prestige. There probably ought to have been closer coordination between the speaker’s office and the White House. But once the visit became the object of China’s vitriol, the only sensible response was to close ranks and defend Pelosi’s right to travel where she pleases, when she pleases.
Why? Because China’s aim isn’t just to stop Pelosi. It wants gradually to isolate Taiwan by coercing the United States into abandoning a longtime ally. It wants to replace the United States as the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific. Giving China what it wants now helps it achieve its goals. If Pelosi can’t visit Taiwan, then surely other U.S. officials will think twice before traveling there. And if Beijing calls the shots for Washington, D.C., why should other regional governments take us seriously?
The Washington Post editorial board is wrong to suggest that Pelosi postpone her visit until “the optimal moment.” There is no optimal moment. There are only moments when we decide to act and take responsibility. Does the Post believe that China would be any less angry at a Pelosi visit six months or a year from now? “Given the temptation for Mr. Xi to divert attention and bolster his own political standing by targeting Taiwan and the United States,” the editors write, “it’s smart not to give him any excuses.” Reading those words, I hear an echo of Barack Obama. As if Xi Jinping needs an excuse to further his evil designs. As if America and Pelosi are the problem, and not the despotic, expansionist, belligerent government in Beijing.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Xi told Biden on Thursday, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. It’s a line Xi has used before. But who is playing with fire here? Pelosi, by following a precedent set by Newt Gingrich a quarter century ago? Or China, by trying to steamroll the speaker of the House? U.S. foreign policy works best when America acts boldly to create facts on the ground favorable to freedom. Which is why I am about to commit to print words I never thought I’d write: Go, Nancy, go!
Obsession with reversal of Trump policies proving disastrous
On 30 September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain joined France and Italy in the Munich Agreement which pledged that these countries would not interfere with Germany’s annexation of the Sudeten section of Czechoslovakia, which was inhabited by ethnic Germans.
This treaty became known as the “Munich Betrayal” because it violated mutual defense treaties signed in 1924 and 1925 by France and Czechoslovakia. Subsequent events showed that this treaty simply allowed Adolph Hitler the additional time he needed to conquer Europe one victim at a time. Eventually, he turned on Britain as well. For those reasons, Neville Chamberlain’s name has become synonymous with “appeaser”, “coward” and “naïve”.
In 2022, Joseph Biden is facing a similar dilemma. Russia and China are both asserting the same claim that Hitler used as an excuse to begin his invasion of most of Europe, namely, the ethnic heritage of the target countries. To date, Biden, like Barack Obama, seems inclined to imitate Chamberlain rather than Churchill.
The irony is that Biden himself has created this dilemma. His predecessor had implemented a set of solutions aimed at avoiding the very problems Biden is now facing. Underlying all of these problems is the Bidens’ lack of understanding that many actions taken in governing the homeland have foreign policy consequences as well. Biden and his cohorts appear to be living in a little bubble.
The present situation in Europe is a case in point. Much to the satisfaction of the radical Left, the new President cancelled the Keystone Pipeline, then the Anwar Pipeline in Alaska, followed by declaring all federal lands and seas off limits to all new oil drilling and pipelines, effectively crippling the energy industry in America and, incidentally, eliminating the USA’s energy independence as well as our ability to export energy products to other countries, especially Europe, Japan and China.
In a spasm of righteousness, he also reversed America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear materials production agreement as well as the other “green planet” agreements of the Obama administration. He also abandoned Israel and Afghanistan. And Germany got to keep the Nord Stream Pipeline. What he seemed to miss was the effect all this would have on Germany, NATO and Russia – with China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan in the wings.
Our adversaries are watching all this. They have also seen the invasion of foreigners through our southern border, the steep inflation of our economy, the deep division of our population, and the paralysis around the COVID 19 pandemic.
They decided to take advantage of all this and make their play for their own dreams of conquering new territory. Russia covets control of Ukraine now, with the rest of the former Soviet empire on its agenda. China, having already broken its treaty with the UK and taken control of Hong Kong, now wants to annex Taiwan on its way to replacing the USA as the dominant power in the Western Pacific. (USA interests are commercial trade relationships rather than territorial – including China.)
So, let’s connect the dots. The most urgent issue at the moment is Russia’s interest in Ukraine. Why is that a concern of the United States? That is a good question. The answer really goes back to 1945.
World War II ended when Nazi Germany found the eastern half of the country occupied by the Soviet Union and the other half by the Allies, led by the United States, which had saved Europe from the Nazis, aided by the UK and France.
The Americans wanted to stop fighting and go home. The Soviets, however, saw no reason not to extend their occupation and they had the army standing by to replace the Germans as the conquerors of the rest of Europe.
Actually, the Allies faced the distinct possibility of that happening if they did in fact go home. To avoid the possibility of the Soviet Union using its army to occupy the rest of Europe after the surrender, US President Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Churchill were able to persuade their other ally, Soviet Leader Josef Stalin, to divide Germany into four zones: USA, Soviet Russia, UK, and France, thus leveraging their power which Stalin still needed to win the war. (That treaty was the controversial Potsdam Agreement.)
When the actual surrender came, then, General Dwight Eisenhower, as Supreme Allied Commander, authorized the Soviet occupation of what came to be called East Germany (for which he was criticized in some quarters).
This caution was further justified in 1948 when the Soviets blockaded Berlin. Only the outstanding performance of President Harry Truman’s US Army Air Force in the Berlin Airlift avoided another war. This incident led to the formation in 1949 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to protect Europe from the Soviet Union.
The ultimate concern of the NATO countries with Ukraine (not a member of NATO – although they want to join) is the same that Chamberlain faced in in 1938 with the Nazis, namely, that Russia will keep conquering one country after another until they control all the European countries – by far the major trading partners of the United States. Already, Russian President Vladimir Putin has added Georgia, Belarus, and Crimea and now he is threatening Ukraine (again). At some point in this scenario, World War III would start. Nevertheless, the objections to US involvement in Ukraine are already starting in America.
The force that stands in the way is NATO. It was formed for this purpose and has been successful for 72 years. The mainstay of this alliance on the European continent has been Germany, the most prosperous nation in Europe. However, Germany has a soft underbelly, namely its lack of sufficient sources of energy to support its population. This has become a critical concern of German authorities in recent years.
The closest source for 40% of the energy Germany needs is the new Nord Stream Pipeline which has been built under the Baltic Sea to link Russian oil directly to Germany. This creates a dependence of Europe’s largest and most prosperous nation on the European continent to the Russian Federation. This dependence gives Russia a potential weapon which can be used at any time to cripple the German economy as well as that of France.
The Trump administration dealt with this threat by succeeding in stopping the construction of the pipeline and substituting American energy for Russian energy, thus diffusing the entire issue. At the same time, President Trump strengthened NATO by requiring member nations to contribute their share of the cost of the Alliance and re-arming Poland and other nations bordering Russia one more time. Putin’s hands were tied by this strategy and the threat of war averted.
Joe Biden doesn’t’ have any of these levers. With childish delight he killed America’s energy industry, so that instead of supplying Europe with LNG, we are now pleading with Putin to sell us more of his supply. We have gone from seller to buyer. Biden has painted himself into a corner.
To add to his inept diplomacy, his administration has openly threatened Russia with an American cyber attack, not realizing apparently that American intelligence is unanimous in estimating that Russian cyber warfare capabilities exceed America’s. Russia is thought to possess EMP (electromagnetic pulse) technology which could cause a nuclear explosion powerful enough to cripple our entire electrical grid – a catastrophic weapon. The Americans have spent little on hardening our electrical grid, and our military spends more time on CRT briefings than on developing an offensive EMP weapon. So, Biden is playing with fire. We can only hope that we don’t get burned.
The bottom line is that there are consequences to every major action of an American president. To ignore these consequences is to disqualify oneself and one’s advisors from office.
Maybe impeachment isn’t such a bad idea after all. . .
Having watched Democrat politicians aspiring to project the appearance of FDR-like progressive reformists into their domestic and foreign policies, a discerning person must necessarily hark back to the well known Bible story about the first couple’s removal from the heavenly paradise. Overwhelmed by the supposed cruelty of their Creator and feeling miserably alone, the Tempter Serpent promised them another way of creating their earthly paradise. Seemingly robbed of any other rational alternative, the mythical Adam and Eve followed the false deity. Tragically for their descendents, this earthly paradise still has not been found. What human history has produced thus far have been a series of undivine and tragic comedies, which have unfailingly ended up in the bottomless black holes of the reincarnated past.
While Presidents Putin and Xi have been busy undermining the domestic stability and international standing of the United States of America, America’s present duo of executive leaders, President Biden as well as Vice President Harris, have been laboring under establishing the perfectly equitable society at home and abroad, in which the pseudo-spiritual triumvirate of racial division, economic decline and energy dependence are the rule and not the exception. In this manner, they and their undemocratic party have presented the American people and the rest of the world with a closed political regime, in which the counterfactual idea of pacifistic-multicultural brotherhood of mankind does not correspond to the domestic and international realities.
Now, the “War in Ukraine” somehow has been linked by President Biden’s idiotic State of the Union Speech with his ruinous Build Back Better domestic political agenda. Rephrasing his essentially failed Marxist program to an equally fallaciously sounding Build a Better America, he blamed his predecessor for all the ills of America. Specifically, he has also blamed former President Trump for the Russian invasion and stated that the United States of America will not undertake any game-changer action to counter the illegal territorial grab by President Putin.
To add insult to injury, he assured the Iranian people that his sympathies lie with them and counterintuitively, he told the Ukranians that as far as he is concerned they do not deserve the same brotherly love as the Iranians do. Never mind that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a terrorist state that has threatened the peace and stability of the greater Middle East since 1979, President Biden agreed to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, to withdraw sanctions on Iranian terror masters as well as missile and WMD proliferators and ignore most of the nuclear safeguards. Moreover, when the deal is signed, and without congressional oversight, the Islamic Republic of Iran will automatically receive $90 billion in sanctions relief. Finally, Iran will receive at least $50-55 billion annually in the coming years from oil and gas sales because of the end of sanctions of its energy sector. In addition to enabling the Mullahcracy to build and acquire new and more sophisticated weapons, Tehran will be in the position to expand geostrategically with the help of Russia and China, threatening America’s allies, such as Israel, the GCC countries and beyond.
The upcoming deal will also entitle Russia and China to label Israel and its allies in the UN as aggressors, if they decide to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear bombs. More importantly, the American delegation in Vienna lacks any coherent strategy. Led by Robert Malley, who is well known for his extremist pro-Iran views, has also surrendered the conduct of negotiations between the White House and Tehran to the Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov by appointing him a “mediator” between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As far as President Biden’s pseudo-foreign policy is concerned, it is an insolvable contradiction between being restricted by the requirements of individual freedom and national liberty on the one hand, and the Marxist destruction of the natural relationships of societies, states as well as alliances under the banner of absolute equality and multiculturalism that, in turn, fatally atomizes the world at large, on the other. Instead of American exceptionalism, President Biden has adopted the Marxist cum Bolshevik idea of international relations, in which the contradictory compromise between state centralism and the romantic but unworkable Slavic notion of the primitive Mir communities coalesce. The right to national sovereignty and free agency in international relations have been replaced by the naked despotism of the rulers’ de jour. Russia’s war on Ukraine and President Putin’s uncompromising inhumanity are the newest examples of President Biden’s anti-factual and antisocial psychopathology.
His responses to Russia’s wholesale invasion of Ukraine have also mirrored his demented mind’s sick ideas that do not correspond to the realities of the raging war. While President Putin has initially played the enlightened and Westernized Russian leader, domestically he has instituted cruel repression. When he gave his now infamous speech at the Munich Security Conference on February 10, 2007, President Putin stated: “NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernization of the Alliance itself, or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust.” Then came an ominous warning: “No one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them,” meaning the United States of America and its allies. Finally, he intoned thus: “I consider the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world…. Russia is a country with a history that spans more than a thousand years and has practically always used the privilege to carry out an independent foreign policy.”
For all practical purposes, President Putin’s speech was a declaration of war mainly on the United States of America. The response of the Obama Administration, in which President Biden was the Vice President, was “reset,” represented by the language handicapped Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose qualifications for the job did not go beyond having been married to a former president. Naturally, the “reset’ was the product of totally incompetent minds. President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton did not grasp that for President Putin the end of the cold war that was preceded by the collapse of the Soviet Union was an unacceptable occurrence, and a monster that must be defeated at any cost.
Driven by hatred and fear of the monster, he has begun a ferocious persecution of all former Soviet republics. Up until the invasion of Ukraine, President Putin’s entire foreign policy seemed to be a perpetual preparation for the decisive military confrontation with the West. On March 16, 2022, addressing his cabinet, President Putin compared the West to Nazi Germany, declaring that they have been banding together against Russia the same way Nazi Germany did in the 1930s. In the same vein he has said that Russians must “protect themselves from the Western fifth column.”
To wit, neither President Obama nor President Biden has understood that President Putin does not aspire to becoming a democratic leader. The republican form of government with its democratic structures and individual liberty are completely foreign to his whole upbringing, professional background and limited intellect. All these were committed to the sphere of influence of the devilish West.
Thus, instead of responding in kind and defining his own red line, President Biden has never understood the significance of the internal psychology of the fall of the Soviet Union within Russia. In spite of the superficial mimicking of certain Western phenomena, Russia has remained despotic and backward, and thus differing radically in her political culture and institutions from the West, and has been separated from Europe by Ukraine. Corresponding to this untenable situation, is the condition of the Russian economy and its finances. Instead of a lengthy analysis, suffice it to say that Russia’s GDP in 2020 fell from $1,687.45 billion to $1,483.50 billion – a drop of 12.09%. Inflation, unemployment and national debt have risen correspondingly. 2021 and 2022 have been even more disastrous.
With the wholesale invasion of Ukraine, Russia will be bankrupt very soon. Thus, sanctions are the correct measures. However, more needs to be done. President Putin must be presented with an ultimatum – withdraw immediately or face the full might of NATO. President Putin must understand that might does not make right under international law. Moreover, no peace without a complete withdrawal from all the territories seized by Russia since 1992 from Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, including Crimea. Finally, complete reparations must be paid by Russia for all the war damages that it caused to those states. To acknowledge these demands is the precondition for Russia’s readmission to the community of nations. Otherwise, the two principles of sovereignty and self-determination would be sacrificed on the altar of Russia’s military despotism.
The same fallacious notion of “equity” is the driving force behind President Biden’s China policy. In his demented mind, the international dominance of the United States of America must be brought down and ultimately depressed for the sake of not frightening the People’s Republic of China, which might render the latter more aggressive. It must be so because historically America has claimed to be exceptional and, therefore, has behaved arrogantly toward the rest of the world. Only through the cooperation of America and China could the world tame anarchy and chaos and permanently avoid a nuclear catastrophe. According to him, passivity and pacifism are the only solutions for America to survive. In reality, however, his impotent foreign policy would result in the total collapse of Western civilization. Weakness would invite aggression and unopposed aggression would lead to regression as well as global decomposition of the smaller states. The end result of such a “progression” would be the end of mankind as the world has known it.
While President Joe Biden and his administration tout what they say are successes as the end of the president’s first year in office looms, the spin from Psaki and others just doesn’t match the reality being experienced by Americans from coast to coast.
To highlight the breadth of the issues caused by Biden policies, the RNC released a video series on Biden’s “12 Days of Crises” to coincide with Christmas and highlight the pain being felt by Americans.
“Crisis, lies, and failure are the hallmarks of Biden’s presidency,” noted RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. “In less than a year under Biden’s watch, there has been a catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, historic price increases, and a crisis at the border.” And that is where Biden’s 12 Days of Crises — as outlined by the RNC — begin, all of which have been covered by Townhall this year.
On the first day of crises Joe Biden gave us a border crisis.
Our own Julio Rosas has reported extensively from the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas and Yuma, Arizona — and several locations in between — showing the Biden administration’s lack of action to stem a record-setting number of illegal border crossings, apprehensions, and “gotaways” in addition to increasing human and drug smuggling operations. When Julio confronted Biden’s DHS secretary about the situation, Alejandro Mayorkas still wouldn’t call the status of America’s southern border a “crisis.” Biden continues to claim that the border is closed, but Julio’s reporting proves it’s just one of Biden’s many unmitigated crises.
On the second day of crises Joe Biden gave us a disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal.
As our loyal readers know, Townhall led the charge warning that what Biden said was going on in Afghanistan was little more than wishful thinking. While the White House claimed there was no diplomatic evacuation taking place in Kabul, Townhall reported that embassy staff were shredding documents and destroying computers. When Biden claimed that the Afghan government’s potential fall to the Taliban was anything but certain, Townhall told the truth Biden surely knew but wouldn’t say. We also warned that Biden’s withdrawal was setting up the largest hostage crisis in U.S. history, and when Biden and his administration lied about how many Americans were left behind, we kept telling the stories of those Biden stranded. Following the Kabul drone strike Biden’s defense officials called a “righteous strike,” Townhall warned that it may have been a botched attack. And it was.
On the third day of crises, Joe Biden gave skyrocketing gas prices to every American.
The pain felt by Americans at the pump is something Biden has also ignored, and his supposed fix of tapping into America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve intended to be used in emergencies like natural disasters or disruptions caused by foreign wars did almost nothing to help the American people. Making things worse, Biden has spent his first year in office turning the United States from an energy independent country to one dependent on foreign supplies. One of his first acts after being sworn in was to kill the Keystone Pipeline, just part of his work to make fossil fuels so expensive that suddenly less-reliable “green” energy seems appealing.
On the fourth day of crises, Joe Biden gave us an unconstitutional vaccine mandate.
After saying that he wouldn’t issue a federal vaccine mandate, Biden — somewhat predictably — went back on his word and levied a requirement on federal employees, federal contractors, and tens of millions of Americans who work for private companies. His mandate was announced as an attempt to distract from his disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and it was so haphazardly put together that it quickly encountered legal challenges from states’ attorneys general and companies who wanted to fight for their employees’ healthcare freedom. And, after many companies implemented Biden’s mandate, a growing number have also reversed the mandate, including Biden’s beloved Amtrak.
On the fifth day of crises, Joe Biden gave Americans a reckless tax and spending spree.
No matter how many times Biden, Psaki, Schumer, and Pelosi claimed that the cost of Biden’s Build Back Better budget was “zero dollars,” it’s just not true. As Townhall covered, the Congressional Budget Office — which Biden used to praise until it no longer served his purpose — confirmed what we’d reported for months: Build Back Better is really a plan to make America’s economy even worse.
On the sixth day of crises, Joe Biden put parents and students last.
One needs to look no further than Biden’s relationship with teacher unions to see he doesn’t value students or their families. School closures and remote learning? No problem for President Biden. Mask mandates for young children? It’s necessary. Terry McAuliffe thinks parents shouldn’t have a role in their kids’ education? Full endorsement from Biden. And don’t forget Biden’s Department of Justice took the National School Boards Association’s lead and directed the FBI to go after parents who are speaking up and demanding accountability from their school boards.
On the seventh day of crises, Joe Biden gave himself another vacation in Delaware.
It wasn’t a secret when he took office that Joe Biden loves Delaware. Almost more than he loves ice cream cones and Amtrak. What Americans may not have counted on was just how much time he would spend there, even amid some of his other crises. Perhaps most notably, his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, during which Biden would return to the White House from the beach in Delaware to give a speech and then immediately get back on Marine One to go back to Delaware.
On the eighth day of crises, Joe Biden gave all Americans rising prices.
It seems as though every month brings a new record-high for inflation numbers under President Biden. At first, he said it was transitory, then members of his own administration killed that theory, but Biden still isn’t taking any action to alleviate the pressure. Prices on basically everything, from gas to grocery and utility bills, continue to rise. And while Biden keeps trying to tout wage growth as proof that his economic policy is helping Americans, he conveniently neglects to mention that inflation has wiped out any gains in wages. In fact in months such as October, the impact of Biden’s agenda meant that Americans actually saw real wages decrease by 0.5 percent.
On the ninth day of crises, Joe Biden created a nationwide supply chain crisis.
Here’s to hoping all your Christmas and holiday shopping happened without incident, but if you’re waiting for some goods on a ship from Asia, your gift might still be floating in the boat parking lot off the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, or sitting in a container awaiting transport. Shortages caused rations on certain Thanksgiving meal items at grocery chains and, according to Biden’s statement earlier in the holiday season, Santa was the only one who could guarantee the tree is surrounded by gifts on Christmas morning.
On the tenth day of crises, Joe Biden put China first.
China, one of Biden’s first forays into foreign policy as president, went poorly from the start. Despite signing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law on Thursday, the Biden administration was hesitant to support the legislation and reports suggested that the White House was urging a delay on the bill. And don’t forget how often Biden and his administration have dismissed concerns about China’s rule in the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.
On the eleventh day of crises, Joe Biden did nothing to address crime surges across the country.
In case there wasn’t already enough data to prove that America is getting less safe under President Biden, this week’s armed carjackings of an Illinois state Senator and member of the U.S. House Representatives should send a message to Biden and other Democrats that their defund-the-police agenda is endangering lives across the country. Homicides, carjackings, brazen smash-and-grab robberies, and other crime continue to hit records not seen in decades, but yet again Biden won’t take action
On the twelfth day of crises, Joe Biden’s approval rating plummeted lower and lower after each crisis.
So yes, there’s a lot of bad caused by the Biden administration, but within that is a silver line emerging for Republicans ahead of the midterms: Biden’s tanking favorability means the GOP’s fortunes are rising when voters across the country have — many for the first time since 2020 — a chance to register their opinion of Joe Biden at the ballot box. Things have gotten so bad that the White House is now frantically announcing new Biden pets in an attempt to change the narrative.
Looking to the year ahead, RNC Chairwoman McDaniel pledged to “continue to hold Biden and Democrats accountable for their failed policies and refusal to take responsibility” and predicted that “voters will soundly reject Biden and his failures, and we look forward to taking back the House and Senate in 2022.”
The Biden-Xi summit revealed only the irreconcilable differences between Washington and Beijing
As recently as a week ago, there was talk that Monday night’s virtual summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping was an opportunity to “reset” the US-China relationship. By the time the two leaders sat down in front of their video screens, the summit had been downgraded to a “meeting” and the White House made clear that little concrete agreement, and no breakthrough, was to be expected.
The meeting lived down to expectations, uneasily combining a more sober and realistic US assessment of the parlous state of bilateral ties with what seems a return to a pre-2017 model of surface bonhomie and references to the “the long-term work that we need to do together,” according to a senior US official. Despite the assurances that Biden wants meaningful and substantive discussions, from Taiwan to AI to hypersonic missiles, the flashpoints between Beijing and Washington continue to grow with little indication that the conflictual trajectory can be altered. The challenge facing Biden and his team is how to deliver on their stated goal of “outperforming” the Chinese while preventing an open clash between the two.
Beyond Xi ironically calling Biden his “old friend,” given Biden’s previous assertion that they are not, the three-and-a-half hour meeting did little to reduce any tension between Washington and Beijing. The sparse readout from the White House instead revealed two sides with largely irreconcilable differences over everything from Taiwan to trade. As a senior administration official noted just before the meeting, the administration is “not trying to change China through bilateral engagement [because] we don’t think that’s realistic.” Xi’s own rhetoric makes clear that the CCP sees itself in a continuous struggle with America and the liberal West, and that not only rejects, but seeks to undermine liberal norms abroad.
Biden and his team seem to be embracing the reality that the days of cooperative engagement with China are long gone. The mantra now is “managing the competition” and installing “common sense guardrails” to avoid armed conflict. Given Beijing’s repeated refusal to discuss crisis management or confidence building measures to improve maritime security, or to engage in discussion over nuclear weapons, calling for guardrails appears to be little more than wishful thinking.
More importantly, one must compete in a competition, and after Monday’s videoconference and contentious, if not failed meetings between administration officials and Chinese in Alaska and Beijing, the administration must come up with a realistic plan of not simply holding the line, but actually advancing American interests. That starts with a serious examination of the greatest risks in the US-China relationship, and honestly assessing what the US can and will do about them.
At the top of the list is Taiwan, where it seems the height of folly for Beijing to abandon its policy of long-term patience and instead risk an armed conflict with Taipei and Washington. Yet, Xi warned Biden yet again over increased US support for Taiwan. Beijing also is not willing to sit by and watch as other nations in Asia and around the globe pledge support for Taipei, thereby raising the costs of any potential Chinese intervention. Of particular concern to the CCP is Japan’s seeming willingness to get involved in a Taiwan crisis. For Biden, he must decide how far to push Beijing on Taiwan and whether he will seriously risk war with the world’s second largest military.
On AI, hypersonics, 5G and the like, Biden needs to come up with a serious plan to ensure American and allied industrial and technological competitiveness over the next generation. Here, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s inclusion of the US Innovation and Competition Act in the annual defense bill, is a step in the right direction, and far better than the pork-laden $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that Biden signed just before his meeting with Xi (none of which should benefit Chinese construction companies).
Biden’s new rhetorical realism is welcome, and he is right to focus on developing American domestic strength. Yet he, and those leaders who come after him, must embrace the uncomfortable reality that Beijing and Washington are not merely competing, but are in an increasingly adversarial relationship, as acknowledged recently by CIA director Bill Burns. Beijing aims at neutralizing the US position in Asia, weakening countries it considers adversaries, dominating the global economy so as to add further to Chinese wealth, and ensuring the survival of its authoritarian, Leninist model of control inside China.
American policymakers are just beginning to break a half-century habit of seeing “win-win” outcomes (as the Chinese would put it) from US-China ties. Avoiding self-delusion is hard enough, but the real work is just beginning. Monday’s Biden-Xi meeting will soon be forgotten as tensions once again rise. The question is whether America has a serious plan to meet the most critical test of its abilities since the 1940s, and possibly since the 1860s.
In December 1949, Chiang Kai-shek moved the capitol of the Republic of China (ROC) to Taipei. He intended the relocation to be temporary. He had already moved his government multiple times: when the Empire of Japan invaded China, when World War II ended, and again when Mao Zedong’s Communist insurgents took the upper hand in the Chinese Civil War.
To Chiang’s eyes, Taiwan was the perfect place to refit his tattered forces and prepare them for the long struggle ahead to defeat the Communists. The main island was protected by dozens of tiny island citadels, many just off the mainland coast, and surrounded by famously rough waters. While Chiang’s army had sustained crushing battlefield defeats and mass defections, he believed his superior navy and air force would make Taiwan an impregnable fortress.
The events that followed presented successive U.S. presidents with some of the most consequential foreign policy questions ever confronted by America’s leaders. During the decades since 1949, there have been several incidents that tested whether or not Washington was willing to confront the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and support Taiwan. If past is prologue, how the United States responded to previous crises might say something important about what it will do in the future. So, what does the historical record say? What might we expect to see if China attacks Taiwan in the 2020s or beyond?
The Korean War
On January 12, 1950, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave a speech in which he suggested that America no longer intended to defend its erstwhile allies the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Republic of China (Taiwan). According to Acheson, those governments were outside of America’s defensive perimeter in Asia. His speech encouraged the newly established People’s Republic of China (PRC) to accelerate plans to invade Taiwan. But before Mao Zedong and his generals could act, their North Korean ally Kim Il-sung launched an invasion of South Korea.
On learning of the attack, President Harry Truman decided that the U.S. would defend both Korea and Taiwan, and ordered the U.S. Navy to forestall the CCP from attacking the ROC’s last redoubt. On June 29, 1950, an American aircraft carrier, heavy cruiser, and eight destroyers sailed into the Taiwan Strait to conduct a show of force within visual range of Communist forces arrayed along the mainland coast. Soon thereafter, armed American seaplanes were stationed on the Penghu Islands and began to search for any hostile movements toward Taiwan.
To further enhance its early-warning picture, the U.S. sent submarines to monitor Chinese ports across from Taiwan, areas where enemy vessels were expected to marshal if an invasion was imminent. In addition, four American destroyers were stationed in Taiwan. Their mission was to patrol near the coast of China, with at least two warships watching around the clock for signs of a pending amphibious assault. The Taiwan Patrol Force, as the mini-surveillance fleet became known, operated continuously for nearly three decades to come.
Soon thereafter, the U.S. established a defense command in Taipei and sent a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) to Taiwan under the command of a two-star general. This organization was tasked with providing training, logistics, and weapons to the ROC military in order to develop it into a modern fighting force. By 1955, there were tens of thousands of American troops stationed in Taiwan, including over two thousand military advisors, making MAAG the largest of the U.S. advisory groups then deployed around the world. In the following years, MAAG transformed the ROC military into one of Asia’s most capable fighting forces.
The 1954–1955 Taiwan Strait Crisis
In August 1954, the Chinese Communists launched a string of operations against ROC forces along the mainland coast. Mao and his top lieutenants judged that by attacking the offshore islands they could drive Washington and Taipei apart and set the stage for a final invasion of Taiwan. They began by shelling Kinmen and Matsu, island groups located just off the coast of Fujian Province. Not long after, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launched air and sea raids on the Dachens, a group of islands 200 miles north of Taiwan, near Taizhou in China’s Zhejiang Province.
In November 1954, the PLA encircled Yijiangshan, a ROC island base located at the extreme northern flank of the Dachens. Using modern equipment and tactics from the Soviet Union, the PLA carried out a successful invasion operation, taking the island on January 18, 1955. In response, the U.S. Navy steamed into the area with 70 ships, including seven aircraft carriers. The Americans then launched Operation King Kong, the evacuation of the Dachens. U.S. Marines assisted ROC forces to safely move some 15,000 civilians, 11,000 troops, 125 vehicles, and 165 artillery pieces back to Taiwan with no casualties.
On March 3, 1955, Washington formally cemented a mutual defense treaty with Taipei. President Dwight Eisenhower also received permission from Congress to exercise special powers in the defense of Taiwan, granted by the Formosa Resolution. In May 1955, the PLA stopped shelling Kinmen, and, three months later, the CCP released 11 captured American airmen. The 1954-1955 Taiwan Strait Crisis was over, but the standoff continued.
The 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis
On August 23, 1958, the PLA launched a surprise attack on Kinmen, showering the island group with tens of thousands of shells as a prelude to planned amphibious landings. Beijing sought to test the resolve of the Americans, seeing if the seizure of Kinmen and the threat of war could break the U.S.–ROC alliance apart and demoralize Taiwan. The plan failed almost immediately. ROC military engineers had tunneled deep into Kinmen’s granite, carving out subterranean bunkers and strongholds that allowed the defenders to weather the shelling with few casualties. The PLA made an amphibious assault on the nearby island of Tung Ting and was repulsed. To the north, Communist units launched artillery strikes against the Matsu Islands. But those were just as ineffectual.
The U.S. sent in four aircraft carriers, along with a large number of cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and amphibious ships. The American fleet was equipped with low-yield atom bombs, designed to stop a potential human-wave assault on the islands, a PLA tactic previously seen in Korea. After torpedo boats and artillery began to target ROC Navy ships resupplying Kinmen, the U.S. Navy began escorting the convoys from Taiwan with cruisers and destroyers. On September 18, 1958, American artillery guns were rolled ashore Kinmen, which were capable of firing tactical nuclear shells that could incinerate any invader (the shells were kept aboard U.S. Navy ships located nearby). The colossal guns also fired conventional rounds that increased the garrison’s firepower and morale.
During the crisis, ROC Air Force pilots used new Super Sabre jets and Sidewinder missiles to engage PLA MiG-17s in air-to-air combat. The results were decisive: ROCAF pilots achieved 33 enemy kills in return for the loss of four of their own. On October 6, Beijing announced a cease-fire under pressure from its Soviet allies, who feared the fighting could escalate and go nuclear. The 1958 Crisis was over and Taiwan’s offshore island bases remained undefeated.
The 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis
In the early 1990s, Taiwan began peacefully transitioning to a democracy. With the Cold War over, it seemed hopeful that the U.S. and other nations would recognize Taiwan as a legitimate, independent country. Taiwan’s president, Lee Teng-hui, publicly signaled that, in his view, the Chinese Civil War was over; Taiwan was now the ROC, the ROC was Taiwan, and his country would no longer claim sovereignty over territory controlled by the authorities in Beijing.
In June 1995, President Lee returned to his alma mater, Cornell University, to announce Taiwan’s plans to hold free and fair elections. The CCP responded by conducting a series of ballistic missile tests, firing rockets into the waters north of Taiwan. In August, the PLA moved a large number of troops to known invasion staging areas, conducted naval exercises, and carried out further missile firings. That November, the Chinese military staged an amphibious assault drill. In March 1996, just before the elections, the PLA fired more ballistic missiles into waters directly off Taiwan’s two largest ports, and implicitly threatened to turn a planned exercise into a real invasion operation.
The U.S. played an important role throughout the crisis. President Bill Clinton responded to Beijing’s provocations by sending two carrier battle groups to waters near Taiwan. The American demonstration succeeded: China backed down, and Taiwan’s elections went ahead as planned. President Lee won the elections with a decisive margin, and the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis ended on a positive note. Nonetheless, Taiwan remained diplomatically isolated and has slowly become more vulnerable over time, a trend that continues unabated to present day.
Implications for the Future
While all historical analogies are imperfect, precedents previously set could provide American leaders with a guide in subsequent similar circumstances. The record of past policy decisions made by Washington demonstrates that, when tested, American presidents have always viewed it in their nation’s interest to come to Taiwan’s defense, even amid situations that could have escalated to the level of nuclear warfare. In 1958, for example, Washington was resolved to defend Taiwan against invasion even if that required the use of battlefield atomic weapons—and even if such usage invited nuclear retaliation from the Soviet Union, which was then closely aligned with Beijing.
Perhaps even more notable were those American leadership decisions undertaken in the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. In that instance, the U.S. deployed aircraft carrier battle groups to waters near Taiwan in spite of the fact that the CCP had recently detonated two nuclear warheads at a test site; had carried out multiple tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles; and, in backchannel conversations, had implicitly threatened Los Angeles with nuclear attack. The resolve displayed by Washington in 1996 might be considered particularly remarkable given that the U.S. no longer diplomatically recognized Taiwan’s government at the time.
To date, there is no known case in which an American president failed to send forces to support the defense of Taiwan in response to a credible CCP threat. If this track record is indicative of future performance, the years ahead are likely to see the U.S. government continually improve its operational readiness to defend Taiwan in accordance with the evolving threat picture. In times of crisis, American leaders will likely send overwhelming national resources to the Taiwan Strait area and make their commitments to Taiwan’s defense more explicit in hopes of convincing the PRC to deescalate tensions.
Even barring a major political-military crisis, it seems probable that the years ahead will see the U.S. government improve its early-warning intelligence via regular ship, submarine, and aircraft patrols of the Taiwan Strait; more frequent overhead passes of space and near-space platforms; and expanded intelligence sharing arrangements with the Taiwanese security services. It also seems probable that the U.S. will make significant enhancements to its diplomatic, trade, intelligence, and military presence in Taiwan.
It remains an open question whether a Taiwan Patrol Force and MAAG-like organization will be reestablished—let alone an official country-to-country relationship and defensive alliance. But each could be considered past examples of political and military initiatives that, when combined, were successful in helping to deter CCP aggression. Herein we might find positive lessons for the future.
The Biden administration came into office with the hope of reentering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the nuclear deal with Iran—and thereby reduce tensions in the Middle East, an area of the world to which it would rather pay less attention. President Joe Biden has stated that the United States would reenter the JCPOA provided Iran comes back into compliance with its terms, but Iranian leaders have insisted on the lifting of U.S. economic sanctions first. Furthermore, Biden has indicated his desire for the agreement to address other areas, such as the Iranian ballistic missile program. The newly elected Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, a protégé of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has stated that areas not covered by the original JCPOA are off the table. Negotiations in Vienna among Iran and China, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain (with the United States on the margins) have to date failed to reach an agreement.
The background to the current impasse is complicated. On July 14, 2015, the Obama administration, along with China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom, signed the JCPOA limiting Iran’s ability to process fissile material. The United Nations Security Council endorsed the agreement six days later. The nuclear deal, the culmination of twenty months of negotiations, placed significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program for a period of fifteen years. In return the international community lifted economic sanctions, which had crippled Iran’s domestic economy. The nuclear deal was touted as the signature foreign policy achievement of Barack Obama’s presidential tenure.
The Iranian nuclear program began in the late-1950s under the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1970 Iran signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in return for assistance under the U.S. “Atoms for Peace” program. The Iranian nuclear program went into abeyance after the 1979 revolution, with a number of nuclear scientists fleeing the country. After the disastrous eight-year war with Iraq concluded in 1988, Iran resumed nuclear research with the assistance of China, Pakistan, and Russia. A 2003 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report concluded that Iran had violated the NPT, leading to negotiations with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany (EU 3). The resulting Paris agreement in November 2004 led to Iran’s suspension of nuclear enrichment and conversion.
The election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to the collapse of the Paris agreement. In February 2006, Iran resumed enrichment activities at Natanz. Four months later, the United States, Russia, and China joined the EU 3 to form the P5+1, which worked to limit Iran’s enrichment capabilities. The first of six United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutionsaddressing Iran’s violation of the NPT passed in July 2006. The UNSC called on Iran to cease nuclear enrichment and imposed economic sanctions to pressure the Iranian government to comply with its resolutions.
Iran failed to comply with the resolutions. In September 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama revealed intelligence indicating the existence of an underground enrichment facility in Fordow, near the religious center of Qom. IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei called for the lifting of sanctions in return for Iran’s suspension of enrichment, to no avail. The Green Movement in the summer of 2009 had shaken Ahmadinejad’s government, and his hardline crackdown on civilian protesters signaled its unwillingness to compromise with perceived enemies, foreign or domestic. The United States and Israel then deployed the Stuxnet computer worm, which interrupted the operation of centrifuges at Natanz, ultimately destroying approximately a thousand of the machines.
The election of a new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, in June 2013 broke the diplomatic logjam. Three days after his inauguration in August, Rouhani publicly called for a resumption of negotiations with the P5+1. The next month Rouhani spoke by telephone with Obama, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The first high-level contacts between the United States and Iran since the Iranian revolution of 1979 signaled the diplomatic possibilities surrounding the nuclear file. The Obama administration was concerned that absent an agreement, Iran could develop a nuclear weapon within a matter of months if it chose to do so. This danger could lead to a preemptive strike by Israel, or to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Saudi Arabia, Iran’s strategic competitor in the Middle East.
Negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva led to the signing on November 24, 2013, of a Joint Plan of Action, an interim agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities in return for the partial lifting of economic sanctions while negotiations sought a more permanent agreement. That agreement, the JCPOA, was finally inked on July 14, 2015. At its core, the agreement would extend the “breakout time”—the amount of time required for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon—to more than twelve months.
Specifics of the JCPOA included a ten-year cap on the number of operational centrifuges (from more than 20,000 to just over 6,000), a fifteen-year uranium enrichment cap of 3.67 percent (nuclear weapons require concentrations in excess of 90 percent), a fifteen-year cap on the stockpile of enriched uranium (from 10,000 to just 300 kilograms), redesign of the Arak heavy water reactor for peaceful nuclear research, a twenty-year period of continuous IAEA inspection of centrifuge production facilities, the termination of all UN Security Council Resolutions regarding the Iranian nuclear program, the cessation of U.S. and EU sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors, and the resumption of economic commerce including the sale of passenger aircraft and automobiles to Iran. Additionally, the United States and the EU released approximately $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets. U.S. sanctions on Iran targeting human rights, ballistic missiles, and terrorism remained unaffected by the agreement.
The Obama administration signed the JCPOA but refrained from submitting it to the Senate for ratification. This gave the agreement the force of an executive order, which could be quickly undone by a future Republican president. If President Obama desired a lasting foreign policy achievement, this was a fatal error.
Republican lawmakers and Israeli government officials immediately attacked the agreement as insufficient to permanently halt Iran’s nuclear aspirations. While negotiations were in progress, on March 3, 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Washington and spoke to a joint session of Congress, decrying the agreement as insufficient to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions. Without deeper and permanent concessions, Iran could follow North Korea into the club of nuclear-armed nations. Any deal should also be contingent on the cessation of Iran’s bad behavior in the Middle East: its support for proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen; its sponsorship of terrorism, and its public calls for the destruction of Israel.
The unspoken hope by the Obama administration was that the Iranian regime would moderate by the time the restrictions in the nuclear deal lifted. This was a significant miscalculation. Following the signing of the JCPOA, Iran abided by its restrictions but used the resources freed up by the deal to fund proxy groups across the Middle East, from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria to Houthis in Yemen to various military groups in Iraq. The revolutionary generation of 1979 was not disappearing—it was metastasizing. The quixotic hope for a more moderate Iranian government never came to pass, and probably will not happen provided the government remains in the hands of an all-powerful religious leader with no incentive to compromise.
The Trump administration entered office with a more clear-eyed vision of the sources of Iranian misconduct. The president lambasted the JCPOA as seriously flawed, deciding to withdraw from the agreement, and reimpose U.S. economic sanctions on May 8, 2018. The other members of the P5+1 remained in the agreement, but without access to the U.S. banking system or the ability to export large amounts of oil, Iran’s economy—80 percent of its exports linked to oil—tanked. The Trump administration enacted a policy of “maximum pressure,” attempting to force Iran to agree to deeper and more permanent cuts in its nuclear program, limitations on its ballistic missile program, and withdrawal of support for proxy and terrorist groups in the region.
Iran retaliated by instituting a policy of “maximum resistance.” Iranian forces and proxy groups attacked U.S. allies and interests in the Middle East, including strikes on Saudi oil facilities, interdiction of tanker traffic in the Gulf, proxy attacks on U.S. service personnel in Iraq, and the downing of a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz. The Trump administration responded on January 3, 2020, by killing Iranian Revolutionary Guards Qods Force commander Major General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, was also killed; Iraqi paramilitary groups continue to target U.S. forces in Iraq to this day to exact revenge. Iran also walked back portions of the JCPOA: doubling the number of centrifuges in operation, enriching uranium to 5 percent purity, and ending on-site inspections by the IAEA.
Despite the failure of the maximum pressure campaign to change Iranian behavior or induce it to renegotiate the JCPOA, the Biden administration would be ill-advised to reenter the agreement without exacting further concessions from Iran. Some of the restrictions of the current JCPOA expire in just four years, without a change in Iranian behavior or ambitions in sight. Time is on the side of the United States; Iran needs an agreement to restore its economic fortunes far more than the Biden administration needs a foreign policy achievement. The administration should remain firm and demand a revised and stronger agreement. In the best of all worlds, a new and stronger JCPOA could be presented to the Senate for ratification, giving it more permanence. Senate ratification would be a heavy lift in the current domestic political environment but provided the Biden administration gives due credit to Trump’s policy of maximum pressure, bi-partisan backing of a treaty might be possible. A treaty capable of Senate ratification will require much deeper Iranian concessions than are currently on the table, but such is the price Iran must pay to reach an agreement with the Great Satan that can withstand a change in presidential administrations.
By The Hill•
Lebanon is facing a dangerous combination of accelerating crises — economic, political and societal. Although Lebanon is a small country, important issues for U.S. national interest and geo-strategy are at stake. Yet, currently, American Middle East foreign policy is devoted to the single obsession of the Iran negotiations, leaving little oxygen for other matters. This is a mistake. The Biden administration should develop a more nuanced engagement with the region and especially a robust response to Lebanon’s pending collapse.
The Lebanese currency has lost close to 90 percent of its value, pushing much of the country below the poverty line, with many families relying on remittances from relatives abroad. Yet even those lifelines cannot make up for the shortages in commodities: gasoline, medications and food are all in short supply. Add to this a crumbling infrastructure that can supply electricity for only a few hours every day.
Meanwhile, a political stalemate blocks the formation of an effective government that could institute reforms that might alleviate some of the problems. Instead, the political class, largely viewed as incorrigibly corrupt, is making no effort to meet the needs of the public. One bright light is the emergence of vibrant oppositional forces. But they remain fragmented, and elections will not take place until next year.
Leadership change may therefore be too far in the future to rescue the crumbling institutions that once enjoyed a strong international reputation, especially Lebanese universities and hospitals. Now the talented personnel on which those institutions depend are trying to leave for better paying jobs abroad. After the troubled decades of civil war and occupations, after the devastation of COVID-19 and the massive destruction of the explosion in the port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, this already fragile country faces even greater disorder.
Given the extent of the suffering, there is every reason to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, as the United States is already doing. The U.S. also provides important training support to the Lebanese armed forces, although the scope of that mission has been shrinking. Otherwise, American engagement is quite limited. Washington should do more and put Lebanon higher on the list of foreign policy priorities for four reasons
1) Grand Strategy: Lebanon presents a clear case of the deleterious consequences of a pivot away from the region, given the reality of great power competition. If the U.S. does not provide leadership, it opens the door for other powers, notably Russia. Its naval repair facility in Tartus, Syria, is less than a 40-mile drive from the Lebanese port of Tripoli, which could be ripe for Moscow’s taking. Lebanon could become one more stepping-stone for Russia’s advance in the Middle East, unless the U.S. reasserts its role there.
2) Terrorism: The discrepancy between the degradation of living conditions in Lebanon and the immobility of the political class can lead to social unrest, a breeding ground for the sort of Islamist terrorism that has plagued the larger region. One should not discount the possibility of a resurgence of ISIS or intentional spillover effects from the Syrian civil war, which led to bombings in Beirut and Tripoli only eight years ago. The more such violence proliferates, the greater the chance that terror incubated in the region can spread beyond it, including to the U.S.
3) Refugees: Unless the Lebanese crises are addressed, the resulting social disorder is likely to produce a new wave of refugees, fleeing the ravages of a collapsed economy or, in a worst-case scenario, the resurgence of sectarian conflict. The Assad regime in Syria is not above provoking violence in Lebanon in order to achieve the sort of demographic reengineering it has undertaken at home, where it has forced targeted populations to flee, a cynical form of ethnic cleansing. The U.S. should be concerned about the destabilizing effects of renewed refugee flows into allies such as Jordan and Turkey, already hosting large refugee populations, or into the European Union, where the 2015 refugee wave continues to have disruptive political repercussions.
4) Iran: A collapse of the Lebanese state can only benefit Iran and its most anti-American political forces. Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, might see an opportunity to seize power directly or, more strategically, it might prefer to consolidate its control in its strongholds and let the rest of the country dissipate, precisely in order to demonstrate the weakness of western democracy. In either case, Tehran would win, unless the U.S. engages in strategic ways to address Lebanon’s dilemmas.
Arguments that it is in the U.S. national interest to engage more strongly in Lebanon run counter to current foreign policy predispositions in Washington. A prevailing orientation deprioritizes the Middle East in general in order to shift attention to the Indo-Pacific. But that viewpoint does not need to lead to a full-scale abandoning of the Middle East that hands the region over to America’s great power adversaries.
In addition, the Biden administration views the region primarily in terms of Iran and a renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Many Lebanese understand this and correctly fear that Hezbollah will benefit from a windfall when the U.S. lifts sanctions on Iran. There is no indication that the U.S. negotiation team is seriously demanding a termination of Iran’s regional destabilization campaigns, including its support for Hezbollah. Yet getting to a new deal with Tehran without such a constraint basically means appeasing Iran by trading away Lebanese sovereignty.
American national interest, including American values, requires a different path: Instead of misusing Lebanon as an accommodation to Tehran, the U.S. should make a stand in Lebanon, with policies designed to renew its democracy (and purge its corruption) and to protect its sovereignty by diminishing Hezbollah, as first steps toward pushing back against Iran’s broader expansionist ambitions.
Lebanon is a small country, but the current crisis has outsized geo-strategic implications for the U.S.
Engage Taiwan, boycott the 2022 Olympics, and impose a carbon tariff
The debate over the origins of the coronavirus—did it come from a wet market in Wuhan or from the virology lab nearby—has exposed the bias of media and technology companies and the potential danger of so-called gain of function research. But it also has led to something of an intellectual cul-de-sac. Barring a high-level defection from the Chinese Communist Party, we are unlikely ever to learn the answer. And even if we did have conclusive evidence one way or another, we still would have to decide what to do about it. The real question isn’t whether the pandemic is China’s fault. It’s whether China will pay a price for the catastrophic damage it caused the world.
Wherever the virus came from, we know that the Chinese government lied about it for weeks. Dr. Ai Fen shared information about a novel coronavirus with her colleagues on December 30, 2019. The next day, as Lawrence Wright recounts in The Plague Year, China removed social media posts that mentioned “unknown Wuhan pneumonia” or “Wuhan Seafood Market.” Dr. Li Wenliang, who warned the public that the virus could be transmitted from human to human, was arrested and forced to deliver a televised confession. He died of COVID-19 on February 6, 2020.
Beijing prevaricated for a month while the deadly pandemic spread. China did not allow the World Health Organization to visit Wuhan until January 20, 2020. The same day, one of China’s top doctors finally admitted the obvious: COVID-19 is a communicable disease. By the time the Communist leadership took action, it was too late. On January 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of coronavirus in America. China did not quarantine Wuhan until January 22. “By that time,” according to Wright, “nearly half the population of Wuhan had already left the city for Chinese New Year.”
The dishonesty and incompetence of the Chinese Communist Party turned a national crisis into a global one. A March 2020 study estimated that cases might have been reduced by anywhere from 66 percent to 95 percent if Chinese authorities had acted earlier. Why was Beijing slow to move? Because bureaucratic collectivist societies such as Communist China are especially prone to delays and coverups as underlings attempt to avoid punishment from above. The same powers of draconian coercion that China used to lock down its population inspired fear among the midlevel and regional officials who allowed the virus to leave China in the first place. The problem wasn’t scientific. It was political. And punishment is deserved.
What to do? Writing in the Washington Post, Mike Pompeo and Scooter Libby call on the “leading democracies” to “act together,” leveraging “their great economic power” to “persuade China to curb its dangerous viral research activities, cooperate with the investigation of the coronavirus’s origins, and, over time, pay some measure of the pandemic’s damages to other nations.” It’s a worthy strategy with a potentially fatal flaw: The other democracies might put economics ahead of accountability.
Another proposal in Congress would strip China of its sovereign immunity and make it liable for damages in U.S. courts. That plan would also leave American foreign policy dependent on outside actors—in this case, judges. And millions of potential claimants attempting to seize Chinese assets in the United States could make for a mess.
China never will volunteer to open its labs. Nor will it compensate either nations or individuals for the havoc it unleashed. Costs must be imposed that Beijing cannot avoid.
I have three suggestions. Each is more controversial than the last. But all of them would ensure that China paid some price for its lax hygiene and sanitation standards, loosey-goosey research protocols, and reckless attitude toward human freedom and human life.
Engage Taiwan. To its credit, the Biden administration has continued the stepped-up engagement with Taiwan that began under President Trump. In April, Biden sent an unofficial delegation to the island that included his close friend Chris Dodd. Most recently, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai raised the prospect of new trade talks in a conversation with her Taiwanese counterpart. This pattern of contacts bothers mainland China to no end.
Keep it up. But also do more to train and equip Taiwanese military forces, as my American Enterprise Institute colleagues Gary Schmitt and Michael Mazza suggested last year in The Dispatch. Taiwan is a reminder that Chinese people can be free and that open societies can deal effectively with pandemics. The very existence of Chinese democracy in Taiwan is a threat to the legitimacy of Communist rule in the mainland. It’s an obstacle to Beijing’s ambitions in the Pacific. Taiwan’s defense is imperative.
Boycott the Olympics. One day before he left office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Chinese Communist Party “has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.” Here, too, the Biden administration has not deviated from its predecessor’s course. The United States openly accuses its arch-rival of crimes against humanity. This is a pretty big deal, is it not?
Well, start acting like it. Why the participation of U.S. officials in the Beijing Olympics next year is even up for debate is a mystery. The White House has said that it is not exploring a boycott. That needs to change. On June 7 a bipartisan resolution was introduced in Congress demanding that the International Olympic Committee explore other venues. A declaration that no U.S. government personnel will participate because of China’s actions at home and abroad would embarrass Beijing. It would encourage other democracies to do the same. China deserves neither the honor of nor the revenue from the participation of U.S. officials. Let the athletes compete. But cheer them on from home.
Impose a carbon tariff. President Biden has also maintained the tariffs that President Trump levied against Chinese goods. Economist Irwin Stelzer of the Hudson Institute has a better plan. He would replace these tariffs with a border tax on the carbon content of Chinese exports. The strategy has appeal for environmentalists and China hawks alike. Everyone knows that China is the world’s largest emitter. Everyone knows that China’s promise of greenhouse gas reduction is worthless. Beijing won’t do anything that jeopardizes the economic growth on which it bases its claim to rule.
“In effect,” writes Stelzer, “by selling us ‘dirty’ products, China is adding to the competitive advantage it has from selling us stuff made by slave and other laborers paid wages with which we cannot decently compete, around $2 per hour in Beijing.” The EU already is at work on what it calls a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism” on Chinese exports. By pushing for a carbon tariff of its own, the Biden administration would please not only hawks and greens, but also the European allies whose opinion it values so highly.
The problem with a “carbon border adjustment mechanism,” of course, is that the process of calculating a good’s carbon content might turn out to be overly complicated, bureaucratic, and subject to politicization. I’m not in the habit of taking economic advice from Brussels. But these problems must be weighed against the justice and potential benefits of such a tax. And the additional cost could be rebated to low-income U.S. consumers along the lines that Senator Tom Cotton proposed in a slightly different context in 2019.
In the end, whether or not the United States adopts a tax on Chinese carbon is less important than moving the debate from the pandemic’s origins to the pandemic’s endgame. The despotic regime whose malign indifference killed so many and cost so much cannot be allowed to pretend that nothing happened. We can hold China responsible. And we can make China pay.
Three recent events, two of them from the past week, haven’t gotten the news coverage they deserve as the Biden administration desperately pursues a rapprochement with Iran.
The first is the U.S. Navy’s seizure over the weekend of a significant weapons shipment. It contained “dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of PKM machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades launchers … [and] advanced optical sights,” the Fifth Fleet said in a statement.
The cache was destined for Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, whom the Biden administration recently delisted as a terrorist organization. No serious person believes the arms didn’t originate in Iran, though for obviously political reasons the United States Navy prefers not to state the obvious.
In neighboring Iraq, a prominent Iraqi political activist and critic of Iranian influence in his country, particularly the arming and funding of pro-Tehran militias, was gunned down—the latest in a series of Iran critics to turn up dead. The early reporting suggests an Iranian militia is to blame.
Finally, there is the escalating security situation in the Persian Gulf. After several years of tranquility along one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, Iran has returned to harassing American ships. In early April, one IRGC Navy boat harassed U.S. Navy and Coast Guard boats; weeks later, three IRGC boats got so close that the United States fired warning shots for the first time in years. Thirteen IRGC armed speedboats harassed U.S. ships on Monday again forcing them to fire warning shots.
In response, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said yesterday that “harassment by the IRGC Navy is not a new phenomenon.” That depends on the definition of the word “new”: This round of antagonistic behavior began a few weeks ago, after several years of comparative Iranian good behavior in the Gulf.
These events make clear that Tehran feels no pressure to demonstrate goodwill to the Biden administration, preferring confrontation and violence. It cannot be a coincidence that these events are unfolding in the midst of the administration’s campaign to reenter the nuclear deal.
No matter how many times the pattern repeats itself, JCPOA supporters refuse to learn that Iran repays engagement with contempt, not good behavior, and that the Iranians know a dupe when they see one. Looking at you, Rob Malley.
Elsewhere in the region, the Hamas terrorist organization is demonstrating the same astute appreciation for weakness. A month after Team Biden announced its intention to restore U.S. aid programs to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and resume funding for UNRWA, Hamas rockets are raining down on Israel. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is glorifying the behavior and encouraging the attacks.
The Biden administration pledged to revive aid to the Palestinians—and to jump back into the nuclear deal—to advance peace.
In both cases, the administration has been repaid with violence and humiliation.
Will the government of Afghanistan survive America's retreat?
It’s not just generals who are always prepared to fight the last war. President Biden’s April 14 announcement that U.S. forces will leave Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of 9/11 has a long and complicated backstory. Biden said his decision will allow America to put this violent and ambiguous past behind it, to retire the frameworks that conditioned its foreign policy for a generation, and to focus its energies on the competition with China.
Perhaps so. The risk, however, is that Biden’s fixation on settling old scores has blinded him to contemporary realities, has prevented him from answering the question that will determine the future of both Afghan and U.S. security: Will the democratically elected government of Afghanistan survive American withdrawal?
Behind the official statements of Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is the assumption that our exit (and that of our NATO allies) won’t jeopardize the existence of the regime based in Kabul. “While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily,” Biden said, “our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue.” Blinken echoed this sentiment at a press availability during his surprise visit to Kabul, when he said that “Even when our troops come home, our partnership with Afghanistan will continue.”
The robust promotion of civil society, counterterrorism, education for women and girls—none of this, we are told, will be interrupted when our soldiers leave. Nor will the enemy of civilization, the Taliban militia whose safe harbor for al-Qaeda was the reason for our intervention in 2001, abandon peace negotiations and impose its theocratic will through military force. “We have an expectation that the Taliban is going to abide by their commitments that they are not going to allow Afghanistan to become a pariah state,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the other day. “That’s our view.”
And a remarkably foolish view it is. You know the Taliban—always looking out for its international reputation. Of course there is no evidence that the Taliban has changed its methods, moderated its ideology, or abandoned its ambition to impose the strictest possible interpretation of shariah law on as many Afghans as it can reach. There is no evidence that the Taliban has ceased its attacks against Afghan security forces or that it has repudiated al Qaeda. Indeed, the very “intelligence community” on which Biden places so much importance says the Taliban will escalate its war on Kabul as soon as the last American is out and that “the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.”
A big “if.” I do not doubt that—for a time—the aid will continue to flow to Afghan democrats, that weapons will continue to be supplied, and that some degree of overwatch from satellites and drones will continue to be provided. But I am equally certain that our attention will be redirected elsewhere, that neglect will lead to negligence, and that within a few years the Afghans may find themselves on their own. There is no substitute for the forward presence of U.S. forces, who are able to assess conditions on the ground, liaise with friends and neutrals, and deter bad actors of all sorts. On this point the Biden administration agrees with me—which is why, even as it announced the Afghanistan withdrawal, it deployed additional troops to Germany and conducted Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea.
Biden’s argument is that a U.S. military footprint is no longer required in Afghanistan, that we accomplished our main objectives years ago, that the costs of force protection for our remaining 2,500 soldiers outweigh the strategic and tactical benefits they provide, that “the threat has become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe: al-Shabaab in Somalia; al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria; ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia.”
But Biden is unable to draw the causal connection between America’s involvement in Afghanistan and the “metastasizing” terrorist threat that emanates from places where religious fanatics operate more freely than they do in Afghanistan. Nor does he recognize that the terrorist groups he named in his address are based in exactly those locations where America has opted, for different reasons and to varying degrees, to pursue his policy of “offshore balance” rather than onshore residence. The existence of an allied host government is crucial to our ability to intercept, interrupt, interdict, and preempt terrorists before they strike. Biden’s decision to walk away from Afghanistan puts such a government at risk.
This danger is a fact Biden will not or cannot face. He is more interested in rectifying old errors than in preventing new ones. Both the location and the text of his address referenced the history of U.S. involvement in the Afghan theater. He delivered his remarks from the White House Treaty Room, where George W. Bush announced the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001, less than a month after al-Qaeda struck New York, Washington, and United Flight 93. He mentioned that he had called President Bush in advance of his directive. He recounted his visit to Afghanistan before becoming Barack Obama’s vice president and how it convinced him that the war was needless. “It has been well publicized and published that he opposed the surge back 10 years ago,” Psaki said. “And he was vocal about that in the appropriate manner at the time.”
That’s putting it mildly. Biden was furious. He was convinced that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commanding generals had set the terms of the debate to guarantee that Obama would maintain and expand the war. His current determination to remove American troops over the objections of military commanders, including the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Mark Milley, is evidence of his desire to prove retroactively the wisdom of his position in 2009. His rejection of a conditions-based withdrawal underscores his disagreement with the generals. He dismisses the potential adverse consequences of our departure while implicitly conceding that conditions in Afghanistan are about to become worse.
Potentially much worse. It all depends on whether the Afghan government can fight the Taliban without the guidance of American troops. If it can’t, then over time Afghanistan will revert to the pre-October 2001 status quo of civil war, tribalism, and Taliban dominion. The forces of global jihad will feel empowered. That is what happened after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, from the American withdrawal from Somalia in 1993, from the American withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Terrorism followed each retreat.
“I’m now the fourth United States president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats,” Biden said. “I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”
No, he won’t. What Biden will pass on instead is the responsibility for cleaning up his mess.
And makes a mockery of his democracy agenda
That didn’t take long. One week after piously and erroneously repudiating the Commission on Unalienable Rights established by his predecessor Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed the hollow selectivity of this administration’s commitment to human rights and democratic reform.
On April 7, Blinken said he was “pleased to announce” the reinstatement of tens of millions of dollars in aid to the West Bank and Gaza and of some $150 million to support the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). “All assistance will be provided consistent with U.S. law,” Blinken added.
Easier said than done. The Taylor Force Act, signed into law in 2018, withholds aid from the Palestinian Authority until the State Department certifies that the ruling party of the West Bank has terminated payments to family members of terrorists. It hasn’t. That was one reason the Trump administration slashed the aid in the first place. Nor is there evidence that suddenly the Palestinians have curtailed the so-called pay-to-slay schemes that incentivize the murder of civilians and the perpetuation of conflict. On the contrary: They bristle at the idea of changing their corrupt and self-destructive ways.
A second law from 2018, the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, holds beneficiaries of foreign assistance legally and financially responsible for terrorism committed against U.S. citizens. This notion — that the Palestinian Authority might actually have to pay a price for its incitement to anti-Semitic violence — so terrified the leadership in the West Bank that it sent a letter to the Trump administration in February 2019 renouncing U.S. aid. I must have missed the make-up note postmarked Ramallah.
UNRWA long ago abandoned its original mission for anti-Israel activism. According to Pompeo, there are fewer than 200,000 Palestinian Arabs who remain displaced by the 1948 war. Rather than work to resettle this dwindling population, UNRWA devotes its resources to the delegitimization of Israel and to the perpetuation of a mythic “right of return” that obstructs peace. UNRWA also operates in the Gaza Strip, where its facilities were used by Hamas operatives and other terrorists during the 2014 war with Israel.
“Obviously, there are areas where we would like to see reform,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a recent briefing. That’s the understatement of the year. But what hope is there for reform of UNRWA when the Biden administration rewards it for doing nothing?
A conceit of President Joe Biden’s foreign policy is that involvement in corrupt multilateral institutions somehow gives the United States an opportunity to improve them. “By resuming this assistance today, not only do we have that dialogue, but we have a seat at the table,” Price said. “We can help drive UNRWA in the ways that we think it is in our interest and consistent with our values to do.” That was also his argument for rejoining the World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council. He has little to show for it. The results so far: A propagandistic and misleading investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, and four anti-Israel resolutions. Having a seat at the table doesn’t matter when everyone ignores you.
What was particularly galling about Blinken’s announcement was its disconnect from the nature of Palestinian governance. Here is an administration that says the conflict between democracy and authoritarianism will define the 21st century. Here is an administration that prides itself on its support for human rights. And here is an administration that says it will be able to prevent millions in taxpayer funds from directly benefiting the Palestinian Authority, and thereby breaking U.S. law, by taking into account
the intended primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; whether the PA is the direct recipient of the assistance, of course; whether the assistance involves payments of Palestinian Authority creditors; the extent of ownership or control the PA exerts over an entity or an individual that is the primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; and whether the assistance or, in some cases, the services provided directly replace assistance or services that the PA would otherwise provide.
Good luck. The renewed assistance, remember, will be circulated in a polity whose president is in the 16th year of a four-year term, whose official corruption is legendary, whose 2.7 million subjects are policed by no fewer than six internal security forces, and whose entry in the 2020 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reads as follows:
reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, torture, and arbitrary detention by authorities; holding political prisoners and detainees; significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including harassment of nongovernmental organizations; restrictions on political participation, as the Palestinian Authority has not held a national election since 2006; acts of corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; violence and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; anti-Semitism in school textbooks; violence and threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons; and reports of forced child labor.
The entry for Hamas is no better.
For all of his “transformative” ambitions at home, Biden’s Middle East policy is remarkably backward-looking and uninspired. By denying aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA, the Trump administration recognized that the Israeli–Palestinian peace process had become a counterproductive sideshow, and that U.S. aid wasn’t contributing to the resolution of conflict, but incentivizing it. The more urgent problem is Iran, which is why Trump was able to broker the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Morocco.
Now Biden has pivoted away from the anti-Iran coalition and toward the pro-Iran deal European allies. He’s distanced himself from Israel and moved toward the Palestinians. He’s rebuked the Saudis and coaxed the Houthis. He is trying to reconstruct, ever so slowly, Barack Obama’s Middle East. But he hasn’t really explained why this time will be different. After all: When you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. And that is exactly what Biden is doing.
There will be no peace between Iran and its enemies
Elections have consequences, and one consequence of the 2020 election will be a return to the foreign policy of the Obama era that seeks to punish Israel, isolate the Arabs, elevate Iran as a regional power, and assure friend and foe alike that tough talk from American leaders is just that: talk.
Representatives of the United States will return to Vienna this week with the aim of lifting sanctions on an Iranian regime led by religious fanatics hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons, dominating its neighbors, and eliminating the Jewish state.
Appeasement is never a slog, so it’s a mission they are all but certain to accomplish.
It also reveals the hollowness of the tough talk President Joe Biden offered up on the campaign trail, when he said he would not drop sanctions on Iran without first strengthening the Obama-era nuclear deal. His secretary of state, Tony Blinken, assured the Senate just weeks ago that he would not allow terrorism sanctions against Iran to be held hostage to any fresh nuclear talks. Of course these were lies and all sides knew it. Easy promises to make and easier to break.
Already, Iran envoy and friend of Hamas Rob Malley has lowered the bar: He told PBS News on Sunday that the United States would return to the deal if the Iranians agreed to do so. “Our goal is to see whether we can agree on a roadmap back to compliance on both sides,” Malley said, adding that the administration’s goal is to get on “the same page” as the mullahs.
The motivation for the coming realignment in American foreign policy appears to be a left-wing inverse of “owning the libs”—in this case, owning right-wing hawks, neoconservatives, pro-Israel Jews and their gentile allies. The Left cannot contain its glee and anticipation at the coming return to the flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Biden administration’s—and America’s—all-but-certain humiliation seems only to have heightened their excitement. That humiliation will be painful, but it will do no more damage to the cause of regime change than it will to Iran’s nuclear program.
The Obama-era deal was a tragedy. The repetition of that history is farce, and whatever deal the Biden administration strikes will disintegrate as surely as the last. The Iranians may be delusional and paranoid, but their pursuit of nuclear weapons is not irrational. Their enemies are powerful and the current leadership faces an existential threat from Israel.
A new deal can’t change any of that.
There are many possible outcomes. The vindication of Hussein Rouhani, Javad Zarif, Tony Blinken, and Rob Malley as peacemakers is not among them.