It matters for Australia that Biden not be re-elected to the US presidency. A Trump administration might mean domestic chaos, violence, and division for the Republic, however, the danger is that Biden would be more likely to lead the world into catastrophic war. Another Trump imperium would be sadly the least worst, yet still terrible, alternative for the world.
President Biden’s measure of success for his National Security Strategy (NSS) in 2022 was whether it “makes life better, safer, and fairer for the people of the United States” and “whether it lifts up the countries and people around the world who share our vision for the future”. The uplifting prose distracts from the harsh unrelenting hegemony at the heart of the NSS.
Biden’s NSS dissembles, bewailing America’s “unrealistic faith in force … to deliver sustainable outcomes”, and promising that American policy in the Middle East region would be based on, among other things, “using diplomacy to de-escalate tensions, reduce risks of new conflicts, and set a long-term foundation for stability”. It might be possible to argue that since producing the NSS the Biden Administration has been overtaken by unforeseeable events, and that the aspirations of the Administration, despite being frustrated, were genuine. That would be a misreading of the NSS.
Biden has callously, brutally, and violently pursued American interests. The NSS might state that the “goal is clear—[America] wants a free, open, prosperous, and secure international order. [America] seeks an order that is free in that it allows people to enjoy their basic, universal rights and freedoms”. But the evidence indicates that all of these aims are subordinate to America’s national interests and military policies, it’s just buried under sanctimonious verbiage.
Biden’s unconditional tolerance of the disproportionate Israeli devastation of Gaza and displacement and murder of tens of thousands of Palestinians, as starvation and disease proliferate, highlights the level of injustice and violence he finds acceptable when pursuing America’s interests.The deaths of three soldiers in Jordan precipitates an extensive American bombing campaign across the Arab states of Iraq and Syria. Biden’s propensity for violent solutions is clear.
The current brutal policy towards the Palestinians fits a pattern of placing the lives and circumstances of non-Americans at very low value.The Biden Administration has tried to distance itself from Trump’s Afghanistan policies, casually washing America’s hands of the consequences of the disastrous twenty-year long occupation. The lack of concern for the Afghans living with the legacy of the failed occupation is starkly evident.
More than half of Afghanistan’s population will require humanitarian assistance to survive in 2024. Afghanistan today is characterised by “high levels of protracted displacement, mine and explosive ordnance contamination, restricted freedom of movement, increased risks of gender-based violence, child labour and early marriage, and increased mental health and psychosocial support needs”. Human Rights Watch catalogues one of the world’s worst human rights situations in Afghanistan. For Biden success is simply measured by the point that “Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorist attacks on the United States or our allies”. The destruction of an entire country is not too high a price for Biden.
The Middle East is the testing ground. The NSS wants, so it professes, “A more integrated Middle East that empowers our allies and partners [and] will advance regional peace and prosperity”, while “reducing the resource demands the region makes on the United States over the long term”. The NSS strategy for the Middle East will “support and strengthen partnerships with countries that subscribe to the rules-based international order” and “always promote human rights and the values enshrined in the UN Charter”. The truth is different.
America is apparently a “longstanding champion for principled, needs-based humanitarian action”, or so the NSS claimed. Biden pledged America would act to “manage long-term refugee and displacement crises” and “help realise human dignity and bolster stability”. It would “extend and deepen Israel’s growing ties to its neighbours and other Arab states, including through the Abraham Accords”, subject, of course, to the overriding condition that America will maintain its “ironclad commitment to [Israel’s] security”.
The proof is in the actions. Biden’s unconscionable condoning of extreme Israeli violence and his trigger-happy response to developments he didn’t like has trashed these objectives.
Despite the words, the intent of the NSS is not to “strengthen and update the UN system and multilateral institutions generally”. America’s Security Council behaviour belies this. It is that “America [read Biden] will not hesitate to use force when necessary to defend our national interests”, irrespective of the will of the UN. The accompanying condition that America “will do so as the last resort and only when the objectives and mission are clear and achievable” is pure mendacity.
Published in October 2022, the NSS gives considerable prominence to the war in Ukraine. With allies and partners, it says, “America is helping to make Russia’s war on Ukraine a strategic failure”. This is identified as a key US strategic interest. The NSS boasted that “The historic global response to Russia’s war against Ukraine sends a resounding message that countries cannot enjoy the benefits of global integration while trampling on the core tenets of the UN Charter”. For Biden, Ukrainian lives lost to war are the means to send the message. But Israel didn’t get the memo.
At best, Biden’s legacy will be a generation of, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of children – across the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Ukraine – who have known nothing else but US sanctioned or inflicted conflict. A deep pool of potential recruits to extremist causes. At worst, Biden’s willingness and determination to ensure America’s hegemonic interests are protected means he is far more inclined to conflict and war.
Without doubt Trump’s return and his mercurial personality, authoritarian tendencies, transactional approach, and vengeful leanings will disrupt the world order and challenge policy-makers everywhere. But for Australia, already having surrendered its sovereignty and national strategy to America, the risks of being drawn into a disastrous war behind a reelected Biden are great.
Copyright Mike Scrafton. This article may be reproduced under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence for non-commercial purposes, and providing that work is not altered, only redistributed, and the original author is credited. Please see the Cross-post and re-use policy for more information.
Also published in John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations.