There is no doubt that ousting Trump on November 3 is Priority One.
Still it is necessary to take a hard look at the foreign policy team Joe Biden has assembled. It is a concern to progressives who have long decried American foreign policy which promotes active American economic and military involvement,
This policy began at the end of World War II and continues to this day.
The people Joe Biden has surrounded himself with are old hands at promoting American interests. The big difference between 1945 and 2020 is that a lot of women are now in the leadership roles of promoting American hegemony.
Excerpted from The Nation 9.21.2020
Sanders delegates and other progressive Dems, worried about his ties to the military, want less Pentagon spending and more focus on climate change.
As Joe Biden kicks his presidential campaign against Donald Trump into high gear, concern is growing inside the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that the foreign policy and political outreach teams he has assembled don’t come close to reflecting the change—and reduced military spending—they hope to see after the November election.
The unrest is building as Senator Bernie Sanders, whom many of the dissidents supported, is privately expressing doubts about the direction of the Biden campaign and asking the former vice president to reach out more to the left. But Sanders has said little about foreign policy or national security since Biden secured the nomination, leaving the floor to rank-and-file Democratic activists.
Any chance that Biden might significantly decrease military spending was considerably dampened in an interview he gave to Stars and Stripes. “I don’t think [defense budget cuts] are inevitable, but we need priorities in the budget,” Biden told the military newspaper. “I’ve met with a number of my advisors and some have suggested in certain areas the budget is going to have to be increased.”
They are particularly concerned about the influence of people like Antony Blinken, the chief foreign policy adviser to the Biden campaign. He was Biden’s top aide when he voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“We don’t want the same people who took us to war in Iraq to be the stewards of our foreign policy,” says Marcy Winograd, a longtime anti-war activist in Santa Barbara, who was elected as a Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention in August, in an interview. “Why would Biden want these people advising him? You’d think he’d want to keep as much distance as possible between himself and people who steered him in the wrong direction in the past.”
Meanwhile, a group of Muslim Americans, many of them Sanders supporters, have been critical of Farooq Mitha, a former Pentagon official who is Biden’s senior adviser on Muslim American engagement. His high-profile presence in the campaign, along with other former defense officials, has split the Muslim community and detracts from the need to siphon the military budget into technologies needed to fight climate change, said Nadia Ahmad, a Sanders supporter from Florida. “That’s our top national security challenge,” Ahmad, an environmental law professor in Orlando, told The Nation. Mitha declined to comment.
In addition to Blinken, Democratic activists have focused on Michèle Flournoy, a former Pentagon official and military investor reportedly slated to become secretary of defense; and Avril Haines, the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who will lead the foreign policy side of Biden’s transition team if he wins. She crafted President Obama’s policies on drone warfare as well as the administration’s tough approach to North Korea, which Biden has promised to revive.
But policies are not the only issue: Biden’s critics have also focused on the ties of his advisers to the military-industrial complex, which run deep.
After leaving government, Blinken and Flournoy created WestExec Advisors, a “strategic advisory firm” that works closely with military contractors and was modeled after the high-powered consultancy pioneered by Henry Kissinger during the Cold War, according to a recent profile in The American Prospect. Its influence within the Democratic Party is significant.
Winograd, a retired teacher who ran for Congress three times in Los Angeles, including twice against former Democratic representative Jane Harman, is leading the effort to pressure Biden not to appoint Flournoy. Her potential nomination to the Pentagon was endorsed earlier this month by conservative columnist George Will.
In communications with Democrats, Winograd has pointed in particular to Flournoy’s role as cofounder of the Center for a New American Security, which during the Obama years became a champion of the counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan. Under Flournoy, CNAS also became one of the most hawkish voices on confronting China. (In June, Flournoy suggested in Foreign Affairs that the United States should have “the capability to credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours” as a way to deter Chinese leaders from aggressive military action.)
“This is a woman who is a war profiteer, is well-invested in militarism, and will expand the military rather than de-escalate on the world stage,” says Winograd. “Flournoy’s a dangerous person and should not be considered as a secretary of defense.”
The conservative tilt to Biden’s foreign policy team was also the driving force behind the Muslim Delegates and Allies Coalition, a new group that “aims to ensure a broad consultation and coordination with the Muslim constituencies across the United States.” Several of its members have led the attacks on Mitha, the Biden adviser, whose role in the campaign has opened a schism within the Muslim community of Democratic voters.