Winking and Nod: Tony Blinken may be the Biden Secretary of State
Nearly anyone would be better than the Dominionist nutlog, Mike Pompeo. Robert Wright (New Republic) and Connor Echols wrote an article last week grading Tony Blinken, the apparent choice by Joe Biden for Secretary of State. The combination with his former partner in a consultancy, Michelle Flournoy as Secretary of Defense, while conventional for Democrats, also continues the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) as the US resumes its crippled international leadership position. A less Russian White House will be at least one tiny benefit.
Background: Blinken is a liberal interventionist with an emphatic idealism about the virtues of “American leadership.” His relationship to Biden goes back decades, and he is considered a favorite for national security adviser or secretary of state.
For our grading criteria, click here.Military Restraint (D-)
Blinken was a key adviser to Biden when the senator voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq.
In a recent Washington Post op-ed that Blinken co-authored with Robert Kagan, one of the chief architects of neoconservative foreign policy doctrine, he implied that the problem with the Iraq War was poor execution (“bad intelligence, misguided strategy and inadequate planning for the day after”) rather than the very idea of invading a country in violation of international law even after it had admitted weapons inspectors to assess the claims motivating the invasion.
Cognitive empathy (C+)
Blinken’s capacity to understand the perspective and motivations of world leaders sometimes seems deficient.
When the subject turns to Russia, Blinken’s cognitive empathy record is mixed.
Blinken gets points for recognizing that Russia felt betrayed by America’s 2011 Libya intervention (which morphed from a humanitarian mission authorized by the UN Security Council with Russian acquiescence into an unabashed regime change operation). And he sees that this complicated prospects for the Obama administration’s attempted “reset” of relations with Russia. Still, he seems reluctant to contemplate the possibility that this and other perceived American affronts were critical in the subsequent souring of US-Russia relations, preferring to cast Putin’s disposition as the determining factor. “Mr. Putin started with or developed a very zero-sum view of the relationship,” he said in a PBS interview. “That's really the defining problem today.”
Respect for international law (D+)
Blinken supports applying international law to adversaries, but he has little time for legal strictures when they could constrain American behavior.
Support for international governance (B)
Blinken supports various useful international agreements and institutions in realms such as arms control and the environment, and he helped then–Vice President Biden get India on board with the Paris Climate Agreement. He has also advocated using trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership to fight climate change and improve labor conditions. And, while in the Obama administration, Blinken helped negotiate multilateral agreements, most notably the Iran nuclear deal, which set a new standard for arms control verification and defused a source of Middle East tension.
One ray of hope: In an earlier interview Blinken sounded more open to restoring the status quo ante, with the elimination of all Trump-era sanctions.
Support for universal engagement (D+)
He casts the world as a battle “between techno-democracies on the one hand, and techno-autocracies, like China, on the other hand.” He has advocated a “league of democracies” that would strengthen “military security” and “forge a common strategic, economic, and political vision.” The world’s democracies, he says, could develop “a road map for countering challenges, whether it’s coming from Russia, or China in different ways, or Iran.”
Miscellaneous: In 2017, after leaving the Obama administration, Blinken co-founded a consulting firm with Michèle Flournoy (a leading candidate for secretary of defense) called WestExec Advisors, which refuses to disclose its clients but has said that some are in the defense industry.
On November 22, 2020, Jake Sullivan was reported to be the National Security Advisor for President-elect Joe Biden.
Sullivan was the chief foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton. He was reported to be the only senior staffer who kept on asking if it wasn't a good idea for her to spend more time in the Midwestern swing states as the election approached. Sullivan was prominent in many of the Podesta emails released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 US presidential election, including Sullivan questioning if Democratic primary candidate Martin O'Malley's 100% clean energy by 2050 plan was “realistic.” After the election, he confessed to feeling “a keen sense of responsibility” for Clinton's defeat.
Actually as an interim solution this wasn’t a bad idea if only in the hope for someday creating a real Kurdistan: