Surveying the wreckage US foreign policy has wrought from the privileged and comfortable vantage point of Washington, DC, should prompt the surveyor to wonder when exactly did things go so wrong? Any reasonable list of dates might include April 12, 1945 as the point at which the US began its decades long journey away from reality and onto the path on which it steadfastly remains nearly eight decades later.
Whatever one’s understandable objections to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s handling (or, more accurately, skirting of) the various and wise neutrality acts of the 1930s; his ties to the China lobby which influenced his policy of isolation towards imperial Japan that helped ignite the Pacific War; and his disastrous decision to drop Henry Wallace in favor of Harry Truman, by the time the Second World War had arrived at its denouement, the 32nd president had sketched out a vision of a postwar world that is, alas, at great variance to the vision which prevails in our own time.
Simply put, Mr. Roosevelt’s postwar foreign policy was to be based on the concepts of cooperation and reciprocity, on the recognition of great power interests and an appreciation of the national aspirations of what is now referred to as the Global South. But upon Roosevelt’s passing, his vision was strangled in its crib by his successor.
Our road to ruin then, was paved in Mr. Truman’s time. Beginning with the 1947 National Security Act, then later, with NSC 68 of 1950, US foreign policy has henceforth been marked by a lethal combination of the messianic and the paranoid.
In evaluating the US foreign policy of the last three years, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the Biden Administration represents the obscene culmination of eight decades (during which there appeared ever rarer and briefer interludes of sanity) of a foreign policy based largely on our own self-regard. Over time, we developed an unfortunate habit of fooling and flattering ourselves, all the while failing to observe even minimal standards of decency toward the world beyond our shores.
But more damaging still, it has resulted in an inversion of reality. As such, we are informed – in blatant contradiction of established and public facts – by the administration that there was simply no alternative to funding and materially aiding a war in Ukraine against nuclear armed Russia because Russia was never “serious” about negotiating with the West. Still worse, we are serenely informed by the sitting US president that funding to the tune of billions of dollars two regional wars 5,000 miles from our shores amounts to a jobs program for everyday Americans. Thus, as we teeter on the precipice of a Third World War, the message out of the White House is: You’re Welcome America.
Mr Biden’s term in office, if it is remembered at all (and one hopes it is, as an object lesson for future generations in arrogance and irresponsibility), may be remembered for three policies, two of which I have already alluded to: the war in Ukraine and the Israeli war on the civilian populations of Gaza and the West Bank. Yet news came this week of a third, perhaps even more fateful decision by the administration, to build a new nuclear weapon: the B61-13 nuclear gravity bomb. Not content with spending a projected $634 billion over the next decade on the what is billed as our “nuclear deterrent” the B61, at a cost of untold billions, is reported to have a “maximum yield of 360 kilotons” which is to say, in layman’s terms, that it will be 24 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
In a sense then US foreign policy has come full circle: From the war crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to furnishing plans to build a new and unfathomably more lethal (and utterly unnecessary) nuclear weapon.
It must be admitted that as American citizens we are almost completely helpless to change or even marginally influence the train of events set in play by those in positions of power. Worse still, the stranglehold foreign interests have on both the legislative and executive branches in the conception, formation and implementation of what is euphemistically referred to as “national” security policy makes it nearly impossible for actual Americans to have a say in these matters – and this is particularly true with regard to matters pertaining to Israel and Ukraine. Indeed, we are now at the point where an ostensibly American secretary of state has for, all intents and purposes, joined the war cabinet of a foreign nation, one that is, I hasten to add, unremitting in its duplicity toward us in peacetime while utterly reliant on us in wartime. At the very least, Americans of good conscience must act and refuse, by historic margins, to renew the Biden Gang’s lease on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. come next November.
James W. Carden is a columnist and former adviser to the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the U.S. Department of State. His articles and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Nation, The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, The Spectator, UnHerd, The National Interest, Quartz, The Los Angeles Times, and American Affairs.