by Ellen Isaacs
December 10, 2020
We can be sure that Biden will better attack Covid-19 than has Trump, for there must be a functioning economy and working class to maintain profits and power. But we quake in the surety that more lives will now be lost to imperialism and expansionism, not only from bullets on the battlefield but from poverty, exploitation, displacement and environmental devastation. We know from his own history that Biden is a capitalist and an aggressive imperialist, a loyal servant of US finance capital (see https://multiracialunity.org/2020/06/16/biden-lesser-evil-or-just-evil/). At the same time, it is important to remember that all the recent Democratic presidential candidates, from the democratic socialists to the moderates, are pro-capitalism and only proposed moderation of the system, at best. No matter who is in office, there is an existential battle between the largest world capitalists for control, primarily China and the US today. Thus it is clear that if we truly want to alter the manner in which capitalist ruling classes attack the workers of the world or their own working class, then it is the system, not the capitalist party or individual in power, that needs to be changed.
Global Does Not Mean Good
Here we will consider the steps that Biden has already taken relevant to foreign policy and national security. His identity as a globalist should not be misconstrued as denoting any interest in the welfare of workers around the globe. What is really meant is that he recognizes that in order for the US to have the strength to combat its rivals for world domination it must have allies, principally the European Union. And the chief rival is China, economically and politically. Recently declared by the IMF to be the world’s largest economy (1), China has made new trade agreements that increase its ties with previous US partners in the region: Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) involves 15 nations in North and Southeast Asia and will improve their access to Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) markets, transportation, energy and communications. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which concluded in 2018 and also includes Mexico, Canada, Peru and Chile, increases Chinese ties in the Americas (2). Although China is making fewer friends lately around the world, given its demands for loan repayments, environmental degradation, and mistreatment of foreign workers, its influence certainly continues to widely outstrip that of the US in many areas.
Biden’s “main challenges include a growing concern about autocratic regimes [Russia and China], the capacity to gain legitimacy over weak countries, and energy competition under environmental constraints,” says José Octavio Bordón in the Council of Councils (3). Despite the claims on joebiden.com to pursue world leadership based on “fighting corruption, defending against authoritarianism, and advancing human rights.” a little farther down we read: “We have the strongest military in the world…to defend our vital interests.” So not much has changed from the period up to 2106, after which, for a brief interlude, Trump defined US interests abroad more narrowly, having less interest in pursuing power, pipelines and oil in such places as Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya. But now the definition of vital interests has expanded again, to the domination of resources, trade policies, supply routes, and military bases around the world that has characterized the conduct of US finance capital since the end of World War II.
The Militaristic Counselors
For more insight into Biden’s worldview for the future, we can just examine those he has chosen to advise him in the foreign policy and intelligence spheres. While care has been taken to choose a cabinet with ethnic and gender diversity, the credentials of the designees are quite uniform. All of them have longstanding ties to US wars and imperialist ventures and to think tanks and corporate entities heavily involved in militarism and defense.
Two organizations to which many belong are the think tanks the Center for New American Democracy (CNAS) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). These organizations are among the very highest recipients of defense contractor funding. The biggest donors to CNAS are Northrop Grumman, Boeing and the Department of Defense. The largest donors to CSIS are Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) gave $1 million for a new CSIS office building (4). CSIS has programs focusing on the “China threat” and East Asian security, and receives funds from Japan and the Philippines and received $5 million from 2014-29 to help develop the F3 fighter jet(5).
Another grouping to which many new appointees belong is WestExec, which was founded by the proposed Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and Avril Haines, the new Director of National Intelligence. Its main function is to negotiate contracts between corporations and the Pentagon, such as Google manufacturing artificial intelligence for drone targeting (6). Blinken is also an adviser to Pine Island Capital, which recently raised $218 million for a fund to invest in military and aerospace companies and also contracts with companies that sell computer-simulated weapons training systems to the Pentagon and law enforcement agencies (7).
To call Biden’s coterie new is actually a misnomer, since they are all former advisors to the Obama administration or to Biden himself. Secretary of State select Blinken is a former Deputy Secretary in this department and was Deputy National Security Advisor to Obama, where he called for greater US intervention in Syria and promoted the bombing of Libya, which has led to ongoing instability. He was also staff director for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee while Biden was chairman and heavily promoted the 2003 invasion of Iraq(8). Avril Haines is a former Deputy Director of the CIA and Deputy National Security Advisor. She oversaw 563 drone attacks under Obama that killed 395-807 civilians in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. She recommended the infamous Gina Haspel for CIA Director, known for redacting the report to Senate Intelligence Committee on US use of torture She is also a director of Palantir Technologies, CIA-seeded, NSA-linked data-mining firm known for supplying the names of undocumented immigrants to ICE (9).
For defense secretary Biden has chosen Lloyd J Austin III, a black army general who only retired four years ago (and thus would require special dispensation from the Senate since the rule is that the Secretary must be at least seven years removed from military service). His last assignment was as chief of US Central Command, where he was in charge of military interventions in the Middle East against the Islamic State. Prior to that he led the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This logistical experience is said to qualify him for the task of distributing vaccines, in which the military is presumably to have a large role (10). Like other appointees, he was a member of Pine Island Capital and a board member of the third largest defense contractor in the world, Raytheon, which makes many weapons systems and has sold billions of dollars worth to Middle Eastern Allies, including those used in Yemen (NYT 12/9/20).
Other Than China
Biden has a terrible record in Iraq, having promoted the original invasion while insisting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction after this idea was widely debunked. He also called for splitting the country along sectarian lines and supported Prime Minister al-Maliki whose policies encouraged the rise of ISIS. Now he will try and stabilize Iraq while diminishing the influence of Iran and increasing that of the US. Meanwhile, he will try and reinstitute the Iran nuclear deal, a move not popular with Israel.
Israel, however, can rest easy. Although Biden will not as openly show total disregard for Palestinians as has Trump, he has always been a devoted supporter of Zionism and a two state solution, which is actually not viable given the extent to which Israel has already seized Palestinian lands and resources. He may well undo some of Trump’s and Netanyahu’s most gross oversteps, like ending all aid to West Bank hospitals and refugees and accelerating annexation of West Bank land, but he will demand ever more concessions from Palestinians and continue to oppose the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement (BDS), the nonviolent Palestinian tactic for opposing Israeli policies (11). In Syria, he is likely to replace the troops withdrawn by Trump, which has left Russia as the dominant superpower in that conflict.
Biden has a long history in Latin America which does not bode well for that continent. In the 1970s he created Plan Colombia, a military response to the drug trade. It did little to affect the flow of drugs, but did pave the way for a free trade agreement that increased privatization, austerity, and unemployment. He led Obama’s Alliance for Prosperity, which also led to privatization and advantages for foreign investors, causing increased poverty and environmental decay in many countries, and he is once again calling for development banks to promote private development and foreign investment (12). This approach is widely lauded in the main stream press, and, according to the Brookings Institute, is important to counterbalance the growing influence of China (13).
Since the initiation of the US military presence in Africa, Africom, in 2007, the US has developed a network of about 7000 soldiers at 34 bases throughout the continent. Trump has almost ignored the region and has even withdrawn all the troops from Somalia, home to large oil and natural gas deposits, and where a threat from Al-Shabab remains. The US will probably also re-engage in the conflicts in Libya and Ethiopia and encourage free trade policies throughout the continent, always a boon to advanced capitalist countries (14).
We Must Prepare as the Danger Increases
So ultimately we must conclude that, no surprise, Biden and his minions are the champions of rebuilding the strength of the US as a world power in a bipolar world – with China on the opposite pole. As we have read in Lenin’s Imperialism and witnessed in two world wars and many smaller ones, such contests for world supremacy inevitably lead to the next war. The battlefield may not look exactly as it has before, perhaps being more in the realm of cyberspace and competition for rare earth elements and modes of energy, but the conflicts will result in massive misery and loss of life. Military clashes may well expand, intentionally or by error, as in the South China Sea or over Taiwan, a possibility that the US military takes seriously (15). The still ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria or new conflicts in Africa, South America, Asia or the Middle East can certainly break out, involving China and/or Russia. Nuclear weapons may even be used if a super power feels severely threatened. But other forms of competition are also deadly. The two major polluters in the world are so busy competing that they will not curb fossil fuels enough to prevent ongoing climate change, vastly increasing poverty and migration, even if Biden rejoins the Paris Accord. The drive to increase and maintain profits by China and the US will also further drive world poverty as they exploit workers worldwide. Agricultural and industrial processes that encourage new viral diseases in animals and spread viruses beyond their forest habitats will guarantee more epidemics. Cyber conflicts may well shut down systems on which human life has come to depend – health, transportation, communication, water, and more.
Our conclusion is that we are not safe with Biden, nor would we be safe with any Democrat, even one further to the “left,” for they are all supporters of global capitalism. This system is likely going to kill us by the millions, be it in a sick bed or via a bomb. We have to build a movement throughout the world that demands change. Strikes by millions in India, small uprisings throughout China, anti-racist movements in the US, all of these are hopeful. But the imperative is that they coalesce and settle upon a condemnation of capitalism as the enemy and recognize the possibility of building a worker-run society dedicated to satisfying human needs and outlawing profit, racism, nationalism and sexism.