Washington’s Delusional Competition with China and Iran

August 21st, 2021 - by Eve Ottenberg / CounterPunch

Invitation to a Fiasco:
US Policy toward China and Iran

Eve Ottenberg / CounterPunch

 (August 20, 2021) — US foreign policy since World War II has been a screaming disaster. Coups, regime change operations and CIA-sponsored slaughters drowned the globe in blood. So did imperial wars, from Korea to Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq — all of which, incidentally, were lost. Washington’s pursuit of its “interests” inexcusably piled tens of millions of corpses to the heavens. So when Biden, early in his presidency, cited those interests as guides to his foreign policy, it was only natural to expect the worst.

That expectation has proved correct, except for the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which paints a slightly more ambiguous picture of US global relations. That retreat was a principled though painful diversion from the generally bellicose and dreadful trend. And even that became an unnecessary debacle — especially for the tens of thousands of Afghans who helped the US.

Many observers warned that the Taliban were poised to sweep the country. The Biden team did not listen. It could have expedited the US departure and the exodus of its Afghan employees back in winter. But it didn’t for one simple reason: fatal, imperial hubris. This flaw scars all of Washington’s awful policies. And that is the only way to describe Biden’s seamless continuation of Trump’s policies: abysmal. Just take China and Iran.

Sometime during the Trump administration, US politicians and military honchos discovered to their horror that China is a communist country. Chinese commissars lifted over 850 million people out of poverty — how dare they! China takes pride in its centralized economic planning — anathema! Chinese leaders promote anti-colonialism by investing in infrastructure in the Global South, which they then hand off to the local governments — those brazen show-offs! China’s robust public health effort contained covid while it flamed out of control in the US — they must be lying!

All this Chinese razzle-dazzle success contrasts most shockingly with the image of corrupt, chaotic and destructive western capitalism. People might even get the idea that other economic systems are, well, superior; that maybe having, as the US does, 500,000 vagabonds, millions of students indentured to the tune of nearly $2 trillion, a vast gulag caging over 2 million people, starvation wages for many, astronomical rents for all, no health care, lousy infant mortality and life expectancy stats compared to the rest of the industrialized world, 15 million people just a paycheck away from homelessness and, a global grasp causing the destitution of billions of people and the trashing of a habitable planet and a livable climate — maybe all this ain’t so great.

Maybe there are other, better ways to do things besides the savagery of the American economic system. Maybe exporting that system around the globe, often at gunpoint, is a fiasco.

US politicos and military bigwigs are determined to slam the brakes on this critique before it becomes action. The method of choice, mentioned in informed corners of the internet, involves arming Japan with nukes and then egging Japan, South Korea and India into attacking China. Our geniuses in the Pentagon no doubt consider such a nuclear war “containable.”

Our intellectual heavyweights in the CIA and state department, as Moon of Alabama has noted, probably salivate at the prospect of the US stepping in after this mass murder and cleaning up financially, while enhancing Washington’s planetary power. Unfortunately for this grandiose scheme, China is already wise to it. Even now it expands its nuclear arsenal and builds new nuclear missile silos — the inevitable response to US hostility and the apparent American appetite for a supposedly limited nuclear war.

This all seems like some wild fantasy to you? Consider this: For decades the One China policy has kept the peace not only between China and Taiwan, but between China and that perennial, compulsive aggressor, the US China has made abundantly clear that attempted official Taiwanese severing from China is a casus belli.

Since the reign of Richard Nixon, Washington has let this sleeping dog lie. But in July, the US announced a $750 million weapons sale to the territory. This, predictably, infuriated China. That presumably was the intention, as the US agitates for Taiwan to declare its independence and thus start a war.

To make sure everyone gets the message, Biden has stated that the US is in “extreme competition” with China, which, economically, may be true, but it’s not true militarily. Or at least it wasn’t till this self-fulfilling prophecy started, with “extreme competition” serving as the perfect excuse for arming China’s neighbors and the Taiwanese territory to the teeth and goading them all into displays of martial prowess.

This lousy $750 billion arms deal had a record number of predecessors recently under — you guessed it — Trump. “These military transactions are a violation of Washington’s own avowed One China Policy,” wrote an Information Clearing House editorial on August 6, “which purports to acknowledge Beijing’s territorial sovereignty over Taiwan.”

But Biden chose to ditch a policy that dates back to the 1970s, because clearly Trump, provoking clashes and ready to rumble with China and Iran, was a geopolitical brainiac. If that’s not Biden’s view, then he should prove it. But proving it involves a rational, peaceful policy toward China, not one driven by insecurities over whose whatever is bigger.

It’s not as if Washington isn’t constantly challenging Beijing. According to Connor Freeman, in the same publication, US aircraft carrier group strike forces and warships roam the South China Sea. Reconnaissance planes skirt China’s coast — roughly three to five per day. What would Washington do if Beijing behaved thus in the Gulf of Mexico? Declare war. But the US has ramped up even more provocations.

The August 6 editorial notes that recently the seventh American warship travelled “between Taiwan and mainland China since Biden took office in January.” Seven US warships. Is Biden drifting toward war? Ya think? “This week sees the US navy engaging in huge military drills in the South China Sea,” the editorial continues, and then cites the many other NATO warships surrounding China. Either Biden wants war or he’s asleep at the wheel, while fanatical anti-China Dr. Strangeloves in the pentagon steer policy. My guess is the latter.

Over in Vienna, things aren’t going much better. That’s where negotiations jammed over the US rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. Biden surged to power claiming he intended to bring the US back into compliance with the Iran nuclear pact, one of Obama’s few foreign policy successes, which Trump so highhandedly stalked out of. So how’s that going? Don’t even ask.

Once again, Biden seems mesmerized by Trump’s belligerence and unable to renounce it, despite Washington being clearly in the wrong. The US had a deal, then showed itself as utterly untrustworthy as any gangster by reneging. That may go over great in Trump’s mafia-infested world of real estate, but on the international stage, it spells ruin.

Biden, however, refuses to do the right thing, namely, end illegal US sanctions on Iran. If he did, Iran would come back into compliance — a compliance that, it’s worth noting, prevented Iran, for the duration of the intact deal, from even approaching enriching uranium to weapons grade.

Once Trump idiotically busted up the pact, guess what? Iran, unbound by JCPOA constraints, sped forward and now has attained a position where it could soon produce a bomb. Thus Trump’s oafish international bungling, which Biden just can’t wait to imitate.

The Biden negotiating team lives in the past, according to Moon of Alabama on August 7, in the fantasy that it has the upper hand that Washington held nine years ago. “But this is no longer 2012. Back then, China and Russia agreed with the US to put pressure on Iran.

That pressure led to the nuclear deal. But today, the situation is much different. It was the US that left the deal. Iran, China and Russia are all in a stronger position than they were a decade ago. Why would the latter two agree to support Biden’s malign foreign policy and unilateral US sanctions against Iran?”

In other words, if Biden doesn’t cease his additional and ridiculous demands, he’ll kill the Iran nuclear pact. This is in no one’s interest. It is certainly not in the interest of Washington and its Mideast allies. No deal could very well mean catastrophic regional war, which, by the way, would ensnare the US. All of Biden’s talk about extricating the US from military adventures in that region would be exposed as hot air.

So there you have it. When not living in the past, Biden can’t bring himself to shed Trump’s insane and capricious aggressions. The result is no Iran deal and an American drift toward nuclear war with China. Both are calamitous. Neither will end well for the world or for Washington. Somebody, like maybe the president, needs to grab that steering wheel and change course, pronto.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Birdbrain. She can be reached at her website.

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