Trumpism and Bidenism have a lot in common when it comes to letting down allies
Trumpism was never quite what it seemed to the rest of the world when it came to America’s actions as opposed to her words. The tone was always belligerent, but Trump went out of his way not to start a war. As for the slogan “America First”, it was not so much an isolationist United States as it was a United States acting unilaterally in what Trump saw as its own best interests.
Bidenism does not turn out to be that different from Trumpism. Joe Biden carried to the letter Donald Trump’s ruthless deal with the Taliban, reached in February 2020, to abandon the Afghan government, which had been excluded from negotiations over its fate. US European allies learned little about the US plan to withdraw from Kabul airport even as it was underway.
Now, Biden has continued his unilateralism in Afghanistan with his surprise announcement of a deal for the United States, with Britain, to help Australia build nuclear submarines to be deployed against China in the years to to come. By arbitrarily removing the French from their $ 66 billion contract to supply diesel-powered submarines, Biden has behaved in Trump’s true tradition of eliciting more outrage from an ally than dismay from an enemy. potential.
China’s response to an alliance clearly directed against it was furious, but it remained subdued in relation to the apoplexy of senior French leaders in the face of their public humiliation. “This brutal, one-sided and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump was doing,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. “I am angry and bitter. This is not done between allies. It really is a stab in the back.
A betrayal perhaps, but the French showed a certain naivety, as well as a bad intelligence, in not seeing that such a thing could be envisaged. When it comes to stabbing an ally in the back, there was the recent precedent in Afghanistan and, a few years ago, another ominous sign when Trump shocked the Saudis, with whom he was so close, when ‘he did not retaliate against a devastating missile. attack on Saudi oil installations in September 2019 which was clearly orchestrated by Iran.
The Gulf monarchies discovered to their extreme concern that America’s protective umbrella, which they had previously trusted, was not quite what it appeared to be. It turned out that this did not include waging war on their behalf, an awareness that will have been reinforced by the Afghan shock and which is radically reshaping regional politics.
Complaints from those who have been abandoned by the United States – whether in Paris or Riyadh or wherever the dispersed Afghan government has taken refuge – are fairly common in the history of diplomacy. After all, it was President Charles de Gaulle who said that “treaties are like young girls and roses – they last as long as they last”.
It’s true that this piece of realpolitik about the impermanence of nation-state relations may be, but the Australia, UK, US (Aukus) Submarine Agreement – coming after the rout of Kabul and Saudi Arabia’s non-defense – gives the impression that tectonic changes are shaking up the way the world works. Biden, who was full of “America is Back” rhetoric at the start of his presidency, now treats some of his allies as cavalierly as Trump ever has.
The Aukus alliance is exactly the kind of Anglo-Saxon line-up most likely to infuriate the French and worry the EU. This will prompt European states to try to pursue a separate and less confrontational policy towards China than before. If they do not, and the omens are not good given their powerlessness in the successive crises in the Middle East and the Balkans, then they become even more marginalized.
But to rejoice among Brexiteers that Britain was right to quit a sinking EU ship is premature, as Britain’s dependence on the United States is greater than ever. This comes with unpredictable risks as well as dubious benefits, as Britain discovered during the Iraq War, which Britain joined as the United States’ main foreign military ally in 2003 and spent the years. the next six years of trying to escape without offending the Americans. The calamitous method chosen was to send British military forces into Afghanistan’s Helmand province, which turned out to be an even deadlier place than Iraq.
Joining the United States and Australia in stepping up the confrontation with China carries similar risks. This is not “a profound strategic change”, as Boris Johnson claims, because not much is going to happen for more than a decade. The inflation of the Cold War threat that China has the world’s largest navy is absurd, as ships that are little more than minnows were counted as part of the Chinese fleet.
But what would Britain do if the New Cold Warriors were right in their warnings and China indeed invaded Taiwan? This is an important question for ‘global’ Britain, because it means standing up against even bigger adversaries like China and Russia in the hope that they will show restraint or the United States. give them unwavering support.
Dependence is risky because American foreign policy is determined by its domestic political agenda, and never more than it is today. One of the reasons Biden has trumpeted his new alliance against China is that it projects strength and distracts attention from the weakness displayed in the chaotic US exit from Kabul. Dominating U.S. TV screens in the past month, the rout has brought Biden’s approval rating down in opinion polls to 42% and his disapproval rating to 50% – the first time his ratings have been negative since taking office.
Britain wants to present itself as a great power, but has less and less the means to do so, except as a humble spear bearer for the United States. All of this cannot be blamed on Johnson and his chauvinist flag in government, as they only profit from the public assumption that Britain has levers of power that no longer work.
Dominic Raab may have lost his post as foreign minister because he lay too long by the pool at his luxury hotel in Crete as the Taliban captured Kabul. But if Raab had hurried back to London – or drowned in the hotel pool – it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to the events in Afghanistan.
The misperception by the public and the media of the real power of the UK government lends an air of unreality to much of UK political life at home and abroad. Six years ago the debate raged over whether or not Britain should bomb Isis in Syria, with all sides ignoring the fact that Britain had neither the planes nor the information needed to do anything important – which was then admitted by the officer in charge of the RAF. .
The claim that Britain is once again a power in the South China Sea and the Pacific can only be realized by relying completely on the United States, ignoring the lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Patrick Cockburn’s new book ‘Behind Enemy Lies: The News of War and Chaos in the Middle East‘will be published by Verso in October