Biden’s Foreign Policy

[The Biden adminstration’s foreign policy is surprising in many ways. I’ve been thinking it out. The posts summarized here set up a background for development of that foreign policy. In later posts, I’ll look at specifics relating to various countries.]

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Asia and Europe the past two weeks, rebuilding relationships with allies. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin accompanied him to Asia. He and Jake Sullivan also met with their Chinese counterparts in Asia last week, with rhetorical fireworks.

The administration faces five big foreign policy challenges:

  • The relationship with China
  • The relationship with Russia
  • Dealing with Trump’s promise of withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 1
  • Rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear agreement with Iran
  • North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs
Read More

The Biden Doctrine

The first week of March, the Biden administration rolled out a speech by Antony Blinken and an interim national security strategy. Those documents overlap significantly with each other and with a report led by Jake Sullivan, now Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor, when he was at the Carnegie Endowment last year.

Any number of authors have shared the 35 things they want Biden to do in his first week and specific solutions to numerous foreign and domestic policy problems, including would-be George Kennans penning their own long telegrams. None seem to have read the administration’s documents. The Carnegie report has been available since last September.

Read More

Foreign Policy For The Middle Class

President Joe Biden has said it. Antony Blinken has said it. Jake Sullivan has said it. “Foreign policy for the middle class.” I think I’ve heard Kamala Harris say it too. It comes from a report that Sullivan and others wrote while he was at the Carnegie Endowment.

Yesterday (March 3) Secretary Blinken gave a speech, “A Foreign Policy for the American People.” It looks like that speech is an upgraded version of the report. What I take from the report and the speech is that the Biden administration is bringing a new approach to foreign policy, and, more importantly, that they can change. I’ll work through the speech in a later post, but here’s the report.

 “Foreign policy for the middle class” combines two concepts not usually combined, but the two interact in many ways. The report highlights these interactions and attempts to provide ways to make those interactions more favorable. International trade is an obvious point of contact, but others are addressed in the report as well.

Read More

We’ve Got To Do Better

I received my first dose of the Moderna covid-19 vaccine yesterday. I’m incredibly grateful and find my free-floating anxiety much relieved. I have an appointment for the second dose. No more reaction than a sore arm so far.

But the method of getting it leaves much to be desired.

Read More

The Military (And Others) Respond

On Tuesday (June 2), Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and General Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walked with Donald Trump from the White House to St. John’s Church, where Trump posed for an awkward photo-op. To clear the way for Trump’s walk, law enforcement personnel used tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. Milley was dressed in a battle uniform. Esper later said that Trump had tricked him into the walk.

This opens a number of questions. One is the appropriate relationship between the civilian side of government and the military, including whether military personnel should allow themselves to be used for political purposes. Esper is not military, but he is the face of civilian primacy over the military.

Read More

1968 and 2020

A lot of people asking whether 2020 is like 1968, most of them saying that they weren’t there. I was there – not in the riots, but rather focused on my own life. A few years married, in a job at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory that was below my capabilities but learning a lot about reactors. Just moved into a new house. I was not very political, although the Vietnam War was part of every young person’s consciousness.

Read More

The White House Coronavirus Task Force

Here are some early thoughts about what the Pence Task Force should do, coming out of my experience in project management.

Determine who is in charge. In Donald Trump’s typical desire to weaken subordinates and watch them fight, he has appointed three people as being in charge of the task force. No work will get done unless they agree who is to be the responsible decision-maker. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Pharmaceutical Profit Alex Azar, or Ambassador Deborah Birx, MD. Once a leader is determined, all members of the task force must turn back Trump’s meddling on this issue.

As a part of setting up a responsibility structure, leaders must be chosen for subgroups as noted in the following topics. Read More

Not The President’s Right

Referring to President Trump’s “rights,” as in “He has a right to declassify information,” repeats his childish and ignorant thinking and expression.

The presidency is a privilege conferred on a person by the citizens. It carries no additional rights beyond the rights of all citizens.

The President swears an oath of office.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

By doing that, he takes on obligations to the people and Constitution of the United States. No additional rights.

All of a President’s actions should be guided by those obligations.

In the latest case in which the “rights” terminology has shown up, there are certain regulations that apply. The classification regulations give the President certain authorities, not rights. Under the oath of office, these authorities are to be exercised responsibly. And the authorities are exercised under the rule of law more generally.

In particular, the President is the ultimate classification authority. The regulations specify procedures through which that authority is to be exercised. Documents are to be signed, and classification markings are to be properly canceled.

It’s hard to believe that Trump followed any of those procedures in releasing yesterday’s photo. He is very possibly violating his oath of office in releasing national security information impulsively through a tweet. He has no “right” to do that.

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice

Information Warfare: The Florida Election Hack

Election hacking in Florida, municipality hacking in Baltimore, and President Donald Trump’s handing of classification authorities to Attorney General William Barr share some characteristics. Our strategies lag behind the realities of dealing with information in the age of the internet. We need to start thinking differently about how we handle information; when to withhold it and when to share it.

I’ll write three posts on ways to think about those situations. We have to find better ways to deal with information and its misuses. Read More