"D" Stands for "Diplomatic" - it's not Supposed to be a Letter Grade
Happy New Year everyone on The Front Porch!
2022 will be 18th year that we've been meeting together here at CDRSalamander ... come July my alter-ego will be legal to vote. Damn, time flies.
So many of you I see here have been with us from the beginning. I've only had the pleasure of meeting a few of you IRL, but I do appreciate you taking time from your busy lives to visit here, see what I think you might find interesting, and add your flavor to the stew. Some of you I count as friends, and almost all friendly acquaintances. I really do appreciate all of you and enjoy our exchanges here ... even when you tell me I'm wrong. I learn more from you as a collective than anything else out there.
Here's to another great year, Lord will'n and the Creek don't rise.
So, what do we kick off the New Year with? We all know 2021 was just horrible ... and the peak of that horribleness was, at least for me, the national humiliation of our negotiated surrender and dishonorable withdraw from Afghanistan. I don't know about you, but I'm still working through that.
So, in difficult times, it is helpful to return to the basics. Let's go back to JPME-1 and the levers of national power to see how the good-not-so-old-USA starts 2022 - D.I.M.E..
We already covered M-Military above. Like I said, I'm still working through it all, but I do know this - we are in the negative in ways we still don't understand. We haven't been humiliated like that since Vietnam. It will take a lot of hard work internally and externally to climb out of that pit.
E-Economic? COVID-19, supply chain issues, unknown inflationary byproducts from the unprecedented injection of trillions of fiat currency in to the system ... let's just say it could be worse, I guess. We'll give E a wash as the rest of the planet has their own problems.
I-Informational? No ... that ain't going that hot either. Even potential bright spots like the AUKUS were fumbled. Perhaps we can call that a wash too ... if for no other reason than Russian and China seem determined to piss everyone off so that we don't seem so bad ... as long as you don't show pictures of Kabul at the end of August. In a moment of delusion, I might even give that a sliver of being in the positive. A net-sliver, but a sliver at that.
So, let's take a peek at D-Diplomatic. President Biden has his team in place. I have been reliably informed that the adults are back in charge and many Smartest People in the Room™ are running things.
What does "his team" have to say? Let's check in with part of the establishment natsec academic-left nomenklatura via Francis Gavin at WOTR:
For reasons fair or not, another disappointing Eagles season has me thinking about reactions to the desultory foreign policy of the first year of the Biden presidency.
Beginning with a curious decision to hold an unpleasant meeting with America’s most important strategic rival at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage and continuing with the embarrassing self-own on the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (or AUKUS) pact — a promising strategic play that could not have been presented to the world in a more hapless, self-defeating manner — the Biden team has done far worse than expected. The military withdrawal from Afghanistan — which, grand strategically, was the correct move, but was carried out in a disastrous fashion — has come to reflect an administration that overpromised competence and consultation but has often delivered too little of either. ... there appears to be no overarching conceptual model to make sense of and act in the world, no sense of priorities and necessary tradeoffs. ... In a world of limited means and unlimited challenges, good grand strategy requires both a theory of how the world works and ruthless prioritization. Attempting to do everything only guarantees you will do nothing well. Slogans, such as “a foreign policy for the middle class,” offer little guidance about how the administration will make difficult, consequential choices about an uncertain future.
Things can't be that bad, can they? I mean, we've covered the sub-optimal SECSTATE Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan here before, surely in other important areas on President Biden's agenda he's got top people pursuing America's interest? Like Iran policy, right?
Gird you loins and take a reading of Jake Wallis Simons over at the UK's, The Spectator;
One of the West’s great foreign policy failures of 2021 was the Iran nuclear negotiations, which remained bitterly unresolved as the clock passed midnight.
Not only has there been a dramatic failure to extract any concessions from Tehran – even a meaningful freeze on progress towards the bomb has remained elusive – but western negotiators have become enveloped themselves in an Asterix-style dust cloud of infighting, competing agendas and tension.
In truth, the project was all but doomed to begin with. Before he was even elected, Joe Biden telegraphed his desperation to re-enter Obama’s JCPOA deal. ‘The good news is there remains a better way,’ he wrote for CNN. ‘A Biden administration will make it a priority to set Iran policy right.’
The President might not have said in so many words that he would bend over backwards for a deal. But the Iranians are skilled at reading between the lines; and so are the senior members of his own administration.
Diplomatic sources have described Robert Malley, the US Special Representative for Iran, who is leading the negotiations in Vienna, as ‘the most dovish official we’ve ever seen’. In fact, the former head of the International Crisis Group – a think-tank devoted to dispute resolution, the very embodiment of the doctrine of softness – has bent over backwards so far that, as one official put it, he now speaks to Tehran from between his legs.
Is there some light to be seen at the end of this tunnel?
Is there any glimmer of hope? Traditionally, the Americans tend to let their negotiators and envoys run until they fall, then replace them. There is a palpable feeling in diplomatic circles that the clock is ticking for Mr Malley. If his head were to roll soon, the negotiations would be thrown into temporary disarray, and the ensuing delay would benefit Iran. But this creative destruction may allow a more serious player to lead the American delegation.
That, I’m afraid, is the best we can currently hope for. Believe me, reader, I wish there was better news. And so does the world.
And that is where we are. We have to let things get worse until we can get better.
So if 2022 could just take it easy while we try not to step on our crank some more ... that would be wonderful.
And so completes our New Year review of the four levers of national power. Two negatives, a neutral, and maybe a sliver of positive ... and that is the optimistic call.
At this point I'd like to take one of my hobby horses out of the barn. I want to review the academic pedigree of Blinken, Sullivan, and Malley in undergrad/grad - profession
Blinken: Harvard / Columbia - lawyer/government/politics
Sullivan: Yale / Oxford (Rhodes Scholar) / Yale - lawyer/academic/politics/government
Malley: Yale / Oxford (Rhodes Scholar) / Harvard - lawyer/thinktankie/government
What an incredibly narrow world view and perspective these people have - and it shows. There is little to no geographical, intellectual, or life experience diversity at all. Heck Blinken and Malley even graduated from the same high school class in Paris.
Where in their educational background have they ever been challenged? Have they ever found themselves alone in their beliefs, surrounded by those diametrically opposed to their world view?
It is easy to roll your eyes when the rubes say, "East Coast Elites" but in the name of all that is holy, just look at it. The 17th Century Habsburgs were less inbred.
A funny backgrounder on Malley. He is what is known in my circles as a "red-diaper baby". He grew up in a hard-left household. His mother worked at the UN for the Marxist–Leninist/Arab-Socialist Algerian FLN right after they established a 1-party state and slaughtered 70-90,000 of their fellow Algerians who supported the French during that Cold War horror show. His father was a journalist who wound up running a leftist magazine in France (that's how he and Blinken were in the same high school class) that was so radical that in 1980 he managed to get himself and his entire family expelled from the country and returned to New York. Of course ... he wound up writing a book in the mid-1990s on the Algerian revolution, The Call From Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam. ... and of course he was at law school with President Obama.
People are policy. If you wonder why things seem a bit off-frequency, look who is in government. Outside a polygamous cult in the mountains of northern Arizona, you'd be hard pressed to find a more culturally isolated group of people from the world around them.
When it comes specifically to Iran, if those are the three people around the table - do you really have a balanced view of the challenge at hand? Who is going to offer alternatives or different perspectives when these all come out of the same machine? It is good to have one or two like this on your team - they are very good at research and writing - but … having a team of nothing but them?
Are these people and institution really giving our nation its best from our best? These are unquestionably book-smart people who test well, but are they doing anything productive with it? What is their track record since JFK started this trend in government 60-yrs ago with his "Best and Brightest?"
What, exactly, has this pedigree of people successfully accomplished as of late? If we keep selecting the same people from such a narrow spectrum of experience - and only those people - is it any wonder that we are surprised at developments? We miss when we're being played? That we are out foxed by much weaker nations?
Perhaps we need to start thinking that the "best" institutions and our "smartest" people - perhaps - might not be the best and only thing we need working our nation’s challenges.
Just an idea. I think the record speaks for itself.