Finding a new vocabulary for the old foreign policy

U.S. foreign policy has long focused more on the evocative vocabulary used to describe it than on the geopolitical reality it is meant to address. The vocabulary that politicians and the media use to define foreign policy is part of a web of artificially generated illusions that serve not so much to fabricate consent as to foster a sense of belonging to a world of technology and technology. finance that is no longer linked to human reality.

Every American government seeks to create the impression that the nation’s foreign policy reflects a reasoned mission. In the past, this has served to motivate the population to reflexively applaud actions – war, invasion, sanctions – that are often directly detrimental to the well-being of Americans themselves.

For 20 years in Afghanistan, ignorance was bliss


The shock of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan needs a new vocabulary to understand it. Four New York Times reporters came together as a creative team to make a major contribution to provide the kind of vocabulary that should reassure Americans baffled by the mixed signals the Biden administration sent after the debacle in Afghanistan.

The journalists summarize the whole subject in one sentence: “The Biden Doctrine sees China as America’s existential competitor, Russia as a disruptor, Iran and North Korea as nuclear proliferators, cyberthreats on the go. evolution and terrorism as spreading far beyond Afghanistan. “

Today’s Daily Devil’s Dictionary Definition:

Existential competitor:

A fantasy peculiar to the minds of paranoid people, who believe that their own survival depends on eliminating or neutralizing one or more specific rivals

Contextual note

The first question an impartial observer of contemporary history might ask is: why are journalists so obsessed with assigning a “doctrine” to every president? Is it a form of nostalgia for that heroic period in United States history in which James Monroe imposed an idea that posed a threat to the rest of the civilized world, claiming Latin America as the rear- Washington court?

The idea of ​​a presidential doctrine emerges as the answer to the question of whether the current president will deploy the incomparable and ever-expanding military might of the country? George W. Bush’s doctrine, although supposedly focused on terrorism, boiled down to the simplistic (and dangerous) idea that if we think a nation is failing to promote American interests, we reserve the right to call it terrorism and attack it preemptively. In the face of terror, terrorize the whole world with your threats.

The Times team sees China not only as the new focus of the Biden Doctrine, but as an “existential” threat. What can this really mean apart from the delusions of a paranoid? When, at the end of the 1950s, Russian Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev pronounced the phrasing, “We’re going to bury capitalism,” the US media let the quote change to “we’re going to bury you,” which the public understandably interpreted as an existential threat.

The same medium, pushed by the CIA, was already busy rolling out everything in its toolbox, including Hollywood films, to make sure Americans felt constantly threatened by the prospect of nuclear war. The end result was to establish the idea that the American adversary of the Cold War was eager to bomb every American. After four years of supporting Russiagate’s wildest fantasies simply to discredit President Donald Trump, The New York Times is at least consistent with itself in making this fresh appeal to Cold War tropes to enlighten its readers on the Biden doctrine.

Interestingly, with Trump’s departure, the Times has now demoted Russia to “disruptor” status, although it’s unclear what Putin might seek to disrupt outside of social media and corporate software. The article points to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s warning about China and Russia that they were “arguing in public and in private that the United States is in decline – so best to side with their authoritarian visions for the world than with our democracy. Is this a disruption or just a historical commentary?

After disruption, the authors identify the characteristics of other adversaries requiring a response according to the Biden Doctrine. They cite nuclear proliferation, cyberthreats and terrorism, suggesting that the field is wide open to oppose, through diplomacy or force, any nation on earth that plays any of these games. One obvious exception is Israel, which, like the United States, uses proliferation, cyberthreats and state terrorism for what General Milley might call “just.”

The Times has once again fulfilled one of its fundamental missions: to use its authority to shape the thinking of its readers on foreign policy. The methodology is to offer the kind of vague generalization about another regime that sums up its adversarial relationship with the United States and is easy to remember.

The whole process, continued over time, is designed to provoke standardized emotions that serve to justify the combined interests of the White House, the Pentagon, and the industrial and financial complex that the Times editorial board so consistently supports despite the exceptions.

“Existential” isn’t the only term the Times fails to define. In any article on foreign policy, readers will find two complementary terms that remain the foundation of all foreign policy discussions: national interest and national security. “The president’s withdrawal from Afghanistan,” the authors explain, “clearly shows that he considered risking more American lives there no longer in America’s national interest.” Why should something that has been “interesting” for 20 years suddenly no longer be of interest?

The article quotes the former Under-Secretary of Defense, Michèle Flournoy, who insists on distinguishing “between [Biden’s] appetite for nation building, which is essentially zero, against its appetite for the use of force if necessary to defend the national security of the United States, which I think remains quite strong. The Times clearly agrees with Flournoy and expects its readers to adhere to the modern principle that concern for national security automatically justifies the “use of force”.

Flournoy notes that “the president indicated that he was comfortable with the idea of ​​supporting American diplomacy with a muscular military posture”. All this aims to demonstrate that the withdrawal from Afghanistan does not mean the abandonment of a foreign policy designed for the needs of the military-industrial complex.

Historical Note

At a time of historic change, the public needs guidance. The New York Times team is not alone in seeking to forge the vocabulary that will help Americans navigate the headlines of U.S. actions abroad. In much less evocative terms, Democratic activist and sometimes Congressional candidate Dave Anderson describe the Biden doctrine as “a third way which … carves out an ambitious new center for itself in foreign affairs”. He says it is the will “to assert our own democratic ideals and to work with other established or emerging democracies, but we do not want to control the world or engage in nation building. “.

The Bangkok Post frames it in similar terms: “The Biden Doctrine is now focused on strengthening home base and like-minded friends in the Western world.” Daniel Johnson, writing for The Article, makes a important point: “The defense of the West or the free world plays no role in this doctrine, except to the extent that these concepts serve the geographically and temporally limited interests of the United States. The key word is not democracy, competition, disturbance or terrorism, but rather “interests”.

The intellectual notion of national interest appeared with the emergence of European nation-states from the 15the century and only appeared in the era of commercialism, when the idea of ​​”interest” revealed its strong connection with the bank and underwent a major transformation. In feudal times, political relations were defined in terms of power, territory, the well-being of the people and, of course, personal honor.

With the rise of the nation-state during a period of religious conflict and colonial conquest, the national interest became confused with both ideology (the cause justifying the conflict) and economic hegemony (rather than simple traditional war booty).

Since at least the 17the century, the indefinable notion of national interest has become the basis of the foreign policy of nations. The language of nationalism remains a magma of undefined terms, programmed emotions, and carefully crafted disinformation that not only the New York Times, but all media outlets use to reinforce the illusion of their authority.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news. Read more of The Daily Devil’s Dictionary on Fair Observer.]

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.

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