World

Should Biden's Choice for Secretary of State Discourage Libertarians?

President Joe Biden's promised return to normality will unfortunately extend to his administration's foreign policy.

|

If his selection of Antony Blinken as secretary of state is any indication, President Joe Biden's promised return to normality will extend to his administration's foreign policy.

A veteran of the U.S. State Department and Democratic Party foreign policy establishment, Blinken, 58, will bring competence and professionalism to the job of America's top diplomat. But he offers little hope for "a new and fresh foreign policy that doesn't involve global military primacy, continued intervention overseas, and [a] massive military footprint," says Kelley Vlahos, a senior adviser at the Quincy Institute, a noninterventionist foreign policy think tank.

As then–Vice President Biden's national security adviser, Blinken supported the Obama administration's disastrous Libya campaign, despite Biden's opposition to that intervention. In 2015, Blinken, then assistant secretary of state, favored the Obama administration's policy of shipping arms to and sharing intelligence with Saudi Arabia to support its war in Yemen, which has proven to be a humanitarian catastrophe. Blinken also served as Biden's chief policy adviser in 2002, when Biden, then a senator representing Delaware, voted in favor of using military force in Iraq.

"In short, Blinken has agreed with some of the biggest foreign policy mistakes that Biden and Obama made, and he has tended to be more of an interventionist than both of them," Daniel Larison, a senior editor at The American Conservative, noted in a November article for the Quincy Institute publication Responsible Statecraft.

Blinken has expressed some regret over his support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, and he has criticized the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet he also has faulted the Obama administration for doing "too little" in Syria. "Without bringing appropriate power to bear, no peace could be negotiated, much less imposed" there, Blinken and Robert Kagan wrote in a 2019 essay published by the Brookings Institution. "Today we see the consequences, in hundreds of thousands of civilians dead, in millions of refugees who have destabilized Europe and in the growing influence of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah."

Vlahos suspects Blinken has not absorbed the lessons of America's foreign policy adventures during the last couple of decades. For "a lot of people who have offered some regrets [about] specific foreign policy mistakes, whether it be Libya or Vietnam or Iraq," she says, it is "because they cannot deny the consequences. The consequences are so awful, and public opinion has already decided."

A few progressive intervention skeptics have offered a rosier assessment of Blinken. Matt Duss, who advises Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) on foreign policy, described Blinken as "a good choice," saying on Twitter he has "the knowledge and experience for the important work of rebuilding U.S. diplomacy." Mainstream press coverage of Blinken's nomination likewise emphasized his diplomatic experience, contrasting it with Trump's own "ricocheting strategies and nationalist swaggering," as The New York Times put it.

Eric Gomez, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute, thinks supporters of a less militarized foreign policy can find a silver lining in Biden's pick for secretary of state. "A lot of what Trump did while in office," Gomez says, "hurt all the parts of the tool kit that weren't the military or weren't sanctions. He was heavily dependent on U.S. threats of force. Having a more effective and resourced and utilized diplomatic corps, and using those peaceful, nonmilitary parts of U.S. foreign policy, is not sufficient, but it is necessary. We have to have those."

At the same time, Gomez cautions, a more efficiently run State Department means Biden could enact a foreign policy vision that has little to do with restraint or rolling back America's role as global policeman. If there's cause for optimism about Biden's foreign policy, he argues, it's that more pressing domestic concerns will prevent the incoming president from doing anything very dramatic.

"Any coming Biden administration foreign policy will be restrained by circumstance, but not design," wrote Gomez and Cato senior fellow Brandon Valeriano in a November American Conservative essay. "The domestic, political, and economic environment in the United States will significantly constrain the Biden administration's ability to adopt ambitious foreign policy goals."

NEXT: Brickbat: Not Feeling the Love Here

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
    sailed off in a wooden shoe —
    Sailed on a river of crystal light,
    into a sea of dew.
    “Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
    the old moon asked the three.
    “We have come to fish for the herring fish
    that live in this beautiful sea;
    Nets of silver and gold have we!”
    said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

    The old moon laughed and sang a song,
    as they rocked in the wooden shoe,
    And the wind that sped them all night long
    ruffled the waves of dew.
    The little stars were the herring fish
    that lived in that beautiful sea —
    “Now cast your nets wherever you wish —
    never afraid are we”;
    So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
    Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

    All night long their nets they threw
    to the stars in the twinkling foam —
    Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
    bringing the fishermen home;
    ‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
    as if it could not be,
    And some folks thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
    of sailing that beautiful sea —
    But I shall name you the fishermen three:
    Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

    Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
    and Nod is a little head,
    And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
    is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
    So shut your eyes while Mother sings
    of wonderful sights that be,
    And you shall see the beautiful things
    as you rock in the misty sea,
    Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
    Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

    1. *** scratches head ***

      So, “Wynken” is Harris and “Nod” is Biden?

      1. LOL well played.

      2. So Neil and Bob are out?

      3. “Nod off” is Biden.

  2. If his selection of Antony Blinken as secretary of state is any indication, President Joe Biden’s promised return to normality will extend to his administration’s foreign policy.

    Damn, I’m regretting my support for Biden now – I had no idea that when he talked about a return to normalcy he meant he was going to return to the same old shit. I thought he meant he was handing out free unicorns. That’s what I voted for, free unicorns, not all the Obama retreads pulling Biden’s strings like he’s a wooden-headed puppet that just mouths the words with no understanding of their meaning.

    1. It has been amazing watching Reason not even acknowledge their stance the last year. It almost makes them seem dumb and dishonest.

      1. Cmon man! Nobody saw this coming.

    2. But there is no more mean tweets, so it’s a win!

  3. The primary objective of Koch / Reason libertarianism is to make billionaires — especially our benefactor Charles Koch — even richer. I don’t see how Biden’s SoS pick will prevent that. On the contrary Mr. Koch has already prospered far more under Biden than he did under Drumpf.

    #InDefenseOfBillionaires

    1. Thanks OBL, You’re doing great work down here.
      Now that I’m able to import slaves support undocumented migrant workers again, we expect 2021 to be a banner year.

  4. I was more disappointed to find out that Biden’s coloring book was ghost written.

  5. I expected no better. It’s as bizarre as ever: the Left utterly hates the rank and file military and wails about military spending, but wants to have an interventionist foreign policy which is kinda hard without a large expensive military.

    1. “the Left utterly hates the rank and file military ”

      This is false. They hated the military when they didn’t have power. Now they can’t get enough of that foreign oil for the purposes of virtue signaling about green energy at home

    2. The left hates rank and file everyone, but has infiltrated leadership of almost every institution, so that they can utilize them for more power.

      1. As Iowahawk once said; They infiltrate them, kill them and then wear their corpse as a skin suit while demanding respect.

        1. They infiltrate them, kill them and then wear their corpse as a skin suit

          Kind of like Buffalo Bill. “It puts the lotion on its skin…”

    3. Oh, they love the military now. CRT is being slid into the Navy. The rank and file are all predominantly left nowadays. The mid-level and lower officers were trained in universities steeped in SJW.

  6. “A veteran of the U.S. State Department and Democratic Party foreign policy establishment”

    Uh oh.

    ” Blinken, 58, will bring competence and professionalism to the job of America’s top diplomat

    Oh fuck. Establishment competence.

    When they were competent we got wars the Balkans, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, etc.

    When they were incompetent we got no wars, the end of the Afghanistan war, rapproachment with Korea, and peace between the Serbs and the Kosovars, and the Arabs and Israelis.

    1. If we don’t fight the Iranian regime in Tehran, we’ll have to fight them in Jerusalem soon. Onward Christian soldiers…. defend our greatest ally with your lives.

  7. No refunds you fucking clowns.

    I’m already enjoying the start of four years of “oops we fucked up”

    1. It would be better if we actually got some sort of mea culpa, even if subtle. But I truly doubt anyone at Reason actually feels any responsibility for the effects of their pre-election coverage on the current state of government.

      Im guessing they’ve convinced themselves that all of this happening wasn’t obvious before the election, which is kind of amazing.

      1. I’m guessing that they’re actually on board with 50% of it.

      2. Reason got Biden elected? Holy shit! What power they have!

        1. I thought you don’t read my posts liar.

          So is your stance that Reason has no effect on anyone’s opinion?

          1. “Influential” is not the first word that comes to mind when I think of the magazine.

          2. Saying Reason got Biden elected is about as stupid as saying Russian ads on Facebook got Trump elected. Did I say stupid? I meant moronic and dishonest. Or stupid. Stupid works.

          3. Misquoting me twice and still not answering the question I see.

            1. Oh, I get it, this is drunk start shit sarc (a bit early there bud). To be followed up with poor sarc the victim.

              1. No, it’s I gave you a opportunity to have a conversation like a mature adult and you failed miserably. Not that I’m surprised.

                1. “Did I say stupid? I meant moronic and dishonest. Or stupid. Stupid works.”

                  Clearly an attempt at a mature, adult, conversation.

                  1. I said the idea was stupid, not the person. You never address ideas, just people. That’s why nobody likes you.

                    1. Did this bullshit sound believable in your head?

                      And still no answer to my question. Which would be odd if you were trying to have a conversation, but everyone knows you were full of shit when you said that, liar.

                    2. Remind me why I owe you a direct answer, and ask yourself why it matters so much to you.

                    3. Pointing out your whiny hypocrisy isn’t that important, but it’s mildly entertaining.

                  2. Though don’t take my last comment to mean that’s the only reason why nobody likes you. Just one of many.

                    1. Your sad projection is sad.

    2. Except they will never admit they were wrong.

      1. The title of this article says it all-what was even remotely libertarian about Biden or Democrats in the first place? Oh yeah, they thanked us for our support by deeming libertarians domestic terrorists, how do you like them apples?

  8. If there’s cause for optimism about Biden’s foreign policy, he argues, it’s that more pressing domestic concerns will prevent the incoming president from doing anything very dramatic.

    Yeah, more pressing domestic concerns like cracking down on “DoMeStIk TeRrIsTs”.

    “Any coming Biden administration foreign policy will be restrained by circumstance, but not design,” wrote Gomez and Cato senior fellow Brandon Valeriano in a November American Conservative essay. “The domestic, political, and economic environment in the United States will significantly constrain the Biden administration’s ability to adopt ambitious foreign policy goals.”

    Like any of that shit matters when the money printer goes BRRRRR.

    1. I’m trying to remember a time that having too much going on domestically slowed down the foreign adventurism. The government would never use media attention in one area to get away with doing things in another area without any scrutiny!

      It’s like “Wag the Dog” is just a pet grooming term.

      1. I’m trying to remember a time that having too much going on domestically slowed down the foreign adventurism.

        Yeah, it’s usually the opposite. More going on domestically typically leads to more foreign military misadventures. Nothing gets people to forget about domestic problems faster than a good old fashioned war.

        1. Forgot the rest of that response:

          I guess working for a think tank means you don’t have to learn anything from history.

  9. The time to notice that Trump’s foreign policy was about as good as could be reasonably expected was four months ago. Now, it’s too late. We probably won’t get another pragmatist in 2024 if a Republican wins either.

    This is when you take a middle manager aside and ask him or her what mistakes they made, how they could have been avoided, and how they’ll avoid that mistake again in the future.

    The difference between smart and stupid is that stupid people learn by suffering from the negative consequences of their mistakes. Smart people avoid those negative consequences by making smart choices. Don’t get me wrong. Even smart people can make stupid mistakes, but there’s a special class of willfully stupid people that really need to be exposed and sent packing. They’re the ones who won’t admit they made a mistake–despite suffering the negative consequences of their stupid decision.

    If foreign policy was important to you, letting Donald Trump lose to Biden was a terrible, foreseeable, and avoidable mistake. I suppose there are arguments to make that there were other upsides that made Trump losing desirable, but I can’t think of any persuasive arguments for that from a libertarian and capitalist perspective.

    And it’s really important we come to terms with the enormity of our mistake as a nation. The alternative is willful stupidity, and if the willfully stupid out there are the ones driving the bus, they really need to be exposed before we can expect things to change for the better.

    Some people look back at our adventure in Iraq and the subsequent Iranian aggression in the region, and they say, “What an amazing success!” Putting them in charge of our foreign policy was probably a terrible mistake. Hopefully, the consequences aren’t so negative that even the willfully stupid are forced to concede that electing Biden was a mistake.

    I’d like to think there are enough of my fellow Americans who are smart enough to avoid obvious mistakes before we make them, that we can make a difference through facts, logic, and persuasion, but the first step is admitting that we made a mistake.

    1. While I agree with Ken’s assessment, very few Biden voters will ever admit they made a mistake (i.e. by voting for Biden) because they’ll never realize they made a mistake because they’ll continue reading, listening to and believing the same left wing propaganda from NY Times, WaPo, AP, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, etc., who have conspired to lie about Trump and Biden (i.e. by demonizing the former and praising the latter), covid, climate change, foreign wars, immigration, transgenderism, capitalism, BLM, antifa, and many other issues.

  10. Is there even one Reason article that praised Biden’s promised foreign policy?
    “If foreign policy was important to you, letting Donald Trump lose to Biden ”
    I don’t think there was one libertarian Reason reader who actually “let Trump lose to Biden.” I would venture that not too many virtue-signaling, social climbing, suburban soccer moms and dads are influenced by Reason or its readers or by the Libertarian Party.

    1. Most Americans are libertarian, but don’t even know what libertarianism means (as left wing Democrats and conservative Republicans, and their respective media allies, have trashed and misrepresented libertarianism for decades).

      Meanwhile, Reason and the Libertarian Party, both of which demonized Trump and campaigned for a Biden victory, no longer support libertarianism.

  11. Should Biden’s Choice for Secretary of State Discourage Libertarians?

    I thought we were supposed to be happy to return to the status quo ante?

    ‘Wrong, but within normal parameters’?

    No mean tweets!

    1. I mean, you guys got what you said you wanted – now all you do is bitch that Biden is doing what Biden said he would do.

      1. You elect an establishment politician and then complain that he does establishment things.

        50 year history in political office but you thought he had *changed* all of a sudden over a few months during the campaign? Despite him actually sticking to most of what he supported during his previous 5 decades as a politician?

      2. now all you do is bitch that Biden is doing what Biden said he would do.

        I think that’s what they wanted. It’s a very comfortable space that they know how to fill.

        1. The devil they know. Also, if Washington trends Libertarian do they sell fewer magazines?

  12. “A lot of what Trump did while in office,” Gomez says, “hurt all the parts of the tool kit that weren’t the military or weren’t sanctions. He was heavily dependent on U.S. threats of force. Having a more effective and resourced and utilized diplomatic corps, and using those peaceful, nonmilitary parts of U.S. foreign policy, is not sufficient, but it is necessary. We have to have those.”

    How did Trump get all those ME nations to normalize relations with Israel again? I don’t remember him using a gun to do so.

  13. it’s that more pressing domestic concerns will prevent the incoming president from doing anything very dramatic.

    Yeah. Because no recent President, facing domestic concerns, ever launched a war (a small one, mind) in order to shift focus away from his domestic responses.

  14. [Trump] was heavily dependent on U.S. threats of force.
    Which is how he convinced four Arab countries (Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the UAE) to recognize Israel, right? Threatening them into it?

    I understand why the uniparty wants to pretend that Trump was a foreign policy disaster. What I don’t get is why supposed libertarians (Reason, Cato) want to pretend the guy who racked up a number of real diplomatic victories while scaling back our existing wars and not starting any new ones was a disaster.

    1. Look, he likes his steaks *well done!* and puts *ketchup* on them! SMALL FINGERS AND MEAN TWEETS!

      Oh, and he’s not part of the established ‘professional’ government bureaucrats and politicians that Reason has spent the last 50 years railing against – until an outsider actually got elected and they got real, real quiet.

      This is Reason.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zUc-mpMGrs

  15. Just finished Scott Horton’s new book..all these neocons and neolibs need to be deported…say to Vienna in a time machine to 1920…they just push Troytskyite international “woke” imperialism..

  16. Poor commies at unreason. They think el presidente biden has any power. Trump was the best and last president America will have until civil war 2.0 is resolved. el presidente biden is in charge of a banana republic of Lefties. Nobody else cares what the government says.

  17. Normal!

    The word is “normal”, not “normalcy” and certainly not “normality”. (Normality is the strength of chemical solution, 1 normal = 1 equivalent / liter.)

  18. “Hey Blinken”

    “Did he just call me Abe Lincoln?”

Please to post comments