Headline: The US cannot be choosy about its allies
Sub-headline: The network of countries that worry about China are not all liberal paragons
America began losing its ‘moral authority’, an inheritance of Wilsonian Idealism, when it’s ascendant manufactures of electronics moved their operations ‘offshore’ , in order to increase their profits and avoid taxation by holding those profits off shore. The Greed of Steve Jobs and his fellows had a toxic political/moral facet? The ‘Supply Chains’ are an utter failure in terms of The Pandemic, and the care and maintenance of a vital working and middle class ,as the sine qua non of a thriving Social Democracy: a victim of an utterly pervasive and toxic Neo-Liberalism. Mr. Ganesh’s political cynicism about the character of ‘allies’, or the lack of that prerequisite, is about the collapse of that Wilsonian Idealism as a guiding principle . No matter its own toxicity, an unapologetic white supremacy. All the above unnecessary history would interfere with Ganesh’s propose, if that be readily apparent to the reader?
This diplomatic work is harder, and the resulting strength in numbers more formidable, than direct confrontation with Beijing. To that extent, Republican slurs about Democratic softness on China are as asinine as ever. Once more, though, liberal values have perverse consequences. The US can be morally scrupulous. It can string together a mighty web of friends. But it cannot achieve both feats at the same time.
Is the US going to refrain from courting, say, Thailand, on the basis of its lapses into junta rule or its lèse majesté laws? As the Philippines blows hot and cold, will Biden stop bidding for its loyalty if its populist government breaks a liberal norm too many? As for the largest potential friendship of all, that with India, is there anything Prime Minister Narendra Modi could do there to make the US spurn so grand a prize?
Mr. Ganesh’s defense of a relaxation of that Wilsonian Standard, in the name of political expediency is unsurprising. Or have I misread him?
In this way, the administration will hit its head from time to time against the moral bar it has set itself. The more rigorously Biden applies US values, the narrower his strategic options will be. The more he observes them in the breach, the higher the cost in US trustworthiness and credibility. For a 78-year-old man, the predicament is only softened by its eerie familiarity. His country struggled with it for much of his life.
The Biden/Blinken alliance, in its full dull-witted flower, represents the power of the Mass Media’s propaganda: that Trump was, in sum, ‘soft’ on both Russia and China. Both the President and the Secretary of State look like what they are bungling amateurs. The appointments of Blinken, Powers and Nuland, and a host of Obama veterans is predicative of what is to come?
Mr. Ganesh’s essay is marked by ‘history made to measure’ and by lapsing into a muddled prescriptiveness at its end.
If anything, the temptation of moral compromise is far stronger now. The frontline of the cold war was Europe, which had democratic governments in place from Dublin to Bonn. There are prominent examples of those in Asia, the new zone of competition, but there are also military rulers, technocratic city states, one-party systems, vulnerable democracies and established ones trending the wrong way.
If Antony Blinken’s commitment to “support democracy around the world” while abjuring force is to mean anything, the secretary of state must be willing to pass up convenient relationships out of liberal principle. The regional winner, if he does, hardly needs naming. And so he probably won’t. There is no disgrace at all in such pragmatism. But there is disillusion and acrimony stored up in pretensions to the opposite.
P.S. Consider Mr. Ganesh’s essay the companion piece to Gideon Rachman’s essay of March 29, 2021:
Headline: A second cold war is tracking the first
Sub-headline: US-led western alliance is once again squaring up to Russia and China