As the death toll in Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine continues to rise, there have only been a handful of Westerners publicly questioning NATO and the West’s role in the conflict. These voices are becoming fewer and further between as a wave of feverish backlash engulfs any dissent on the subject. One of these voices belongs to Professor Michael J. Brenner, a lifelong academic, Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and a Fellow of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS/Johns Hopkins, as well as former Director of the International Relations & Global Studies Program at the University of Texas. Brenner’s credentials also include having worked at the Foreign Service Institute, the U.S. Department of Defense and Westinghouse, and written several books on American foreign policy. From the vantage point of decades of experience and studies, the intellectual regularly shared his thoughts on topics of interest through a mailing list sent to thousands of readers—that is until the response to his Ukraine analysis made him question why he bothered in the first place.
On April 11, 2002, Venezuela’s democratically elected government, headed by Hugo Chávez Frías, was ousted in a military coup d’etat. Then, dramatically, two days later, the coup was overturned by a mass mobilization of Venezuelans. They demanded the restoration of democracy and the return of a government that appeared to be making good on its commitment to redistribute Venezuela’s oil wealth to benefit the country’s most marginalized sectors. These events led to lasting ramifications not just for Venezuela, but for Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole, paving the way for a “pink tide” of progressive movements that took power democratically throughout the region.
By now everyone knows that Ukraine’s flag is blue and yellow. It is impossible to miss as the Empire State Building in New York, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris have all been bathed in those colors. Nearly every city and town across the United States has followed suit and politicians ranging from local legislators to members of congress shout “Stand with Ukraine!” at every opportunity. Yet it must be pointed out that those blue and yellow motifs and pleas for solidarity are all about white supremacy. Ukraine is upheld as a bastion of “civilization” which is supposed to put it off limits for war and suffering. The quiet part is now being spoken out loud. We are told that Ukrainians are more deserving of concern because they are Europeans.
President Biden and the Democrats were highly critical of President Trump’s foreign policy, so it was reasonable to expect that Biden would quickly remedy its worst impacts. As a senior member of the Obama administration, Biden surely needed no schooling on Obama’s diplomatic agreements with Cuba and Iran, both of which began to resolve long-standing foreign policy problems and provided models for the renewed emphasis on diplomacy that Biden was promising. Tragically for America and the world, Biden has failed to restore Obama’s progressive initiatives, and has instead doubled down on many of Trump’s most dangerous and destabilizing policies. It is especially ironic and sad that a president who ran so stridently on being different from Trump has been so reluctant to reverse his regressive policies.
US policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean continued in a seamless transition from Trump to Biden, but the terrain over which it operated shifted left. The balance between the US drive to dominate its “backyard” and its counterpart, the Bolivarian cause of regional independence and integration, continued to tip portside in 2021 with major popular electoral victories in Chile, Honduras, and Peru. These follow the previous year’s reversal of the coup in Bolivia. Central has been the struggle of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) countries – particularly Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua – against the asphyxiating US blockade and other regime-change measures. Presidential candidate Biden pledged to review Trump’s policy of US sanctions against a third of humanity.
Despite President Joe Biden having claimed earlier this year that “diplomacy is back” and that he would end the war in Yemen, revive the Iran Nuclear Deal and settle several other issues, in reality his Middle East foreign policy has been just as detrimental to the region as was that of his predecessor. “This war has to end…we’re ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales,” Biden said in early February during his first address to the U.S. public on his administration’s foreign policy approach. It was a speech that saw him showered with the praise of his supporters, yet we are now in late December and the war has only intensified, with UN experts estimating that the total death toll by the end of the year will be 377,000.
Chuck Kaufman, presente! A great comrade and friend to the peoples and just causes of Latin America and the Caribbean has passed on the torch. Chuck Kaufman died on Tuesday, December 28th, and is being remembered for the tremendous impact he made during his decades of anti-imperialist work, organizing to change US-Latin American foreign policy. Chuck was known for his leadership among North American solidarity organizing with Latin American grassroots movements. It all began when he joined the staff of the Nicaragua Network in 1987, which in 1998 became the Alliance for Global Justice, for which he served as National Co-Coordinator until the time of his passing.
The New York Times reported this week that Russia is preparing its public for potential war with the United States. Moscow is “promoting patriotism” by training high school students in history and military history, according to the Times, and that Russian media outlets are saying that the country considers itself to be “surrounded by enemies” and may be forced to defend itself “as it did against the Nazis.” Going even further, the Times added that Russia had already “massed troops on the border with Ukraine,” a lie that has been perpetuated in the mainstream media all across the United States. Where do we even begin to pick this story apart? I’m not a Russia expert.
If anything, Washington’s neoconservatives have an unerring instinct for survival. Having brought about multiple disasters in the two decades since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, from the Iraq war to the twin debacles in Libya and Syria, the neocons seem to have perfected the art of failing up. Harvard University’s Stephen Walt once quipped that “Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.” And in this regard, the story of the Kagan family is instructive. Robert Kagan, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of pseudo-histories such as The Jungle Grows Back, has for years been a leading advocate of American militarism.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's official visit to Africa had the typical hallmarks of paternalism and hypocrisy the U.S. exhibits toward Africa but this time with a subtle difference. Blinken’s trip to meet with heads of state in Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal was ostensibly to address the COVID-19 pandemic, “building back” to a more inclusive global economy, combating the climate crisis, revitalizing democracies, and advancing peace and security. The U.S.’s poor performance in all of these areas is now notorious, making it difficult to be as condescending as it tends to be toward Africa. Even though this predicament hasn’t been lost on Blinken who admitted to a group of human rights activists in Nairobi, Kenya “[t]he United States is hardly immune from this challenge” of being vulnerable to misinformation, corruption, political violence and voter intimidation. He was making an apparent reference to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capital.
The Racism-Militarism Paradigm is a way of looking at the world, widely shared among the U.S. policymaking community and much of the public, that arises from a largely unacknowledged doctrine of white supremacy and the necessity of using violence to uphold it. This paradigm establishes a rigid hierarchy, based on race, that values white lives more than any other—at home and abroad. It embraces militarism as the most effective mechanism to guarantee this ordering of society and the world. The U.S. quest for global military supremacy causes immense harm at home and abroad, particularly to people of color. The policies that emanate from this paradigm rob us of economic resources, corrupt our political system, endanger our lives, and offend our most fundamental moral values.
“But we already had two firsts. Colin Powell was one of them, and Condoleezza Rice, his successor as secretary of state. How did that redound to the benefit of black people for the United States to have a black — put a black face on imperialism, on aggressive war, on violations of international law? How does that make black people look better in the world? Is that the kind of burden that black people want to carry around?” Glen Ford The late Colin Powell certainly had a storied career. It wound through various Republican presidential administrations from Ronald Reagan, to George H.W. Bush to George W. Bush. He served as National Security Adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State. He said this about his life and work, ““All I want to do is judge myself as a successful soldier who served his best.”
Each year in September, the heads of governments come to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to inaugurate a new session of the General Assembly. The area surrounding the headquarters becomes colourful, delegates from each of the 193 member states milling about the UN building and then going out to lunch in the array of restaurants in its vicinity that scraped through the pandemic. Depending on the conflicts that abound, certain speeches are taken seriously; conflicts in this or that part of the world demand attention to the statements made by their leaders, but otherwise there is a queue of speeches that are made and then forgotten. On 25 September, the prime minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, took the stage in an almost empty UN General Assembly chamber.
For over 50 years I have been writing about foreign policy — mostly America’s, but those of other nations as well. I think I have a pretty good grasp of places like Turkey, China, India, Russia, and the European Union. I regret that I am less than sure-footed in Africa and Latin America. During this time I have also learned a fair amount about military matters and various weapons systems, because they cost enormous amounts of money that could be put to much better use than killing and maiming people. But also because it’s hard to resist the absurd: the high performance US F-35 fighter jet — at $1.7 trillion, the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history — that costs $36,000 an hour to fly, shoots itself, and can decapitate pilots who attempt to bail out.
A flurry of communication across Eurasia has followed the quick collapse of the US-backed Afghan government over the last two weeks as regional powers struggle to figure out their orientation to the new Taliban government, which has hinted it might not rule the same way as it did before, which earned it few friends and many enemies. Beijing and Tehran are rushing to ensure stability in Central Asia after the Afghan capital of Kabul suddenly surrendered to the Taliban without a fight on Sunday, something American and Afghan officials had publicly stated they believed wouldn’t happen for at least a month. On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Quresh, and on Thursday with his Turkish counterpart, Melvut Cavosoglu, about coordination on their Afghanistan policy.