Veering to the Abyss… U.S. and Allies Are Intellectually Comatose, by Finian Cunningham

Realities have changed for the US and its allies, but their thinking hasn’t. From Finian Cunningham at

We’ll need something like the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when the U.S. and Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear war in order to get peoples’ heads screwed on straight, says Michael Brenner in an interview with SCF’s Finian Cunningham.

In a stark assessment of U.S. international policy and that of its allies, Professor Michael Brenner says there is an abject failure of political leadership and strategic thinking. This is clearly seen with regard to Washington’s persistent antagonism of China and its inability to conduct meaningful dialogue and diplomacy with Beijing for resolving major issues. That is also the case with regard to Europe’s frigid attitude towards Moscow. Such crass conduct of international relations is not only self-defeating for the United States and its Western allies, it is creating the dangerous conditions for fatal miscalculation leading to war. Brenner contends that the world might have to face the brink of destruction before some level of sanity prevails in Washington and other Western capitals. It is lamentable that the lack of strategic thinking and political leadership in the United States is driving the rest of the world to the abyss.

Michael Brenner is Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, SAIS-Johns Hopkins (Washington, DC). Previously, he held teaching and research appointments at Cornell, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Brookings Institution, University of California – San Diego, and was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the National Defense University. He has authored several books on international politics including Toward a More Independent Europe.


QUESTION: U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said he does not want a Cold War with China. Yet Biden has made provocative moves to antagonize Beijing, for example, his vocal support for militarily defending Taiwan against alleged aggression from the Chinese mainland. Is this deliberate “strategic ambiguity” or plain incoherence in U.S. policy towards China?

MICHAEL BRENNER: Any ascription of a coherent strategic design to the Biden administration is misplaced. There clearly isn’t any. Second key point: Biden’s control over his national security team is tenuous. For example, the day after telling China’s President Xi Jinping on the phone that he doesn’t want a “fight” with China, senior U.S. officials were meeting with Taiwan officials in Geneva to discuss the opening of a “representative” office in Washington – in violation of the 1972 accords that formed the basis of the One China Policy established in 1979 under then President Carter. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security advisor Jake Sullivan, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman et al. are unanimous in their view of China as a lethal threat to American dominance and they believe that a confrontational approach is the only logical response. There is no minority view inside or outside the Biden administration. Only Biden’s domestic advisers are skeptical on strictly political grounds – war or near-war is an electoral loser.

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