The report that was released two weeks ago is a predictably superficial rendering of U.S. plans for global cooperation, but contains no original ideas for the U.S. role in doing so. There is nothing in the report that suggests the Biden administration has any ideas for reversing the downturn in relations with China—our most important bilateral relationship—which points to increased bilateral tensions and greater defense spending. There is no indication that we have learned important lessons from the isolationist step of withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the militaristic policies in the Middle East and Southwest Asia that depend on use of force.
Sixty years ago, we survived a nuclear standoff between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev that inspired literature on crisis management and crisis avoidance regarding the Cuban missile crisis. From that crisis, we should have learned something about the essentials of secret diplomacy and compromise.
In any event, Pelosi’s travel to the world’s worst trouble spots creates significant confusion regarding official U.S. policies and politics. In flexing the flabby diplomatic muscles of the U.S. Congress, Pelosi is engaging the international community without any obvious coordination with the White House or the Department of State. The notion that anyone from the House of Representatives could have an impact on U.S. foreign policy or diplomacy is particularly ludicrous. Unfortunately, her trips seemingly amount to a last hurrah.
One of the greatest weaknesses of presidential leadership over the past 60 years has been the lack of presidential experience in the military and the inability to control the military. Several weeks before his seminal Farewell Address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower told his senior advisers in the White House, “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.” His successors have been deferential to the military and too many of them have used military force to bolster their credentials. This has been a major factor in the expanded power of the military establishment.