is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter
The US establishment, and the world, has spent the last four years trying to adapt to the disruptive policies of a childish president. Now the Democrats’ ‘adult’ leadership team will return. Watch out, folks.
To those watching the drama unfolding in Washington, DC around the stalled efforts on the part of nominal President-elect Joe Biden in forming a transition team, the parallels are eerily familiar: a bitterly contested election between an establishment political figure and a brash DC ‘outsider’, a controversial outcome delaying the implementation of the transition between administrations, and an openly condescending atmosphere where the incoming team postured as comprising a return to ‘adult’ leadership.
That time was December 2000, when a Republican team led by President-elect George W. Bush stood ready to install a cabinet composed of veteran spies, diplomats, and national security managers who had cut their policy teeth during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. With Colin Powell as secretary of state, Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, George Tenet as director of central intelligence, and Condoleezza Rice as national security advisor, the foreign policy and national security team that Dubya surrounded himself with upon assuming the presidency was as experienced a team as one could imagine.
And yet, within two years of assuming their responsibilities, this team of ‘adults’ had presided over the worst terrorist attack in American history, and the initiation of two wars (in Afghanistan and Iraq) that would forever change both the geopolitical map of the world and America’s role as world leader.
Twenty years later, the roles have reversed, with an experienced team of veteran ‘adults’ hailing from the eight-year tenure of President Barack Obama preparing to transition the US away from four tumultuous years of the presidency of Donald J. Trump. While Biden has not finalized his foreign policy and national security team, there is a consensus among experienced political observers about who the top contenders might be for the ‘big four’ foreign and national security policy positions in his administration.
While there is no doubting the experience and professional credentials of these potential nominees, they all have one thing in common: a proclivity for military intervention on the part of the US. For anyone who hoped that a Biden administration might complete the task begun by President Trump of leading America out of the ‘forever wars’ initiated by the ‘adults’ of the administration of George W. Bush, these choices represent a wake-up call that this will not be the likely outcome.
Moreover, a potential Biden cabinet would more than likely complement the existing predilection on the part of the president-elect for military intervention, pointing to a foreign and national security policy which not only sustains the existing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, but increases the likelihood of additional military misadventures. The Biden team will almost certainly seek to shoehorn the president-elect’s aggressive “America is back” philosophy into a geopolitical reality that is not inclined to accept such a role sitting down.
So who’s likely to fill what role?