Truths That Must Be Urgently Propagated

The Biden administration along with the Democratic Party has been obliged to recognize the reality of systemic racism in this country. It can do this, if nervously. And both Biden and Kamala Harris can follow up, when asked if America is a racist country, by saying no, the country itself is not racist because the American people (in general) aren’t racist. The recognition of the “system” aspect is risky because the system is capitalism; recall that Biden owes his nomination to the DNC that vetoed Sanders’ bid declaring that “a socialist can’t win in the United States.”

But it’s politically necessary for the Democrats and thus for the news staffs at CNN and MSNBC to embrace the powerful Black Lives Matter movement as well as the Sanders supporters. We are thus at a point where Biden observes that the progressives “hate” him because he doesn’t support socialism but AOC says Biden has “exceeded expectations” in his support for spending bills. Meanwhile Marxist professors increasingly appear on TV—surely progress.

But whereas capitalism can now be discussed—usually, in a conversation about how to improve or perfect it—imperialism still cannot be, in polite company, in the public space. You can talk all the right talk on racial equality, as Biden (despite his history) now does. You can even be a passionate champion of equality in this country, and still believe in such concepts as American Exceptionalism, the Free World, the sacredness of “our alliances,” the existence of “national interests” that pit “us” against “our adversaries” including “bad actors” and “spoilers” like the Russians and Chinese. You can be a “Democratic progressive” and see Ukraine as a victim of Russian aggression. You might even be able to be a BLM activist and see some good in “pushing back” on China, especially if you’ve been convinced that the Chinese are committing genocide. Anti-racist consciousness is related to but doesn’t necessarily produce anti-imperialist consciousness.

So as consciousness of institutional, structural, systemic racism comes to pervade this multiethnic society, and becomes linked in the popular mind with the profit system and the One Percent, the tendency to “support our troops” persists alongside patriotism itself.

Biden is being urged by some to model himself on FDR, architect of the New Deal of the 1930s. Others urge him to take his cue from Harry Truman, architect of the Cold War. But Biden lacks the power of Roosevelt. And today’s world is very different from that which emerged from the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany and the postwar division of Europe into spheres of influence.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman, and co-host and wife Mika Brzezinski, daughter of the nefarious national security advisor who thought it would be a good idea to support the Afghan jihadis and their foreign allies to fight the secular Soviet-backed regime in the 1980s, are big advocates of the Truman route. Biden should strengthen NATO, created by Truman in 1949 to fight communism. It should do so to defend the rules based international order, maintain peace and stability, continue the prosperity that’s existed since 1945. It should do so to “push back” on Russia for its “aggression.”

In other words, one should live in a world of delusions as ridiculous as those that haunt the minds of the QAnon adherents. One should prettify the 1950s like the Trump supporters, as a time America was great. One should fight for racial equality (didn’t Truman integrate the U.S. military?) while upholding traditional foreign policy.

No, no, no, no, no. Some things need to be urgently said, repeated, propagated.

1. NATO is not a good thing but a profoundly BAD thing. Its continued expansion as advocated by Biden is the most likely trigger of World War III between the two great nuclear powers. Formed as an anticommunist, anti-Soviet alliance by U.S. imperialists in 1949, it lost its purpose with the collapse of the USSR, its bloc and modest military alliance in 1991. The U.S. president, George H. W. Bush, promised the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, that NATO would not move an inch further east. But Bill Clinton, Bush’s successor, expanded NATO to include eastern European countries which actually using NATO forces militarily for the first time…to destroy Serbia in 1999. Moves to expand NATO have already provoked war, for no good reason. NATO expansion—especially to include Ukraine—should be opposed and NATO should be dissolved.

It should be constantly repeated that NATO was never used in war during the Cold War period (1949-1991). It was used against Serbs in Bosnia in 1995, Serbia in 1999, Afghanistan from 2001 and Libya in 2011, all places far from the North Atlantic and having little to do with the mutual security of alliance members. NATO is a prime agent of U.S. imperialist aggression. It destroyed the most affluent country in North Africa (as Hillary Clinton explained, to prevent “genocide” in Benghazi

2. China has legitimate historical claims to many islands in the South China Sea. Some of them have been visited, fished, charted and claimed for centuries before there was a United States. Some are contested between China and Vietnam or the Philippines. On islands it claims China feels the right to construct runways and harbor facilities; it feels rights specified by the UN Law of the Sea (that Beijing has ratified whereas Washington has not) to build on semi-submerged atolls. Soon to have the world’s largest GDP, China has no interest in impeding international trade between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. But the U.S. claims that its regular provocative naval operations near waters claimed by China are necessary to assure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. This is dangerous mythology.

According to State Department doctrine, Russia is the U.S.’s leading “adversary” while China is its leading “competitor.” What this means is that Russia remains the only military power on earth comparable to the U.S., with an equal nuclear stockpile. So long as it is a power it is an imagined threat. It doesn’t have to invade countries (the way the U.S. does routinely); it will be accused of “aggression” if it defends its long-standing allies in Syria against terrorist insurgents, or pushes back on NATO expansion plans in Georgia and Ukraine. It is necessary to posit a threatening Russia to justify more NATO expansion until the process of encirclement is complete.

The case against Russia mainly involves: (1) the charge that Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, for no good reason; (2) the charge that Russia has interfered in “our elections” (weakening confidence in the integrity of the system); (3) alleged Russian hacking of U.S. websites; and (4) the charge that Russia is a dictatorship ruled by a corrupt killer. There are other, highly dubious, charges about paying bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, using microwave transmissions against U.S. embassies, etc. But the case for Russia as “adversary” is weak; it is not about U.S. aggression towards the U.S. in its neighborhood but the U.S. effort to surround Russia and Russia’s measured moves in response.

The election interference charge is lame, designed as much to encourage reverence for a system undeserving of respect. The century began with a rigged stolen election in the USA. The campaigns of 2016 and 2020 showed that Wall Street interferes in U.S. elections to insure no socialists will be nominated for high posts. U.S. elections are shaped by corporate support and corporate media shaping public opinion. They are not “sacred” to begin with, Russian “interference” has been exaggerated (to discredit the 2016 election result), and if Russians did indeed invest some hundreds of dollars in social media to favor Trump who called for friendship with Russia over the warmonger Clinton it is not surprising.

The character of Putin and his regime are not U.S. security threats, any more than those of the Saudi prince and his court. There are no outstanding territorial issues between Russia and the U.S., although Blinken is questioning Russian territorial claims in the Arctic Ocean. (There are five countries with claims in the ocean: Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada, and the U.S. All have ratified the UN Law of the Sea establishing their continental shelf claims—except the U.S. 53% of the Arctic Ocean coast is Russian, less than four percent U.S. Alaskan.)

There is no basis for ongoing U.S.-Russian enmity. The Russians continue to refer to “our American partners,” not “our American adversaries.” They didn’t pick the fight this is NATO expansion. They are reacting to a hostile threat.

We should point out that Russia was a friend and partner up to 2004 when NATO expanded suddenly to include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania. The Russians, told “don’t worry, this has NOTHING to do with you,” were not amused. When informed in 2008 that NATO would soon include Georgia and Ukraine, they resisted. When Victoria Nuland (now back in the State Department leadership) organized a coup in Ukraine in 2014, in order to facilitate Ukraine NATO admission (and the seizure of Crimea from the Russian Navy) Russia responded (understandably) by reestablishing sovereignty over Crimea and encouraging the Donbas region’s separatist movement, none of which have anything to do with U.S. national security. This is all about NATO expansion, and getting the people to believe that NATO is a good thing to be maintained and expanded even in these changing progressive times.

The case against China centers around (1) its mere rise as a competing (capitalist) economy, which being so threatening has to be explained as the result of systematic unfairness (by any 21st century U.S. administration); (2) its “naval buildup” in the South China Sea where it pursues historical sovereignty claims; (3) its human rights violations as alleged by Washington, the paragon of human rights; and (4) its threats against the Chinese province of Taiwan, and the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong.

But what happens in Xinjiang is not the business of the U.S. government; it might make China deplorable but not a U.S. adversary. It is not “competing” with the U.S. over the Uighurs’ future or the Xinjiang cotton industry. It is pursuing its own interests vis-a-vis (the racist, imperialist) U.S.

Why should the people line up behind myopic Rip van Winkels like Biden and Blinken whose brains remain frozen in the Cold War? is it not obvious that their fundamental conception (American Exceptionalism) is religious idiocy? Russia is exceptional in being the world’s largest nation with a uniquely Eurasian character. China is exceptional in being the world’s most populous nation with a high degree of ethnic and linguistic unity. Japan is exceptional. Tonga is exceptional. Greece is exceptional. Israel is exceptional. So what?

Just as we should not support police departments against the people we should not support the State Department against the world as it tries to mobilize support in this country for the next war. Their effort requires the systematic vilification of Russia and China, the depiction of the last four years as an “aberration” under Trump, the reassertion of God-given U.S. leadership, avoidance of any accountability for the last several imperialist wars endorsed by Biden and Blinken. They want to pick up where we left off, leading the world, like that fine old racist Truman did.

The truth that must be urgently propagated is that Biden wants to maintain an alliance with progressives, and can move “left” on social spending—but represents Bush-Obama normalcy on foreign policy. The world has grown to reject that normalcy. If Trump has abetted that process, it’s one unintended positive consequence of his term. American Exceptionalism is racism. NATO is capitalist imperialism. The campaign against China is capitalist competition tinged with Sinophobia and even “anticommunism.” It is all irrational and reactionary.

“The workers of the world,” Marx said wisely, “have no country.” The point is to make one. Biden’s country wants to plod on with the project of world conquest, uncreatively applying all the discredited baggage of the past. (But of course we must push back on Russia as Russia opposes a NATO Ukraine! But of course we must push back on China until we curb its rise with a quick decisive naval war!) But the center-right Democrat brought to power by anti-fascist sentiment should not be allowed to confuse the people about NATO, Russia, China, and the toxicity of capitalist imperialism.

Neither Russia nor China is an enemy of you and me. NATO is toxic and should be dismantled. Capitalism is still in decline, taking longer to die than we’d like but still expiring. The racist power structure is under attack as never before. But consciousness of the wide world always lags in this solipsistic country. Until the edifice of American Exceptionalism is pulled down or pulverized—and the U.S. acknowledges its war crimes in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere—we can reach the level of Buffalo Soldier but cannot be woke.

Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: