Peacemaker No More: U.S. Diplomacy in Decline

Photograph Source: 7C0 – CC BY 2.0

Two astounding events occurred in March – a peace pact between longtime, ferocious enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the presentation to Moscow of a peace deal for the Ukraine war. Both initiatives landed on a very startled west from China. The Middle East deal was presented to the world as a fait accompli, and it led, immediately, to arrangements for a ceasefire in Yemen, a country crucified in the proxy war between its two bigger neighbors and with lethal help from the United States. Now at last there is a real chance not only to end the butchery in Yemen, but also the larger genocide caused by starvation. Finally, food should be able to reach Yemen’s ports and thence the nation’s interior. The various UN agencies and the charities previously blocked from supplying grain to Yemen and its hungry children could soon be able to operate unhindered. This would be an unambiguous win for humanity.

But Washington was not pleased at this unexpected eruption of peace. Once it became public, CIA director William Burns quickly jetted into the Saudi kingdom to complain. As CNN reported April 6, Burns “expressed frustration with Saudi officials over Riyadh’s recent rapprochement with Iran through a diplomatic deal brokered by China as well as the kingdom’s openings with Syria.” Needless to say, this further step by Arab states toward accepting Syria poses military-political problems for the U.S., 900 of whose soldiers illegally occupy a portion of the country and have been engaged, rather ignominiously, in stealing its wheat and oil for some time. U.S. allies, that is, the Kurds, would do well to arrange an escape hatch with Damascus, otherwise they risk finding themselves at the mercy of their arch-enemy, Turkey, once Washington abandons what is becoming an increasingly untenable position.

Burns’ visit to Riyadh underlines that Washington was caught off guard by Beijing, and does not like its irrelevance bruited about, nor the unflattering public contrast between American and Chinese diplomacy. What’s clearer than ever is that Beijing wants conditions that are good for business and trade. With Washington…er, it’s another story. When in doubt, always assume Washington elites want war. Indeed, they’re not shy about announcing this repellant position to the world. In fact, according to the Cradle March 12, the U.S. was not on board with ending the Yemen war, something Riyadh has quite intelligently been striving toward.

Reuters reported April 7 that a Saudi delegation was ready to hold ceasefire talks in Sanaa with Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Two days later, the Saudi ambassador to Yemen actually did visit Houthi-held Sanaa to revive “a ceasefire and re-start political talks to end the nine year conflict,” AP reported April 10. So Obama’s ghastly war looks likely, at last, to end. This is serious business, and the Riyadh/Tehran peace deal fast-tracked it, which is good news for multitudes of vulnerable and starving Yemenis.

Lamentably, Washington trashed Beijing’s Ukraine/Russia peace proposal before its details were even announced, thus clarifying once and for all, and for those benighted few who doubted it, that it is not Kiev that determines Ukraine’s fate. It is Washington. Indeed, administration spokesman admiral John Kirby took to the airwaves to denounce any peace effort and basically to threaten that Washington would block it. And clearly Washington can. If the Biden gang says jump, the Ukrainian government has no choice but to ask “How high?” After all, the U.S. finances not only the war, but also the entire Ukrainian state.

So to repeat, the Exceptional Empire remains, as it has for decades, a chief wellspring of poison in the world, namely war; no surprise, considering that Washington’s main method of dealing with non-European countries is to threaten military assault or violent regime change, if they don’t do what the Empire wants. But this has not always been so, at least not so uniformly. Once upon a time, U.S. presidents hosted Middle Eastern leaders at Camp David to wrestle with the possibility of peace. The U.S. even, astonishingly, in 1975, signed the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union. Now instead, it ushers Finland into a military alliance, NATO – so such peace efforts have latterly fallen by the wayside, a rather wretched trend, and one that started, in its current disfigured form, with the Bush regime, because before that president Clinton actually did engage in some occasional diplomacy whose objective was peace.

But 25 years is a long time to keep making things more violent in the world. (The 1998 Wye Accords were the last official, U.S. diplomatic success of a possibly peaceful nature.) In the Clinton years, the Exceptional Empire still saw itself as the arbiter of peace in some corners of the world. Since then, after many unprovoked wars, invasions and no-fly zones, inflicted by Washington on West Asia and the Middle East, the Empire couldn’t give a damn. Biden may have got us out of Afghanistan, but he sure got us into Ukraine, despite all the protests that we’re not a party to our proxy war. Responding to Moscow’s invasion has become Biden’s war, though the president has repeatedly stressed that he wishes to avoid World War III. However, some of his actions tell a different tale, like arming Kiev to the teeth, nixing a peace pact in April 2022, when it was clear that Moscow was ready to settle, and having the U.S. military select Russian targets for Ukrainian missile attacks. These are dangerous escalations, reckless in the extreme. All the people of earth could wind up paying with their lives for what has begun to look like a stupid U.S. vendetta.

Could, not will. Because there is still time and space for cooler heads to prevail and for diplomatic maneuver. Moscow and Beijing both know, of course, that they are Washington’s regime change targets, but are not eager for war with the hegemon. However, it is clear that they WILL fight if there is no choice. That’s not the dilemma that Washington faces. The U.S., by contrast, does appear quite eager to confront Russia and China, it just wants other countries to do the heavy lifting. Other countries being NATO piling on Russia and the “Indo-Pacific” team assaulting China. But Beijing and Moscow have an alliance, and unlike the western ones, it shows no cracks. This is cause for faint optimism. It means that the Chinese, people who operate according to reason, rather than those in the west who appear to have lost their minds, may prevail and thus may head off a nuclear holocaust.

Biden, to repeat, said from the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that he wished to avoid World War III. He has done many things that prove he is sincere. However, he has ALSO taken positions, made threats, yielded to outbursts and engaged in rash subterfuges – blowing up the Nordstream pipelines being exhibit A – that undermine this rational approach. If he is remotely interested in keeping his promise not to irradiate planet earth, now would be a very good time for him to throw his considerable heft behind serious diplomacy.

But don’t hold your breath. He has surrounded himself with neocons addicted to war, while congress is chock-a-block with warmongers. All were disappointed by the Saudi/Iran peace pact, while voices for a negotiated settlement in Ukraine are, in the U.S., few and far between. And those few pariahs calling for peace know that here, in what Fidel Castro called the heart of the Empire, that’s basically shouting into the wind.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.