New “Washington Consensus”

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By JOHN BELLAMY FOSTER*

A new, more dangerous and potentially deadly new imperial and class grand strategy, which also governs US domestic politics

On April 27, 2023, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan delivered a speech on “Renewing American Economic Leadership” at the Brookings Institution. Jake Sullivan's speech was unusual and caught everyone's attention for at least three reasons. First, what was being announced was a fundamental shift away from the previous “Washington Consensus” associated with neoliberal globalization and its replacement by what Jake Sullivan called the “New Washington Consensus,” organized around the New Cold War of fact of the US against China.

China's supposed threat was used to justify economic sanctions against rival states and supply-side government subsidies to corporations in a militarized industrial policy. Second, such a major change in overall US economic policy was not issued by the President or a high-ranking economic official, but by the US National Security Advisor, which highlights the primacy of New Cold War thinking.

Third, to justify Washington's new posture, Sullivan presented a series of "challenges" or crises facing the United States, including economic stagnation, deindustrialization, climate change, increasing inequality, and diminishing US hegemony (Jake Sullivan, "Remarks by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Renewing American Economic Leadership at the Brookings Institution, April 27, 2023, www.whitehouse.gov).

The main point of the Sullivan Doctrine is the notion that there has been a “hollowing out” of the US “industrial base” as a result of neoliberal globalization and the US’ “overdependence” on the global economy. This has made the United States more vulnerable to new geopolitical and geoeconomic threats posed by China as a powerful “non-market economy,” along with the “military ambitions” of China and Russia.

The United States, he insisted, is also grappling with the need for a clean energy transition related to the climate crisis. Meanwhile, rising inequality “and its damage to democracy”, which he mainly attributed to “China's shock” to the US economy through international trade, has undermined the position of the US “middle class”. Jake Sullivan's new "middle-class foreign policy" is actually an attempt to create a solid bloc within the US middle and working classes for an economic strategy that links domestic growth and supply-side investment in leading companies to the New Cold War with China, presented as a threat to the US rules-based hegemonic order, and therefore to all Americans.

Referring explicitly to both the rich and the non-rich in the US population, he declared, “We are all in this together,” quoting John F. Kennedy’s “a rising tide lifts all boats.” This therefore constitutes a new grand imperial and class strategy, which also governs US domestic politics.

To put Jake Sullivan's comments on “Renewing American Leadership” in their proper perspective, it is important to recognize the degree to which he has emerged in recent decades as the leading strategist of the New Cold War and US imperial rule within the Democratic Party. He was deputy chief of staff and director of policy planning for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In this role, he played key roles in the US-backed coup d'état in Honduras, the planning of the US and NATO invasion of Libya (along with the shipment of captured Libyan arsenal to the Syrian opposition), and the intensification of US actions with the objective of overthrowing the Syrian government.

Jake Sullivan was later the liaison between US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Joe Biden in the 2014 US-backed color revolution/coup in Ukraine. He was part of Bill Clinton's team that promoted the Russiagate in 2016. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, Joe Biden authorized Jake Sullivan to devise the plan for the fatal Nord Stream pipeline explosion (Rick Sterling, “Who Is National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, the Man Running US Foreign Policy?”, Al Mayadeen, June 30, 2023, english.almayadeen.net; Seymour Hersh, “How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline“, February 8, 2023, seymourhersh.substack.com).

Jake Sullivan's supercharged military-industrial policy focuses on regaining US technological leadership in strategic areas through public investment. This is explicitly modeled according to (1) the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the Pentagon; (2) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) related to the military; (3) the creation of the Internet, which was initially a product of the Pentagon through DARPA; and (4) commercial and military satellites of the space economy.

Under this plan, public investment, largely driven by the needs of geopolitical and military power, should be channeled into areas such as semiconductors, advanced chips, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology and essential materials to ensure global technological dominance of the world. USA in all these areas. This is accompanied by sanctions against China and attempts to deny it important technologies and connections with other countries, while surrounding it with military bases and warlike alliances.

All of this is aimed at “unleashing the power… of capitalism” and, at the same time, the sanctions will destroy Beijing as a technological power, weakening it and making it vulnerable. According to Gregory C. Allen, an analyst at the influential Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, the intent of the Biden administration's overall technology policy toward China is "to actively strangle large segments of the Chinese technology sector -- to strangle with intent to kill." (Sullivan, “Remarks”; Gregory C. Allen, “Choking Off China's Access to the Future of AI“, Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 11, 2022, www.csis.org).

In presenting the New Cold War strategy, Jake Sullivan insists that all of this is simply necessary to compete effectively with China, both economically and strategically, and that “we are not seeking confrontation or conflict.” However, these declarations of benign intent are contradicted by Washington's outright aggressiveness toward Taiwan. The Biden administration has repeatedly sent military vessels and aircraft through the Taiwan Strait, which the People's Republic of China, in accordance with the “One China” policy – ​​agreed by the United States together with 180 other countries – recognizes as its territory, although the island is under autonomous government.

Jake Sullivan's National Security Council is a nest of China hawks, most of whom have written books and articles about confronting Beijing and all of whom speak of bellicose competition with China, if not all-out war against it (Sullivan , “Remarks”; “Provocative Maneuvers and Close Encounters“, Committee for a Sane US – China Policy, with the title “China is a country that has nothing to do with the United States”).China Policy, www.saneuschinapolicy.org; Alex Thompson, Phelim Kine and Max Tani, “Jake's Nest of China Hawks" Politico, April 13, 2022).

Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg died on June 16, 2023, at age 92. Daniel Ellsberg will always be widely acclaimed for his courageous role in publicizing the Pentagon Papers to the press, which revealed the hidden history of the Vietnam War that the White House and Pentagon had hidden from the American public. Daniel Ellsberg was a Marine platoon leader, earned a doctorate in economics from Harvard, and worked as a military analyst under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and for the RAND Corporation before becoming deeply disenchanted with US action in the Vietnam War and US nuclear policy.

He became good friends with the editor of Monthly Review, Paul Sweezy, and wrote the introduction, Call to Mutiny, for the American edition of EP Thompson and Dan Smith, eds., Protest and Survive (Monthly Review Press, 1981), which was also published as the Review of the Month in the September 1981 issue of Monthly Review.

Daniel Ellsberg worked as a nuclear war strategist with McNamara. In Call to Mutiny, he argued that “the notion common to almost all Americans that 'no nuclear weapon has been used since Nagasaki' is mistaken”. The United States has maintained the first-use option for nuclear weapons to be deployed worldwide against nuclear and, in some cases, non-nuclear countries (since 2010, the United States has indicated that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries that, in in its opinion, are in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty).

“Time and again, usually in secret from the American public,” wrote Daniel Ellsberg in 1981, “America's nuclear weapons have been used, for quite different purposes [than deterring the Soviets]: in exactly the same way a weapon is used when you point it at someone's head in a direct confrontation, regardless of whether the trigger is pulled or not." In Call to Mutiny, he documented twelve such cases. Later in his book The Doomsday Machine, he expanded the documented list of US nuclear threats to other countries (almost all directed at non-nuclear powers) to twenty-five (Daniel Ellsberg, “Call to Mutiny”, Monthly Review, September 1981; Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner [Bloomsbury]).

In the book The Doomsday Machine, Ellsberg also traced the shift in U.S. nuclear posture, which began at the end of the Jimmy Carter administration and extended after the end of the Soviet Union, from mutual assured destruction (MAD) to a counterforce strategy much more dangerous and destabilizing, with the aim of developing a first-strike capability, or nuclear primacy. The counterforce strategy has as its main objective to decapitate the other power's nuclear forces before they can be launched, and those that are left will be eliminated by anti-ballistic missile systems.

Daniel Ellsberg made it very clear that such actions, aimed at winning a nuclear war – which are currently being pursued unilaterally by the United States with its superior technological capabilities and advanced military base (allowing the rapid delivery of nuclear weapons to targets) – run the risk of of unleashing doomsday machines on both sides and the annihilation of most of humanity via nuclear winter (see John Bellamy Foster, “'Notes on Exterminism' for the Twenty-First Century Ecology and Peace Movements" Monthly Review, May 2022).

In 2006, Daniel Ellsberg received the Right Livelihood Award and, in 2018, the Olof Palme Award in recognition of his contributions to world peace. In his later years, he voiced strong support for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as well as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

*John Bellamy Foster is professor of sociology at the University of Oregon (USA) and editor of Monthly Review. Author, among other books, of The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism (Monthly Review Press).

Originally published in the magazine Monthly Review.


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