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Antony Blinken Is Overrated

Despite the bouquets from media outlets like TIME, Blinken seems to possess an undisguised disdain for the actual practice of diplomacy.

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Surveying the dramatis personae of the Biden administration on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s popular public affairs program, Judging Freedom, last week, Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs lamented the utter absence of “grown-ups in power, grown-ups who were responsible, honest, who were decent.” 

A similar thought comes to mind after reading last week’s TIME cover story on Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which should—if nothing else—be placed on the syllabi of journalism schools across the country as an object lesson in the perils (and pointlessness) of access journalism.

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Throughout the profile, titled “For Antony Blinken, the War in Gaza Is a Test of U.S. Power,” Blinken is portrayed by the reporter Vera Bergengruen in an almost heroic light: a dogged American diplomat trying to rein in a bloodthirsty Israeli prime minister, all the while taking the utmost care to see that the civilians of Gaza are not unduly harmed. Tom Nides, a former vice chairman of both Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel until July, assures Bergengruen that Blinken is “the right guy at the right time.” Yet the Biden administration’s track record—in Ukraine, in Gaza, in Yemen and the Red Sea—seems to prove Nides otherwise. 

Despite his record, the 71st secretary of state retains some dedicated followers in Washington. One such fanboy is David Rothkopf, who has made a lucrative career as a paid foreign agent and publicist for the permanent state. According to Rothkopf, “Blinken is establishing himself as one of the most successful secretaries of state in U.S. modern history.” 

Essentially, Bergengruen and Rothkopf are engaged in a PR exercise to make an uninteresting figure interesting, to make the banality of careerism somehow less banal. That is a tall order indeed, since Blinken, as has been noted elsewhere, is far from interesting: a gray staff man with a cringeworthy sideline as a “rock” guitarist. 

Far more interesting is this question: What kind of system produces such people?

As is well known, Blinken is the scion of fantastic wealth and privilege, the son of an ambassador and the beneficiary of an education at Dalton, Harvard, and Columbia; but not enough has been made of his relationship with the arch-Zionist Martin Peretz and the time Blinken spent under Peretz’s tutelage at The New Republic magazine, which, under Peretz’s direction, became a mouthpiece for neoconservative ideologues. 

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Upon Blinken's nomination to lead the State Department, Peretz wrote:

I met Antony Blinken when he was at Harvard but got to know him reasonably well only when he came on board The New Republic. One fact I learned quickly was that he was very smart, even brilliant, and if he believed in something and you didn’t, he could argue you down with alacrity and depth. We spoke then only a tiny bit about Israel and the Arabs, Israel and the Palestinians. But once in a lunchtime discussion around the question—at least as I recall it—he mustered the facts of history which in my view settled the argument.

An endorsement like that from someone like that ought be an enormous cause for concern, especially given current events in the Middle East.

Blinken is only the most visible of the latest breed of armchair commandos like Jake Sullivan, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Admiral John Kirby, and General Mark Milley who cling to Washington like parasites. Perfect technocrats, they equate truth with power and see advancement as its own virtue, as a kind of divine sanction to lie, to kill, to destroy—and to enable those who do. To the minds of such people, nothing could be more naive, more baffling than St. Paul’s injunction against “doing evil so that good may come.”

Compounding the problem is the fact that the ruling political class, as the retired U.S. Army colonel and author Douglas Macgregor points out, “is largely divorced from its population.” Indeed, the current political class is characterized by an inability (or worse, unwillingness) to distinguish between core American national interests and the interests of our alleged “allies.” Unaccustomed to putting the interests of their own country first, they simply don’t. Blinken’s priorities, and those of the administration he serves, are nothing if not divorced from the realities at home and abroad; it’s an administration that treats East Palestine with about as much thought as it treats, well, Palestine.

Despite the bouquets from media outlets like TIME, Blinken seems to possess an undisguised disdain for the actual practice of diplomacy. And this was apparent right off the bat when, in March 2021, only two months into Biden’s first term, Blinken and Sullivan were humiliated in an encounter in Anchorage with Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi, respectively China’s top diplomat and foreign minister. They wasted no time letting the Americans know that they did not travel to Alaska to be lectured to as though they were wayward adolescents. Said Yang Jiechi in response to Blinken’s almost unbelievably jejune remarks: 

I think we thought too well of the United States. We thought the U.S. side will follow the necessary diplomatic protocols. For China it is necessary that we make our position clear. Let me say from the Chinese side that the United States does not have the qualification to speak to China from a position of strength.

Yet even before he ascended to our nation’s top diplomatic post, Blinken had compiled a long track record of foreign policy misjudgments, including support for the Iraq War and for the disastrous regime-change operations in Libya, Syria, and, of course, Ukraine.

Despite all the trumpeting at the beginning of the Biden administration about America being “back,” the last three years have seen an unprecedented erosion of American influence globally. The multipolar world has arrived—which in itself is far from a bad thing. The problem is that we have a president and secretary of state who either refuse to, or cannot, recognize the new reality.

At the heart of the indictment against Biden and Blinken lie the twin debacles of Ukraine and Gaza.

Nowhere has Blinken’s lack of interest in diplomacy been more evident than with regard to Russia and Ukraine. In the months leading up to Russia’s February 2022 invasion, Blinken pursued toward Russia twin policies of provocation and intransigence that virtually guaranteed a Russian military response.

Blinken’s senior counselor, Derek Chollet, later admitted that the administration refused to even consider early negotiations based on a fairly reasonable draft treaty proposed by the Russians in December 2021. Still worse, it has recently come to light that Ukraine was discouraged from negotiating a settlement with the Russians to put a halt to the conflict in the spring of 2022. What this amounts to is diplomatic malpractice at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian lives.  

Then there is Blinken’s unyielding support for the ongoing Israeli brutality in Gaza. As of this writing, roughly three times as many have perished in Gaza than at Srebrenica, where over 8,000 Bosnians were killed in the summer of 1995. Two-thirds of them have been women and children. 
That marriage of cruelty and incompetence, which has long been the hallmark of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, can now quite fairly be said to characterize Blinken’s own policy towards the Levant. How many Americans know that the Biden administration has sent in excess of 10,000 tons of weapons to Israel since the fighting began in October? Thanks to Antony Blinken, Bibi’s policy of indiscriminate slaughter is now ours, and that is something for which, one day, we Americans may pay an awful price.

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