by Rana Irby
The Biden-Harris administration has only just begun. What will this mean for U.S. policy regarding war? Some problematic implications can be found in President Biden’s time as Vice President, VP Harris’s record in Senate and on the campaign trail, and some of Biden’s picks for staff. It seems we may expect to see more of the same American militarism, despite some steps that on face value seem more amenable to a less militaristic strategy. This is concerning for the fight for a consistent life ethic.
As Vice President, Biden served as part of an administration that continued the status quo in terms of militarism and war. As Stephen Wertheim notes in The Guardian, while the Obama administration struck a nuclear deal with Iran and thawed relations with Cuba, it also utilized drones and special forces in the Middle East. In addition, the administration involved our military in Libya and Syria to tragic results. Furthermore, during his campaign, Biden failed to distinguish his policy in this area from that of the Obama administration. Such an approach can be seen as being bolstered by Vice President Kamala Harris, who, Alex Ward notes in Vox, was chosen as VP because of her shared vision with Biden.
Just over a year ago, Harris co-sponsored the No War Against Iran Act, which would prohibit federal funds from going toward unsanctioned military aggression against Iran. In her interview with the Council on Foreign Relations as a candidate for the presidency, she focused on building partnerships in responding to such situations as North Korean denuclearization, Russian aggression in the Ukraine, Venezuela and the war in Yemen. The question remains how this will play out in terms of U.S. military presence abroad. Unfortunately, Wertheim notes that Harris also “voted against cutting the $740bn annual military budget by a mere 10%, though she said she supported reductions as a goal.” Whether she will make a positive impact in the Biden administration in regards to foreign policy remains to be seen.
Even more worrying are some of the staff picks for the new administration.
Former BlackRock employees Brian Deese and Adewale Adeyemo were chosen as head of the National Economic Council and Deputy Treasury Secretary, respectively. BlackRock has substantial investments in weapons companies, including General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin, and according to Code Pink, Deese and Adeyemo have never spoken out against this. Peace activists are understandably wary of having members of the Biden-Harris administration with ties to companies with stakes in war.
Recent years have shown us the negative outcomes of endless wars. Countless lives have been lost and trillions of taxpayer dollars have been spent. Returning to Wertheim, he argues a correlation between the American public viewing war less favorably and strong military funding and presence. Those of us against war must wonder if U.S. policy will continue down this path.
Current American society shows a seeming weariness of war. The new administration has a president and history-making vice president with a shared vision — a vision which includes records of speaking rhetoric against war but perpetuating it in action and incoming administration members who have ties to companies invested in war. For those committed to fighting the perpetuation of endless wars, there is pretext to find this problematic.