by Curt Mills
Thursday, 2
September 2021
Reaction
17:00

Joe Biden has started a war with the Deep State

The oldest president in American history has convulsed the old guard
by Curt Mills
Joe is taking America off the Afghan stage (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

America’s national security and foreign policy establishment — what you might call ‘the deep state’ — has never warmed to Joe Biden.

“I think he [Joe Biden] has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” wrote George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s defence secretary, Robert Gates, in his 2014 memoir, ‘Duty’. At the time, Gates’ remarks were interpreted in some quarters as intentionally cutting Biden down in favour of Hillary Clinton, who he boosted in the same book.

“We disagreed, significantly, on Afghanistan,” Gates clarified to Face the Nation in 2019, when the presidential campaign was kicking off. Perhaps most interestingly, Gates, also a former CIA director, remarked: “I think the vice president has some issues with the military.”

As the brass turned against Donald Trump in 2020, Gates clarified in the Wall Street Journal that he long believed Biden “was a man of genuine integrity and character,” while spelling out that he did not feel the same about the 45th President. But the wholesale dumping of the occupant of the Oval Office by almost every major institution in America belied Biden’s longtime, below-the-radar feud with a militarist mind-meld in Washington.

Now President, Biden overruled his generals and his Cabinet to get out of Afghanistan, or as the uber-hawkish senator Lindsey Graham, an ex-Biden friend, put it: the president “ignored sound advice” from the national security establishment and most importantly, “he’s been this way for forty years.”

And on Tuesday, President Biden delivered a speech his predecessor never did: an emboldened “America First” defence of why the United States left Afghanistan. “The decision about Afghanistan isn’t just about Afghanistan,” the president declared. “It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”

Across the river in Northern Virginia, land of the defence contractor, you could hear a pin drop.

The headline in the Washington famous Politico Playbook on Wednesday was crystal clear: “Biden vs. the Blob,” in reference to the coinage of Obama speech writer Ben Rhodes. “The Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East,” Rhodes was said to explain in a notorious New York Times Magazine profile that probably ended his career in government.

‘The Blob,’ and its ally in government, ‘the deep state,’ is a multi-tentacled thing. So far, only crankish Republicans in the defence sphere have demanded scalps from Biden’s political team over the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Challenging the hidden high command is not exactly unprecedented, but it is rare and startling when the gauntlet is thrown down so forcefully, as Biden did this week. Ex-presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman sounded the alarm on “the military industrial complex” (in Eisenhower’s farewell address) and the Central Intelligence Agency (as Truman did in a letter to the editor in 1963).

The defence establishment and its adherents have deep pockets, and even deeper relations in the media sphere. It’s been a parade of horribles in mainstream media as of late — great umbrage has been taken by a cast of former officers, national security officials and war on terror intellectuals that the U.S. would change a thing after twenty years.

Democratic defences of the President have been tepid in recent weeks. A Senate candidate told me on Wednesday he pitched himself to the major morning shows, including liberal mainstays like “Morning Joe,” to defend President Biden. The response was ice cold.

So as Biden shuts down one war, it’s clear he’s opened up another: with a dangerous foe at home.

Join the discussion


  • I think it’s a phony war. Biden and Trump both saw the futility of the interminable middle east war. Trump explicitly wanted to pivot toward China and Biden has signaled he wants to do the same. It has been reported that the US lifted its long standing objection to the NordStream 2 pipeline in exchange for Germany’s support in the US’s future efforts against China.
    The military and its defense contractors will doubtless reap billions making high tech weapons, improved warships, improved satellite-based monitoring equipment for possible conflict in the South China Sea and whatever proxy conflicts appear around the world.

  • A lot of the talk has been about a withdrawal from a “forever war” vs the military industrial complex.
    Only it’s not that simple – foreign policy, including warfighting is on a big sliding scale. For Afghanistan there were countless options between forcing a democracy at the end of a barrel and leaving the country to its fate.
    Biden chose the latter. It’s not that this was intrinsically the wrong choice, it’s that he didn’t adjust when reality changed, and obstinately stuck to the original plan.
    A very different scenario from a very different era, but it is only now that NATO has fully withdrawn significant forces from Germany. Few questioned their placement, even after their original purpose and job had changed dramatically over the course of nearly 80 years. Point being any solution will likely have to combine the political with economic and military support.
    In Afghanistan, they chose complete capitulation instead of trying to protect some of what had been gained over 20 years of turbulence. We would be deluded to think that sitting back and ignoring crises would be the best option.

  • The big question is  What is the US and where is it headed?
    The American empire of the last 120 or so years is coming to an end. America First heralded by Trump was just the death knell. The US’s prosperity has been built on global trade shored up by the US military and diplomatic endeavour in protecting America’s interests and broadening their markets. Continuously fighting wars in selected locations was less important in the bigger picture but it kept the military machine in working order and defence contractors in an expanding market. What will now happen to these sectors with no wars to test and use up technological advances and hardware/software? The international defence market and all other trade markets will similarly suffer when America’s international interests are weakened by America First. Is it only the defence  industry where anyone is realising the consequences of the last 20 years’ policies?
    After the empires of Rome, islam, Great Britain, the US, we are now seeing the creation and expansion of the Chinese empire, in Africa, Europe and indeed in the US. Having the two by far worst American presidents in my lifetime dabbling in this just makes me want to bury my head in the sand! Where are the visionary and strong future leaders in the Republican party? They are desperately needed now.  I respect and agree with a lot of your comments and viewpoints but what’s your take on this?
    As a Scot and European,  I fear for Europe and its generally incompetent politicians with a few exceptions, I fear for NATO and the reality of domination by the Chinese empire and the evil doings of Putin. The American empire has not always been trustworthy towards its allies.  I remember a seminar in Chicago 1997 at an infosecurity conference where a former member of the US govt, now a freelance consultant (does that ring a bell?), discussed espionage and listed the top 4 threats: Russia, China, Iran and France(!). He didn’t mention the elephant in the room, the US itsself!

  • To get involved in the discussion and stay up to date, become a registered user.

    It's simple, quick and free.

    Sign me up