Personality is an important variable in foreign policy analysis. Although the role of personality in foreign policy formulation is contentious, a host of scholars are in consensus that personal attributes, ideological leanings, past experience, personal ambition, and beliefs all affect the decision-making process. Therefore, all these factors have importance on foreign policy formulation as a whole. In fact, it is the individual who ultimately takes a decision which is often termed as “legal abstraction”.
Secretary of the State is the paramount bureaucratic position of the US government and foreign policy establishment. Under the US constitution, the president determines foreign policy. However, it is the secretary of state who advises the president on various foreign policy-related issues. Hence, it is no exaggeration to state that the choices of the secretary of state often reflect the position of the US president.
Besides offering the president counsel, the secretary of state is tasked with an array of other activities. He is the one who conducts negotiations relating to US foreign affairs, interprets and terminates treaties, administers the Department of State, supervises foreign services. This writer in a previous opinion editorial published in this daily discussed at length about foreign policy position of the new president, Joe Biden. However, Joe Biden’s foreign policy objectives, success, and efficacy will partly be determined by his chosen secretary-of-state and without the active cooperation of the secretary of state, these objectives will be unavailing.
On 23 November, Joe Biden has nominated his own personal foreign policy aide and former national security adviser Antony Blinken as secretary of state. The bond between Joe Biden and Tony Blinken is rather a personal one which makes their alignment far easy in contentious issues.
What is most important is that they are in accord with each other on major foreign policy issues. This alignment is indispensable for foreign policy success. Previously, we have seen that Secretary of state Rex Tillerson wasn’t in harmony with mercurial Donald Trump which had led to the latter’s dismissal. Decidedly, that will be not the case when the personal rapport of Biden and Blinken is well documented. In fact, Blinken worked as a de-facto spokesperson for the Biden campaign on foreign policy over the past seven month
Being a veteran of the national security and foreign policy establishment, Blinken’s appointment in the government can be traced back to 1994 when he served erstwhile President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff at the white house. From 2002 to 2008, Blinken worked in Capitol Hill as Democratic staff director of the senate foreign relations committee. Under Barack Obama, Blinken also holds several key positions like national security adviser to the vice president Biden, the deputy national security adviser, and deputy secretary of state. Such responsibilities and experiences are evidence of his diplomatic dexterity and foreign policy planning.
Blinken’s ideological leanings are key understand his policy disposition. He can be classed as an establishment centrist devoid of any hawkish views. This means that he will distance himself from bellicosity and aggressive foreign policy measures, war. It is for this reason that appointment will not face backlash from progressive Democrats.
However, Blinken is regarded as a staunch Israel supporter. In fact, he is the son of Jewish parents which may be the cause of his Jewish bias. Like Biden, Antony Blikman also doesn’t support leveraging aid to Israel to influence Israel’s policies. Not only is he downright opposed to such a scheme, but he also reviled such a “bargaining chip” as utterly preposterous.
Besides, Blinken is a staunch proponent of the Iran deal. In fact, Blinken was part of the Iran deal. In fact, Blinken was part of the administration that brokered the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) from which president Donald Trump later withdrew. Trump’s withdrawal from the treaty had prompted disapproval from Biden which might signal that he might support Biden’s effort to re-enter into the treaty.
What is startling and pertinent is the opposition of Blinken to dictators. He excoriated President Trump’s close affinity with the government of Saudia Arabia and came down heavily on Saudia Arabia in the wake of the Khashoggi murder. This antagonistic view with regards to this dictatorial and monarchical regime might reinforce President Biden’s effort to “reassess” their relationship with Saudia Arabia.
Moreover, the Biden-Blinken duo will herald a new era of US foreign policy which will mark a significant shift from president Trump’s unilateral foreign policy posture. They both share the conviction in multilateralism and engaging actively with allies in stark contrast to Trump’s anachronistic “America-First” policy. The fact that their bond is personal and the alignment of views on pressing policy issues will facilitate them to break free from the Trumpian dark era of United States foreign policy.