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Strategies Of Denial

Strategies of Denial

Strategies of Denial

There has been a lively debate on the American left about the Biden Administration’s industrial strategy. Discussion has focused on the prospects opened up by the massive stimulus – totalling some $4 trillion, if we factor in the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the CHIPS and Science Act alongside the Inflation Reduction Act – from training up ‘ progressive technocrats ’ to retrofit buildings to the feasibility of capitalist state-led ‘decarbonization’ under conditions of global overcapacity and falling economic growth. So far, assessments have been mixed, differentiating ‘the good, the bad, the ugly’, albeit with the stress on the first. If the boost to employment and ‘green’ good works promised by the IRA cannot be dismissed, nor can its shortcomings: lack of funding for housing and public transport, neutered regulatory standards in the electricity sector, leasing agreements that give oil and gas producers access to public land. ‘The IRA’, a representative appraisal in Jacobin reckoned, ‘is at once a massive fossil fuel industry giveaway, a historic but inadequate investment in clean energy, and our best hope for staving off planetary catastrophe’. In other words, the left critique has gone beyond ‘good, but not big enough’ – but perhaps not very far beyond. Almost entirely absent in these discussions is the geostrategic rationale that powers this national-investment drive, reshoring production on the US mainland, bagging lithium mines and sponsoring construction of microchip factories, in a militarized bid to outflank China. Viewed from the halls of power, the anti-China orientation of US industrial policy is not an unfortunate by-product of the green ‘transition’, but its motivating purpose. For its conceptors, the logic governing the new era of infrastructure spending is fundamentally geopolitical; its precedent is to be sought not in the New Deal but in the military Keynesianism of the Cold War, seen by the ‘Wise Men’ who waged it as a condition for victory in America’s struggle against the Soviet Union. Today, as after 1945, policymakers find themselves at an ‘inflexion point’. ‘History’, wrote future National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during the 2020 presidential campaign, ‘is again knocking’: The growing competition with China and shifts in the international political and economic order should provoke a similar instinct within the contemporary foreign-policy establishment. Today’s national security experts need to move beyond the prevailing neoliberal economic philosophy of the past forty years… The US national security community is rightly beginning to insist on the investments in infrastructure, technology, innovation, and education that will determine the United States’ long-term competitiveness vis-à-vis China. Detailed at length in a report for the Carnegie Foundation, under the signature of Sullivan and a camarilla of other Biden advisers, ‘foreign policy for the middle class’ collapsed factitious distinctions between national security and economic planning. Hopes that globalized doux commerce might permanently induce other powers to accept US hegemony had been deceived. Another approach was in order. ‘There’s no longer a bright line between foreign and domestic policy’, Biden declared in his inaugural foreign policy speech . ‘Every action we take in our conduct abroad, we must take with American working families in mind.’ Trump’s victory, forged in the deindustrialized heartlands of the opioid crisis and ‘American carnage’, had shaken the Democrat establishment. What’s good for Goldman Sachs was no longer, it seemed, necessarily good for America. Scant mystery attached to the global motivation for this break with orthodoxy. China, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken hammered home in May 2022, ‘is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it’. Still worse, ‘Beijing’s vision would move us away from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past seventy-five years’. Happily, however, the guarantor of said values was primed to react. ‘The Biden administration is making far-reaching investments in our core sources of national strength – starting with a modern industrial strategy to sustain and expand our economic and technological influence, make our economy and supply chains more resilient, sharpen our competitive edge.’ Competition, Blinken added, need not entail conflict. But the White House, having identified China as its ‘pacing challenge’, would not shrink from the possibility of war, beginning with ‘shifting our military investments away from platforms that were designed for the conflicts of the 20th century toward asymmetric systems that are longer-range, harder to find, easier to move’. Three months later, passage of the Inflation Reduction and CHIPS Acts made tangible the […]

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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