By: Cale Holmes
President Joe Biden has nominated Kurt Campbell for the position of deputy secretary of state. Campbell co-founded the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), which simulates war games between China and the U.S. You might think that practicing war isn’t so diplomatic. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has other ideas.
CODEPINK sat in on the opening day of Campbell's Senate nomination hearing and here are the five craziest things we heard:
1. Bringing the Bush Doctrine to Papua New Guinea
Kurt Campbell answered a question from Senator Chris Coons on how he would support the Global Fragility Act, a Trump-era law which empowers the Pentagon, State Department, and pro-big business USAID to work together, ostensibly on combating extremism in fragile nation-states.
Campbell mentioned he was very grateful, saying “I argued that one of the countries that I had worked on in the Indo-Pacific - Papua New Guinea - be included in that for a variety of reasons. It has vast oil and natural gas reserves but continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world.” He then asks: “Why is that?”
Yes, why is that? Some might point to Exxon Mobil - a major donor to CNAS - and its role in exploiting Papua New Guinea’s vast oil and natural gas reserves. Exxon pays landowners a 2 percent royalty fee for resource extraction, but protests have erupted in recent years due to that plan not quite working out. In 2022, Exxon signed a deal to develop another gas field in the country, after negotiations fell apart in 2019 because the carbon-emitting multinational objected to Papua New Guinea’s demands. Meanwhile, Papua New Guineans have protested increasing American encroachment on their land, especially when Blinken recently visited to expand the U.S. military’s presence earlier this year.
2. Biden Breaks Another Promise?
From reneging on a public option for universal health insurance to backing down on his student loan forgiveness plan, the Biden administration has broken many of his campaign promises. You might (not) be surprised to know that he’s broken yet another - getting back in the Iran deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
While getting grilled by Senator Jim Risch, Campbell said “I don’t think anyone sees that there’s any chance in the current environment to go back to the JCPOA. It’s just not on the table. It’s not up for discussion.”
The Iran deal, a rare but still imperfect exercise in U.S. detente, was working until the U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the agreement before increasing sanctions during a global pandemic and assassinating Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian foreign dignitary attempting to reach a peaceful political solution in the region. Some might think looking to precedents for peace with Iran would be a good way to avoid a wider war in the Middle East. Evidently, not Campbell.
3. Climate Apocalypse? Nuclear Apocalypse? Senator Risch Wants Both.
“After the most recent climate summit, I’m worried the (State) Department will now support Chinese cooperation - so-called cooperation - on climate, on the subnational level. This is really dangerous, “ said Senator Jim Risch in his introductory remarks.
I know deadly heat waves, frequent hurricanes, military expansion, and nuclear war with an adversary that doesn’t need to be our adversary might sound scary to most people. But for Senator Risch, it’s cooperation which causes the shivers.
4. Rejecting Diplomacy with North Korea
“I’m worried that North Korea, in the current environment, has decided that they are no longer interested in diplomacy with the United States, and that means that we’re going to have to focus even more on deterrence,” said Campbell in response to a surprisingly poignant question by Senator Brian Schatz on the failure of U.S. policy to reduce tensions in the Korean peninsula.
The current environment, by the way, includes sectoral sanctions on North Korea, which target the civilian economy and has resulted in at least 4,000 deaths. North Korean women are the most affected by U.S. sanctions, many of whom work in targeted industries. U.S. nuclear submarines docking on the Korean peninsula and expanded military bases are also part of the current environment, not to mention polluting the environment in surrounding areas.
If Campbell becomes deputy secretary of state, it’s likely the U.S. will keep antagonizing North Korea, a policy that gets us no closer to peace but very much closer to all-out war. Pyongyang has a military alliance with Beijing, so resuming combat there would also likely lead to war with China.
5. War Is America’s Way Of It Teaching Senator Booker Geography
Senator Cory Booker called Africa a country! We’re speechless.
Here straight from the war-mongering diplomat in our video wrap-up!