President Biden used the phrase to justify US involvement in the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, but it’s really just code for ‘primacy.’

by Anatol Lieven, Responsible Statecraft

In his recent address concerning the wars in Gaza and Ukraine and U.S. involvement in both, President Biden quoted the famous line by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that America is “the indispensable nation.” This is indeed the belief by which the U.S. foreign and security establishment lives and works.

As Biden’s speech reflected, it is one way in which the establishment justifies to American citizens the sacrifices that they are called on to make for the sake of U.S. primacy. It is also how members of the Blob pardon themselves for participation in U.S. crimes and errors. For however ghastly their activities and mistakes may be, they can be excused if they take place as part of America’s “indispensable” mission to lead the world towards “freedom” and “democracy.”

Joe Biden delivers remarks standing behind a podium with American flags in the background

It is therefore necessary to ask: Indispensable for what? Empty claims about the “Rules-Based Order” cannot answer this question. In the Greater Middle East, the answer should be obvious. I suppose that a different hegemon might have made an even bigger mess of the region at even greater cost to itself than the United States has succeeded in doing over the past 30 years, but it would have had to put some really serious effort into the task. Nor is it clear that the absence of a superpower hegemon could have made things any worse.

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