“Groupthink” in the White House: The Australian submarine deal and Biden’s incompetent foreign policy team

The latest blow-up with the French over the nuclear submarine deal the U.S. cut with Australia behind their backs is just the latest foreign policy blunder demonstrating how incompetent Biden’s foreign policy team is.

The Afghanistan withdrawal decision and implementation remains the most damning example of the their incompetence. That fiasco represents the greatest foreign policy disaster of a Western democracy since Édouard Daladier and Neville Chanberlain agreed to the German annexation of the Czech Sudetenland in 1938. Czechoslovakia was then a thriving democracy in the heart of Europe, the 10th-ranking industrial power in the world.

Insight into the core problems afflicting the Biden foreign policy team is provided by David Sanger in his September 17 article in the New York Times, which provides details on the perfidy of the Americans in dealing with the French in relation to the nuclear deal with Australia.


David E. Sanger, “Secret Talks and a Hidden Agenda: Behind the U.S. Defense Deal That France Called a ‘Betrayal’; In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts, U.S. officials gave no heads-up about their plans to upend France’s largest defense contract.,” New York Times, September 17, 2021.

Singer reports:

There was an obvious alternative: the kind of nuclear-powered submarines deployed by the Americans and the British. But American and Australian officials agreed that if the French caught wind of the fact that the plug was going to be pulled on one of the biggest defense contracts in their history, they almost certainly would try to sabotage the alternative plan, according to officials who were familiar with the discussions between Washington and Canberra.

So they decided to keep the work to a very small group of officials, and made no mention of it to the French, even when Mr. Biden and Mr. Blinken met their French counterparts in June.

It seems clear that the well-known phenomenon of “Groupthink” is operating within the councils of Biden’s foreign policy team.

Te telltale signs are clear. “So they decided to keep the work to a very small group of officials.”

Within this small group of decision makers, there was virtually no internal debate.

Sanger reports,

American officials said the decision to toss over the existing French-Australian contract, and replace it with one that would bind Australia technologically and strategically to the nuclear submarine program, generated virtually no internal debate, participants said. The reason was straightforward: In the Biden White House, the imperative to challenge China’s growing footprint, and its efforts to push the U.S. Navy east, to the next island chain in the Pacific, reigns supreme.

With “Groupthink” in the saddle, in a small group of incompetent decision makers, we can only expect more foreign policy blunders from Biden and his foreign policy team.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.