Reflection on Obama’s foreign policy ‘blunders’
Reading the various whining columns of the regular “struggling” prognosticators and certain right-wing commentators, one would think that this special country is in danger of immediate relegation to the dust heaps of history.
Prior to the last presidential election, Mr. George Will referred to the “soon-to-be former president” as a “talk-show host” while predicting a massive landslide victory for Mr. Romney. He has not let up since then; on the Arab Spring, Iran, Crimea and other global developments, the “incompetence” of Mr. Obama has led to the perception of the USA as weak and floundering, to be ignored or, at best, challenged by countries as small as Monaco and with armies as large and strong as that of Vanuatu.
Other commentators in the Washington Post, the Citizen, at Fox (and affiliates) have all dissected, thrashed and assessed a failing grade for the president’s foreign policy.
Each of these persons has a right to express their opinion(s) as they see fit. However, if they are to be taken seriously, commentators must avoid ad hominem and present factual, logical statements. I do not have all relevant facts but I pride myself in having a non-rabble-rousing mien but with a phlegmatic approach to analyses of current foreign policy challenges. Here is a sampling:
Most conservative commentators aver that “loss” of the Crimea is a consequence of a perceived weakness and incompetence of Mr. Obama’s. This same cohort had labeled him “incompetent” as soon as he was elected in 2008, so there has not been any progress towards competence or any tangible accomplishment during his years in office.
But seriously, will the reversal of an impulsive action by one who has almost become forgotten in his home country be reason for the USA to initiate immediate hostile actions?
Crimea was, until a re-drawing of the Russian map by [Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev, Russian territory. Mr. Khrushchev changed the map of Europe and Mr. Putin “updated” that map. But why so much noise on changing (arbitrary) maps?
The collapse of the USSR, Yugoslavia and the Austro-Hungarian empire all changed the map of “modern Europe.” The original or “native” maps of Africa were completely (and arbitrarily) changed by certain European powers who considered those maps unsuitable for their imperialistic plans for the continent and its peoples.
A consequence of this tampering with maps is the continuing inter-ethnic conflicts or instability in various “countries” in Africa. In all of these, no president of the USA (or a European country) has been accused of weakness and incompetence.
The Arab Spring
Those yearnings for freedom that led to the overthrow of several autocrats in the Arab world were so spontaneous that even prior knowledge by the CIA or other western intelligence services would have little changed the outcomes.
Sadly, we lost a charismatic and efficient ambassador in Libya and we are still holding “hearings” (costing millions of dollars) to determine what happened there.
Someone please tell me how to react to a populist unrest seeking to remove a leader this country has relied upon to advance some of its policies in the Arab world. Do we bomb the demonstrating citizenry or act to thwart their genuine aspiration for freedom, democracy and human advancement?
This is not the 17th or 18th century but the 21st century. Some commentators assert that the president’s incompetence was responsible for our intelligence agencies’ lack of foreknowledge of these events. Additionally, the president has been faulted for not shrinking the federal government to a more manageable size, readily amenable to micro-management.
Maybe saddling an analyst with ten additional “intelligence” responsibilities will improve our overall intelligence capabilities, even in the absence of reliable, local human operatives.
In the UK and USA, the Parliament and the Congress, respectively, denied the prime minister’s and president’s request for authorization to take (military) action on Syria.
In the USA this was strictly a political ploy but it may also be linked to “war fatigue” as well as a struggling economy. But, assuming the president was able to go into Syria when Mr. Assad “crossed the red line,” would the collateral damage from potential exposure to Syria’s chemical weapons not negate gains from this exercise?
Simply, it would appear that the decision to negotiate removal of these chemical weapons is more profitable than bombing of Mr. Assad’s instruments of oppression. Meanwhile, whether a presidential election is held in Syria or not, the civil war rages on. It has reached a point the Assad regime needed to negotiate the withdrawal of the activists from a major stronghold (Homs) without third-party involvement.
The Iranian conundrum
The Iranian nuclear dispute is not a problem for the United States only but one that more significantly (ominously?) affects the Middle East and some allies of the USA. The relationships with and between these allies – Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, to name a few – complicates the position of the United States on this issue.
I am still to figure out the primary answer to the question, “In a Christian – Mohammedan struggle, where do the US’s Middle Eastern allies stand?”
This, in my opinion, is relevant because of current developments: Pakistan, despite billions in US aid, had Osama bin Laden living in its garrison town of Abbottabad for many years.
Please do the math. Pakistan’s Dr. A. Q. Khan has been instrumental in the proliferation of nuclear centrifuges for uranium enrichment, pivotal in the manufacture of fissile nuclear materials. If the mostly Christian west is nuclear-powered in all aspects, why would the Muslim countries not be able to similarly arm themselves?
It may appear only reasonable for some commentators to assume weakness when the Obama White House chose not to destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities or allow Israel free rein. Destroying the facilities will set back the Iranian nuclear enterprise many billions of dollars and years of developmental work. But it will, invariably, lead to civilian deaths and increased radicalization of Muslims.
We must understand that it takes only one Muslim suicide-bomber (maybe US home-grown) to disrupt our daily routine and cause a spike in security budgets nationwide. How much of the latter can we continue to absorb, without gutting spending on education, healthcare or infrastructure?
The current conservative position is that the sanctions are a consequence of weakness and have not affected Iran. If the rhetoric from Iran is cautiously set aside, what would be the reason the Islamic republic is negotiating rather than maintaining its usual bluster?
Credit must be given to an administration able to muster and sustain a global (albeit mostly Christian) coalition against nuclear proliferation and threat of the worst kind.
The lone superpower does not have to convince any other country of its staying power or capabilities. What should motivate our intervention in potential brush fires should be determined by our national security and economic interests, not exhibitionism or a puerile desire to intimidate any persons or country.
Ultimately, if an administration has been able to prevent wars, famines or general strife without losing a soldier or expending a bullet while gaining global respect, it should have earned the gratitude of its citizenry.
The USA remains a military and economic superpower, with many of the world’s inhabitants desiring to live on its lands. Some continue to plot its destruction or do it serious harm but, so far, it’s only a desire or a plot.
More importantly, at West Point recently, Mr. Obama stated, “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.” I unreservedly second Mr. Obama’s approach to foreign policy.
Peter Awachie, Ph.D.