September 6, 2012

Another Sad Night For U.S. Foreign Policy

 He came, he saw, he whitewashed.

Nothing less could be expected President Barack Obama's acceptance speech on Thursday, from the soaring (and at times egotistical) rhetoric to the overemphasis on America's domestic policy. Nor should independent observers of U.S. foreign policy be surprised by what was and wasn't said. Formulating a reaction would be pointless if not for the inclusion of slight variations to his campaign speech:
  • In Afghanistan, the Taliban's momentum is suddenly "blunted" instead of "broken," unintentionally suggesting that the insurgency has acquired momentum in a matter of days. Obama now appears to have concretely defined the war's end in 2014, rather than pull back from previous statements, but the war will continue past this date. Whether or not Washington leaves a residual force - and America's generals can't be happy with Obama's campaign rhetoric - the Taliban cannot be expected to lay down their arms at a specified time. The end of U.S. involvement and the end of an asymmetric war are two different events.
  • His jibes against Mitt Romney would also pack more punch if he didn't spend the last four years dodging Afghanistan's war.
  • Al-Qaeda's path to defeat includes a stopover in northern Mali, where the group has taken control of a swath of territory the size of France. The Obama administration has decided to publicly ignore the situation due to the absence of a contingency, but blowback on the campaign trail isn't welcome either.
  • Nowhere to be found next to his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security are the Palestinians, who have been treated as an afterthought throughout Obama's first term. He would take office promising to engage the Israel-Palestinian conflict "from day one" and proceed to demand a two-state solution by the end of 2010 (then 2011, and now 2012). Obama's administration has devoted an extraordinary amount of time defending itself as pro-Israeli, alienating both Israelis and Palestinians while leaving the peace process dead in the water.
  • At the same time, Obama expects a unified world to face down the Iranian government's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Although the two issues aren't wholly dependent, an equitable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would strengthen the U.S. position towards Tehran and the Middle East in general. Both outcomes should be pursued with equal determination, not lopsided focus.
  • Daring to near the Arab revolutions for a brief moment, Obama declares that the "historic change sweeping across the Arab World must be defined not by the iron fist of a dictator or the hate of extremists, but by the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people who are reaching for the same rights that we celebrate today." Unfortunately Washington and Riyadh have teamed up to organize a systematic counterrevolution in the region, fueled by billions of petro dollars, military equipment and training, and media manipulation. Except for Libya, Washington initially chose the authoritarian side in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria and other states, and remains aligned up to the present. As usual Obama ignored Yemen, where an errant drone strike recently killed 13 innocents, and Bahrain, where a large number of the opposition's leadership has been unjustly imprisoned. Syria has descended into a mass of competing foreign interests - Eastern, Western and Arab - thus inhibiting an effective response to a complex war.
  • The U.S. counterrevolution will only accelerate during Obama's second term.
The Trench doesn't expect foreign policy to comprise 100% of a national address, but 5% of a presidential nomination speech is absurd. Economic factors shouldn't negate the discussion of foreign policy; Americans must be informed in the event that they choose not to be. Instead the Obama administration has preyed on widespread disinterest in U.S. foreign policy to maintain a low profile, sacrificing the nation's education for political points. This reluctance to engage foreign policy belies the "successful" platform that the Obama administration is supposedly eager to promote.

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