It may not be too early to start measuring Obama’s foreign policy impact – even if this unfortunate and miscalculated political showdown with Iran looms ahead after the so-called degrading of Syria.
There may not have been in the last 50 years an American president who has done less – for better or worse – on foreign policy than President Obama: a big speech in Cairo in 2008 and the tragically overuse of a technological fix – the ubiquitous drone.
To make matters worse: the continuation of the decades-long alliance with Israel that – at times – left the United States vulnerable while shooting itself in its own foot.
Yes, that’s all he can show in terms of foreign policy results; the withdrawal from Iraq doesn’t count. You want to add the elimination of a weakened Ben Laden, fine.
Syria – and Obama’s response to this political volcano – gives the full measure of the lack of intelligent thought and a comprehensive Middle East policy from the Obama administration. The ambivalence and confusion over Syria show an inept and hawkish Obama unable to navigate deftly the shark-infested waters of the Middle East.
There is this mad rush to punish Syria over this country’s seeming use of chemical weapons against its own people. Then there is this abrupt turn to let Congress decide what to do over Syria. Obama appears to be hostage to his own loose rhetoric on Syria – especially his issuance of this red line injunction over chemical weapons when the right path is to seek with Russia and other regional powers a compromised and peaceful solution to this crisis.
There was much reason to celebrate when Obama became in 2008 the 44th – and first black – president of the United States, none more welcoming than the real possibility of a forceful attempt to recalibrate this country’s foreign policy to include a de-emphasis of war and a more balanced, inclusive approach to address and solve these old and emergent issues.
Indeed, enough of this belligerent, partisan foreign policy approach that results in unnecessary wars and a bloated military budget! Laying the groundwork for a peaceful, sustainable foreign policy is, under this administration, the path that was tragically avoided. This anti-war stance on Iraq seemed more a politician’s ugly maneuvering than anything.
Syria is – at best – complicated, and the truth is hard to capture.
Obama’s obsession to punish president Bashar al- Assad after the latter’s apparent use of chemical weapons is hypocritical. The Egyptian army just massacred hundreds of its own people – whatever the means that were used – and the Obama administration did nothing.
Iraq’s use of chemical weapons three decades earlier against its people brought no response from the United States and the Western world.
We’re told that these strikes are meant to weaken the Assad regime and fortify the moderate forces within the opposition. The hard truth is that the moderates in Syria are really Assad and his moderate assassins. These strikes may be a way by the Obama administration to score big against this Russian, Iran and Syria axis – fortifying Israel ultimately.
There is something else we need to explore: how the rise of the religion-based political groups in the Middle East, including Al Qaeda, may have been the unintended consequences of the United States and Israel in their fight against the left-driven secular political groups in the region. It’s widely known that Israel supported these Palestinian religious groups to weaken Arafat.
What the Obama administration should do in the Middle East is to de-escalate this war fever against Syria and Iran, push for a fair and quick presidential election in Egypt (and release former president Morsi and his supporters), and seriously promote and work for a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state.
There has to be some new thinking on foreign policy in this country. Obama has tragically failed to do so – he’s too much of a politician. Blame also a lack of conviction!