Monday, August 5, 2013

US Foreign Policy –A Compounded Disaster

President Obama’s Foreign Policy has been touted as a huge success or is portrayed as an unmitigated failure depending on whom you are talking to (and what their political affiliation is). 
I have been watching carefully and have come to the conclusion that it is not only a failure, but worse; it was never intended to be a great success. I believe the President has been using our foreign policy as nothing more than a useful tool in his domestic politics.

The Presidents great apology speech in Cairo was never meant to reset relations with Egypt, the Middle East or the world. It was really just intended to put in the minds of Americans back home that we had something to apologize for in the first place. It was used to paint American foreign policy under President Bush and Republicans as the real failure. It was pure cynicism. 

The result has been an Administration that has spent the last five years not paying enough attention. Obama was late to react to “the Arab Spring." Late to address the political upheaval in Iran following their elections four years ago. Slow to respond to the situation in Libya. It failed to reach an agreement with Iraq to keep US forces there for assistance (and to discourage the Iranian influence). It failed to exploit the surge in Afghanistan (he sent in a “surge” of troops, but not enough to get the job done properly –and then undermined the whole effort by immediately announcing their withdrawal schedule). And as for Syria… well, no one has any idea just what our policy about Syria is or is likely to be….

In Egypt, he allowed Mubarak to be toppled, but he failed to support the military to ensure a peaceful transition. He then backed Morsi while that man wrote Presidential edicts stripping power from the judiciary and the parliament and bringing Sharia law to millions of Egyptians (who did not want an Islamic state ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood). He failed to take a stand when the military removed Morsi and is only now acknowledging that the Egpytian military has taken action which, in the long run, will be best for the Egyptian people and will also be best for stability in the Middle East.

But he waited too long. The Egyptians have taken note of his hesitance and his double dealing. Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi is the highest ranking officer in the Egyptian military and probably the most powerful man in Egypt. In an interview this week he said of the U.S. Government: 

You left the Egyptians. You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won’t forget that. Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians?” 

Sissi wields more control than anyone over the country’s direction after a tumultuous two and a half years in which the military has shoved aside two presidents following popular uprisings.

Although Sissi gives occasional speeches, he rarely sits down for interviews. However, over the course of two hours, he provided his most detailed explanation yet of why he decided to oust Morsi, the nation’s first democratically elected president. Sissi also expressed deep disappointment that the United States has not been more eager to embrace his rationale. 

Sissi’s comments are a measure of just how thoroughly the Obama administration has alienated both sides in a profoundly polarized and unsettled Egypt, all while trying to remain neutral. Morsi’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood regularly accuse the United States of acquiescing to a military coup. 

Sissi spoke on the same day that Secretary of State John Kerry finally made the administration’s most supportive comments to date, saying that Egypt’s army was “restoring democracy.” 

“The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people,” Kerry said during a visit to Pakistan. “The military did not take over to the best of our judgment — so far.” 

The U.S. government is required by law to halt non-humanitarian assistance when a democratically elected government is forced from office in a military coup. However, the Obama administration appears determined to avoid using that term, and to prevent a cutoff of the $1.3 billion that the U.S. government sends to Egypt annually. Much of that aid goes to the military. 

Since Morsi’s July 3 ouster, U.S. officials have cautioned Sissi and other generals to show restraint in their dealings with protesters. In yet another demonstration of how little he understands the threat the militant Islamic organizations in Egypt (i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood) truly represents, the Obama administration has also encouraged the military to reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Fortunately, that appears very unlikely, with authorities promising a fresh crackdown on Islamist protests and Morsi continuing to be detained in an undisclosed location.

The bottom line is that President Obama does not understand the importance or the intricacies of foreign policy. He has, instead, been using it as a pawn in his domestic politics and that failure to act in a confident and decisive manner is going to cost the United States a great deal in the long run.


Live Long and Prosper...

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