Earlier today, I got the jump on everyone (I hope) and talked about the first ten months or so of the Obama administration’s domestic agenda. Considering that it’s hardly been much of an “Obama” agenda and more of a “Reid-Pelosi” agenda, I still managed to wring over 1,000 words on it. And now that I’m looking at foreign policy, I find myself wondering if I’ll have to split this one into parts, too.
It was on the world stage that President Obama really concentrated his efforts. Flush with his promise to “restore America’s reputation and prestige” in the community of nations, he dove in to the adoring arms of the global community. Obama — especially after his speech at the United Nations — had a higher approval rating than any other world leader in history.
As bright as his honeymoon was, though, it was also among the briefest. The brightest of flames, they say, burn out the quickest.
The ugliest developments, of course, were in the Middle East. In retrospect, the meetings between Obama administration officials and Moqtada Al-Sadr in Iraq were a very bad idea — as I and a lot of other said at the time. Sadr used the credibility that gave him and the backing of Iran to leverage his power and make himself once again a major force in Iraqi politics. Indeed, many lay at his feet the sudden demands that the US reduce its forces and set a firm timetable for complete withdrawal. And some of us are convinced he is behind the resurgence in attacks on US forces that has undone so much of the progress achieved in the past few years.
With Israel, things haven’t been as bad as I feared, But they certainly haven’t been good. Obama’s insistence on a “fresh start” is simply a reaffirmation of the Palestinian strategy: start a wave of terrorism, set it aside for peace talks, demand Israel make some “good faith” gestures and conessions, come up with a grand agreement, have Israel make the first moves, then hem and haw and argue how the Palestinians can’t keep the promises made, insist Israel continue with its promises, and when the Israelis get impatient go back to step one with a new wave of terrorism. The key is that the concessions and good faith gestures Israel made are then used as the new base point for the new negotiations.
With Obama’s “fresh start,” all those are now locked in stone, and Israel finds itself having given up much over the years with nothing to show for it, and unable to make commensurate demands on the Palestinians. Further, with Obama willing to use more clear threats of sanctions and withholding arms and hinting that the US might not come to Israel’s defense, they are backed into a corner that’s starting to look very much like 1973 all over again.
I’m also worried about China. They’ve been even more belligerent than usual towards Taiwan, and all the “Free Tibet” folks who were so excited about Obama have been very, very disappointed at how tepidly he’s reacted to their aggressions.
The return of high oil prices and consequent resurgence in power of OPEC is more, I think, partly due to Obama’s domestic energy policies. The reinstatement of the offshore oil drilling ban, coupled with the lockdown on any drilling in ANWR and further energy development in Alaska (which I am convinced is a bit of political payback for Governor Palin) has increased our dependence and consumption of foreign oil. The raising of fuel economy standards caused even more hardships for the auto industry (remember Chrysler? It was a sad day for a lot of people when they shut their doors), and the implementation of the Kyoto Accords by executive order put a similar hurting on the electric utilities. With alternatives blocked (Greenpeace stopping nuclear expansion, Ted Kennedy and the like choking back wind, and the Sierra Club fighting hydroelectric), suddenly oil became the most readily-accessible energy source — and foreign oil far more available than domestic. Indeed, I’ve seen some arguments that directly tie the Obama energy program to the rise of Hugh Chavez’ Venezuela as a regional superpower and the fall of the Colombian government.
And then there’s Russia. The “return” of several former Soviet Republics to a tighter affiliation with Russia is the beginnings of the return of the Soviet Empire in all but name. With the Ukraine and Belarus still independent in name only, the Baltics making nervous concessions, and “the ‘Stans” suddenly discovering and rooting out “Islamic terrorists,” I don’t think I’m too much of an alarmist in saying that this does NOT bode well.
I had had high hopes for NATO with Obama’s election, considering how popular he was in Europe. But the great alliance that kept the Soviet Union in check for decades is now all but defunct. Several of the Western nations that were mainstays of NATO for those years have cut their commitments to the bare minimum (and some even below that, as if daring others to call them on it), and the Eastern European nations — those former Warsaw Bloc slave states — who had clamored for admission now find themselves wondering what the big deal was about. They were all set to be our staunchest allies — after all, they felt that they owed much of their freedom to NATO and the US, and no one better knows the horrors of totatlitarianism than its former victims — but now they are turning more towards each other for protection, and wondering if they can appease their way to safety before Russia.
Obama’s single greatest achievement in foreign policy, though, also led directly to the greatest danger we now face. It was a happy day when US Special Forces found Osama Bin Laden’s grave in Pakistan, but the incursion into that nation led to the fall of the government to Islamic radicals. But instead of a Taliban-style government taking control, we have a chaotic mess of a nation with factions squabbling for power.
And in all the mess, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal up and disappeared. Our forces managed to seize a dozen warheads during the chaos, and at least one of them was most likely responsible for that explosion in the Pacific last September, but that leaves at least two to three dozen more nucleaar weapons unaccounted for somewhere in the world. And we still don’t know what ship that bomb was on when it went off north of the Marianas Islands, let alone who was in control of it or where it was heading. We dodged one bullet there, but I’m really, really worried…
I hate to say it, but the world is a much, much scarier place than it was a year ago.