Shifting Goals of US Foreign Policy under Obama
As the Bush administration stepped down yesterday (January 20) and as the Obama administration came in, the US' position in the world has already shifted dramatically. The Bush administration’s foreign policy goals were controversial, but defined.
Key points of Bush Administration foreign policy mostly outlined at the previous White House website included:
• Polarization of foreign policy, dividing the world into a framework of “good” states and “evil” states (as evidenced by the 2002 “Axis of Evil” State of the Union speech)
• Support of allies, isolation of adversaries and extension of freedom. This goes along with the stated goal of “nation building” and “promoting democracy”
• The “Bush Doctrine” (policy of illegal intervention in order to guarantee American security – Somalia and Pakistan are prime examples)
• A strict War on Terror and the use of American military resources to strike against terrorists and their resources however possible
• Emphasis on missile defense, especially the controversial eastern European missile defense shield
• Speaking tough to “rogue states” like Venezuela, Myanmar or Iran
• 6-Party Talks with North Korea
• Tough sanctions against Iran to force it to end its nuclear program – military option is always on the back burner
• Fervent support of Israel and the right to defend itself, but meanwhile the promotion of the idea of a 2-state solution for Palestine
• General disregard for the UN and international diplomatic law
• Use of torture such as waterboarding against enemy-combatants and other suspected criminals to obtain information
• Commitment to ending genocide in Darfur
The Obama transition team has outlined on its new whitehouse.gov some of its objectives for foreign policy. Summarized they include:
• Renewal of global alliances
• Direct diplomacy with any nation without preconditions
• Phased withdrawal from Iraq
• Priority of attention to 2-state solution for Israel and Palestine
• Strong US-Israel partnership and support of Israel’s right to defend itself along with increased foreign aid to Israel
• Expansion of State Department with more consulates in third world
• New partnerships with Asian countries, especially Japan, South Korea and Australia (to counter Chinese influence)
• Increased troop levels in Afghanistan with heightened NATO cooperation. This to be coupled with increased economic development investment
• Increased nonmilitary aid to Pakistan and more accountability to be demanded from Islamabad for security along Afghan border
• Worldwide nuclear security and attention paid to terror networks with nuclear materials
• Strengthening of Non-Proliferation Treaty, specifically against North Korea and Iran
• Goal of moving towards nuclear free world through reciprocal reductions in deployment and stockpiles with Russia
• Tough carrot-stick diplomacy with Iran. Carrot: WTO membership, economic investment, normal relations. Goal: getting Iran to end its nuclear program, support of terrorism and threats against Israel
• Energy independence for US
Additional information from a speech given by Obama:
• Conciliatory approach to Venezuela and Cuba. Open to talks with Venezuela and loosening of restrictions on Cuban exiles. Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have already traded harsh words.
Other forecasts of US foreign policy under Obama come from team members soon to occupy key posts in the Administration.
Hillary Clinton, the new Secretary of State
Clinton’s Senate foreign relations committee hearing this past week revealed some of the prerogatives she believes are essential to US foreign policy. In addition to the points outlied by Obama’s administration team, Clinton added these points:
• Use of “smart power” (not just military power) to protect American interests
• Cooperation with Russia and China to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear program
• Goal of ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty
• Goal of working with Russia to extent START treaty before it expires December 2009
• Working with Pakistan and Afghanistan together, not as separate entities or areas, to confront their issues
• Continuation of 6-Party talks with North Korea
• Deeper partnership with Mexico to confront drug trafficking and immigration
• Enhanced cooperation with Latin American countries
Susan Rice, the new US Ambassador to the United Nations stated these aims in her Senate confirmation hearing:
• Confrontation of Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe to help the nation transition to a democracy
• Refreshing US presence at the UN to beef up peacekeeping missions in addition to campaigns against climate change, nuclear proliferation and human rights violations
Notably missing from all these points of Obama Foreign Policy are a few key issues:
1.) Cross-border raids, such as the kind that are used by the US to destroy militant strongholds in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has repeatedly called these types of air attacks, usually performed by drones, illegal, but the US continues to do them. It is likely that these raids will continue after the changing of the guard in Washington. Military operations, regardless of political party in power, tend to follow the same course provided they achieve results.
2.) Any discussion of the Horn of Africa and Somalia. Somalia is the greatest power vacuum in the world, a state without a government, a population ravaged by famine and drought, the world’s largest illegal weapon exporter next door (Yemen), various groups of Islamists vying for political power in the country to take advantage of the vacuum left by departing Ethiopian troops, and pirates ruling the coasts and the Gulf of Aden while disrupting the global shipping industry. Will Obama authorize air raids in Somalia like the kind Bush called for in January of 2006 that toppled the Union of Islamic Courts?
3.) The contentious missile defense shield planned to be built in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russian President Medvedev has warned Obama on many occasions not to continue Bush’s program of building this shield. Obama has remained tight-lipped and it remains unclear what the fate of the installation will be.
4.) India. India and the US have a massive civilian nuclear deal but it remains to be seen how the Obama administration will approach this strategic ally and if it will force New Delhi (or Islamabad) to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
5.) Central Asia. The nations of Central Asia are energy rich and the US, Russia, and now China are vying for influence here to gain the most and cheapest access to oil and natural gas resources. What the Obama administration’s policy towards this region and the controversial Nabucco Pipeline could be anyone’s guess.
As time goes by, we will be able to see how much the Obama Administration measures up against its stated goals in the international arena. The question marks in foreign policy, such as the eastern European missile shield will also be revealed.
Comments, questions, challenges more than welcome.
-By Christopher Herbert
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.