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Is Foreign Policy really going to change under Obama/Clinton? January 27, 2009

Posted by neoavatara in Politics, World Politics.
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Mr. Obama often attacked the Bush Administration for their poor results on foreign policy.  Supposedly, Bush was ‘unilateralist’ who didn’t listen to our allies.  But with Obama firmly in the Oval Office, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking over Foggy Bottom, is anything really changing?

Certainly Obama wants to end the war in Iraq, but as I have been arguing, the war is already won.  The pullout begun even before Obama took office.  In Afghanistan, Bush started a mini-surge there that Obama supported.  So that was pretty much status quo from the Bush years.  Pakistan may be the biggest problem.  They have already asked Obama to stop missile attacks in the western regions against terrorists.  And they are still harboring accomplices from the Mumbai attacks of November, and India will continue to demand that there be justice.

Supposedly Obama was ready to talk to Iran.  But the reality is that low level talks were already occurring.  Will they look for higher level talks?  Possibly, but it will be very difficult as long as Ahmadinejad has violent rhetoric toward Israel. 

In the recent war in Gaza, Obama basically supported Israel similar to Bush.  The only change was that he slapped Israel on the wrist for not protecting Palestinian civilians.  But when they had a chance to side with a UN resolution attacking Israel on the violence toward citizens, they balked.  Former Sen. George Mitchell, Obama’s Middle East Envoy, is a respected personality in the region and in worldwide politics.  But he must have people that are receptive to his pleas for peace.

Symbolically, having a President named ‘Obama’ will have short term appeal.  And Mr. Obama gave his first interview as President to Al-Arabiya news network.  But these are shortlived symbolic events.  Long term, the Arab street will determine if they like Obama or not based on policy alone.

On North Korea,  the six party talks continue, with no end in sight.  India and China are likely to stay in similar positions as today.  There may be more division between Europe and America as the economic crisis spreads. Mexico is falling apart because of the drug trade, and Obama is likely to make border more porous, not less, which can only worsen the drug trade.

And despite rhetoric to the contrary, the war on terror continues.  Symbolic moves like closing Guantanamo, pulling out of Iraq, etc. are important, but are unlikely to change the opinion of the Arab street.  They are already burning Obama in effigy.

So, again, reality sets in.  Many of the Bush administration’s decisions were not choices, so much as singular options.  Obama is quickly going to discover that he is not so free to use his power as he once thought.



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