Mr. Barack Obama’s foreign policy is suffering from indirection. It seems that by trying to satisfy all, he may alienate many and continue his predecessor’s job of harming the interests of the United States in the process.
Indeed, some of his problems are inherited from his predecessor, Mr. George W. Bush. Strangely enough, the mess in Mesopotamia has become somewhat manageable from the American point of view, but that is because the Americans are pulling out. Also, the focus on Iraq has dropped due to several factors, mainly the democracy movement still sweeping Arabia, the so called “Arab Spring”.
The “Arab Spring”
The “Arab Spring” is something Obama totally lost his way in. Toppling of the government in Tunisia was something the U.S. could not do much about, due to several reasons. But, Obama was unable to manage the Egyptian situation in a positive way for the U.S. and especially for her ally, Israel. From the day Mubarak was toppled, Israel’s anxiety has grown, and rightly so. On one hand, the military regime has taken several steps which Israel did not want it to, including the opening of the border with the Gaza strip. Also, on the other hand, since the Muslim brotherhood is the most organized political entity in Egypt, a post-military government would most probably be dominated by them, which will never be advantageous from the Israeli point of view.
Knowing these facts very well, it is hard to believe that Obama remained silent and let Mubarak fall. It is as if he wanted all these things to happen to Egypt and also to Israel!
Across the Red Sea, Obama was never ready to let Saleh fall in Yemen initially. However, as the situation worsened, the language of the U.S. changed dramatically. Even so, Saleh is still clinging to power. May be the U.S. wanted to arrest the possible rise of Al-Qaeda in Yemen by giving moral support to the anti-Saleh faction. However, Obama should have had the foresight to see that Yemen is always a volatile country. Repeatedly, leaders even in the U.S. are refusing to learn what JFK said about revolutions. Those who make peaceful revolutions impossible make violent revolutions inevitable; especially in a country like Yemen, where gun culture is the norm.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is quite content to be non-committed on Bahrain, another key ally in the region. Why should Mr. Obama seek unnecessary trouble when there are a number of other willing allies to get involved there? In that aspect, the U.S. is losing nothing by being silent while the Bahraini people are suffering the repression of its regime.
Perhaps Mr. Obama should have kept his silence on Libya also. By associating with rebels, the NATO is helping an ‘unknown devil’ to chase away a ‘known devil’. As the recent assassination of the Commander of the rebel forces has once more shown, the anti-Gaddafi rebels are still a mysterious lot. A substantial number of them are said to be Islamists who are sometimes reputed to be associated with the Al-Qaeda. While killing the infamous Islamist leader thousands of miles away in Pakistan, the NATO is content to deal with his henchmen at the doorstep of Europe. Strange politics, to say the least.
This is a point which Mr. Obama was always going to be in trouble, thanks to the foresight of his enlightened predecessor. By abandoning the battle in Afghanistan, George W. Bush willingly opened up a second front in Iraq. Of course, Obama opened up a third front in Libya. But, there he was quite helpless in a way as he was trying to satisfy the strange alliance of his Anglo-French allies.
Let’s turn back to Afghanistan. It is a matter of back to basics, or back to square one. Either way, it is the same. Despite everything said and done, including killing Osama bin Laden eventually, the fact that the Americans have messed up Afghanistan is undeniable. Barack Obama has further weakened his nation’s position with the all powerful drones. He has alienated Pakistani and Afghan government also. Alienating the latter is an unprecedented ‘achievement’ as whatever one may say, Kabul was more or less a puppet of the U.S. until quite recently.
Ten years on, there is no respite in violence in Afghanistan and actually with the high profile assassinations after the death of bin Laden, the violence seems to be unstoppable in the near future. Unrest is the order of the day in much-if not all-of Afghanistan and also in a substantial part of Pakistan. The Taliban is much stronger than one would have expected after a ten year war with the military superpowers of the world. Furthermore, as recent violence in China show, the Islamist spillover effect may soon affect the other countries in the region.
Due to this unprecedented achievement of the U.S. and her allies-of course the credit should mainly go to Mr. Bush Jr. and not Mr. Obama-the NATO troops are in such a position in Afghanistan that they cannot leave even if they wanted. But the sad part is, they seem to be utterly ineffectual even if they stayed. It’s no wonder that Mr. Obama is searching for a way out of this never-ending muddle he is in.