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Foreign policy

Monday, November 28, 2016 20:51
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At the American Interest Nial Ferguson writes,

Obama’s foreign policy has been a failure, most obviously in the Middle East, where the smoldering ruin that is Syria—not to mention Iraq and Libya—attests to the fundamental naivety of his approach, dating all the way back to the 2009 Cairo speech. The President came to believe he had an ingenious strategy to establish geopolitical balance between Sunni and Shi’a. But by treating America’s Arab friends with open disdain, while cutting a nuclear deal with Iran that has left Tehran free to wage proxy wars across the region, Obama has achieved not peace but a fractal geometry of conflict and a frightening, possibly nuclear, arms race. At the same time, he has allowed Russia to become a major player in the Middle East for the first time since Kissinger squeezed the Soviets out of Egypt in the 1972-79 period. The death toll in the Syrian war now approaches half a million; who knows how much higher it will rise between now and Inauguration Day?

Meanwhile, global terrorism has surged under Obama. Of the past 16 years, the worst year for terrorism was 2014, with 93 countries experiencing an attack and 32,765 people killed. 2015 was the second worst, with 29,376 deaths. Last year, four radical Islamic groups were responsible for 74 per cent of all deaths from terrorism: ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. In this context, the President’s claims to be succeeding against what he euphemistically calls “violent extremism” are absurd. Much opprobrium has been heaped on Donald Trump in the course of the past year. But there was much that was true in his underreported August 15 foreign policy speech on the subject of Islamic extremism and the failure of the Obama Administration to defeat it.10

The “Obama Doctrine” has failed in Europe, too, where English voters opted to leave the EU in defiance of the President’s threats, and where the German leadership he recently praised has delivered, first, an unnecessarily protracted financial crisis in the European periphery and, second, a disastrous influx to the core of migrants, some but not all of them refugees from a region that Europe had intervened in just enough to exacerbate its instability. The President has also failed in eastern Europe, where not only has Ukraine been invaded and Crimea annexed, but also Hungary and now Poland have opted to deviate sharply from the President’s liberal “arc of history.” Finally, his foreign policy has failed in Asia, where little remains of the much-vaunted pivot. “If you look at how we’ve operated in the South China Sea,” the President boasted in an interview published in March, “we have been able to mobilize most of Asia to isolate China in ways that have surprised China, frankly, and have very much served our interest in strengthening our alliances.”11 The new President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, apparently did not receive this memorandum. In October he went to Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to announce his “separation from the United States.”

Kissinger’s recommendations to Trump may be summarized as follows:
Do not go all-out into a confrontation with China, whether on trade or the South China Sea. Rather, seek “comprehensive discussion” and aim to pursue that policy of dialogue and “co-evolution” recommended in World Order. Kissinger sees the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, quite regularly. When he says that Xi regards “confrontation as too dangerous” and thinks that “adversarial countries must become partners and cooperate on a win-win basis,” he speaks with authority. The questions the Chinese want to ask the new President, according to Kissinger, are these: “If we were you, we might try to suppress your rise. Do you seek to suppress us? If you do not, what will the world look like when we are both strong, as we expect to be?” Trump needs to have answers to these questions. The alternative, as Kissinger has said repeatedly, is for the United States and China to talk past each other until they stumble into 1914 in the Pacific, not to mention in cyberspace.

Given a weakened, traumatized, post-imperial Russia, the recognition Putin craves is that of “a great power, as an equal, and not as a supplicant in an American-designed system.” Kissinger’s message to Trump is well calibrated to appeal to his instincts: “It is not possible to bring Russia into the international system by conversion. It requires deal-making, but also understanding.” The central deal, Kissinger argues, would turn Ukraine into “a bridge between NATO and Russia rather than an outpost of either side…

…Treat Brexit as an opportunity to steer the continental Europeans away from bureaucratic introspection and back to strategic responsibility.

Make peace in Syria rather as we made peace in the former Yugoslavia nearly twenty years ago. Kissinger now recommends a “cantonization” of Syria similar to the federalization of Bosnia under the Washington and Dayton agreements, with an “off-ramp for Assad” lasting around a year, all under the “supervision” of the interested outside powers. Iran must be contained, much as the Soviet Union was in the Cold War, because it poses a similar threat, acting as both an imperial state and a revolutionary cause. But keep the Iran agreement because to abandon it now “would free Iran from more constraints than it would free the United States.” And finally take advantage of the new-found, albeit tacit, anti-Iranian and anti-ISIS alignment of the Arab states with Israel to achieve a new kind of Arab-sponsored peace deal that would “improve the lives of Palestinians to the greatest extent possible, perhaps including quasi-sovereignty . . . that is, de facto autonomy without a legalistic superstructure.”

Okay, I admit it. This article just went on and on, and I lost interest. but you can read much, much more here.

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