US Foreign Policy has become synonymous with wishful thinking, and reactive planning that usually redounds on the US with unexpected and unpleasant consequences. This blog post is a follow on to the one of 16 June, Foreign Policy Reactive and Proactive. I label this post on Western Foreign Policy as US because Europe, whether it be the EU or UK, has no foreign policy independent of the US. The US takes the lead and Europe docilely follows.
The US’s misguided crusade to impose its brand of Western Democracy on the rest of world has led to some outcomes that, were they not so inimical to the US, would be comical, sort of like a performance of the Keystone Cops.
The most recent of their escapades has been the misreading of the Arab Spring, much ballyhooed by the US as a sure sign the dictators presiding over these countries, previously supported by the US, would be summarily dismissed (or killed) and replaced by freedom loving governments dedicated to democracy and American values.
So, where are we today?
Well, there is Tunisia which voted in a Muslim Brotherhood regime with its youth now agitating for Sharia law; then, Libya considered by the US as a poster child for US intervention but, in fact, still rife with dissension, and with a government’s political philosophy that is far from defined, a country that is so divided it could be partitioned.
Result: one loss and, a possible draw.
Egypt, admittedly a difficult choice for the US foreign policy establishment – support for the democratic revolution or back the pro-Israeli, pro US Palestinian policy, corrupt, Mubarak regime and the equally corrupt Egyptian military. Reluctantly and, with many reservations, the US had no choice but to dump Mubarak. Having, at least, foreseen the coming democratically elected Brotherhood, the US still could give the Brotherhood only guarded support. The Brotherhood eventually qualified for US support by dint of being democratically elected but, that is not sufficient to earn the warm embrace of the World’s Greatest Democracy. The new regime was Islamic, not secular and that dimmed its luster for the Americans. To have the unqualified praise of the US a nation must be a) either a democratically elected secular government that toes US foreign policy dictates or, b) an autocratic, dictatorial Islamic regime, such as Saudi Arabia, that happens to be a major supplier of oil to the US but, one experiencing its own version of unrest in the Eastern province. This unrest, a topic largely ignored by Western media and governments.
Most recently, the NYT made mention of General Sobhi, the new Egyptian military chief. He was quoted as saying the U S military presence in the Middle East and the US’s “one-sided support” of Israel were fueling conflict and instability in the Middle East. An Obama official dismissed Sobhi’s paper it as “shelf-ware”, words that will likely come back to haunt the Americans.
Result: at best, a draw, but the way events are moving, bad news for the US.
Syria is a real conundrum for the US. Caught again between a rock and a hard place, the US is faced with having to condemn Assad and loath to support an opposition, or opposition factions, which could transform Syria into a new regional launchpad for global terrorism. As of today, the latter appears the most likely outcome
Result: None yet, a work (disaster) in progress.
As bad as the present US foreign policy is, a Romney led one would be worse. Israel would be given a blank cheque to do whatever it pleases with full support of the evangelical Republican neo-cons. And, as opposed as Romney apparently was to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, would he undertake another “surge” in this lost war? Iraq is coming apart so would he attempt to intervene again and to what purpose? To support the Sunni or the Shia or the Kurds? The Iraqi Shia are much closer to Iran than the US so how would an open conflict between the US and Iran play out in Iraq?
Considering Romney’s ignorance of foreign affairs, as displayed by his recent series of gaffes in Europe, one cannot be sure what he would do but, if he should follow through on the threat to brand China a currency manipulator, the US could be in for a disastrous trade and currency war. Such a war could have even more serious consequences for the US than involvement in another military conflict in the Middle East. With its back to the wall, what would China do with its massive holdings of US treasuries and US currency?
Multitasking in foreign affairs is not America’s forte and while the West and its media are focused on Syria and Iran, East Asia is on the boil with recent island conflicts between China and the Philippines, China and Japan, Japan and South Korea, Japan and Russia. Japan bears close watching. Japan is America’s proxy in the region and with its considerable naval force, larger than China’s, recently has made threatening moves. While the West regards China as the threat, it is really to the prospect of a neo-militarist Japan to which they should be directing their attention.
For more on the island disputes, I commend the reader to an article in Foreign Affairs:
There are many age-old conflicts in Asia and any one of them could revived and develop into a major conflagration – China and Vietnam, China and Japan, Japan and Korea (North and South), and one should not ignore Russia, a landmass that extends from Europe to the Pacific.
Russia, according to Romney, is America’s greatest geopolitical foe. There seem to be several geopolitical foes on Romney’s list – Russia, China, Iran, and perhaps, soon, Syria. However, it will only be when, and if he succeeds to the US presidency, that we will know his policy. In the meantime it is all campaign rhetoric.
An excellent article in the Asia Times raises the subject of Romney’s foreign policy with specific reference to China and a possible internal Republican conflict on this issue.
In fact, Asia Times frequently offers objective well thought out papers on East Asia, a region poorly covered in Western media.
In an American election year one should be especially vigilant and careful in listening to US foreign policy pronouncements and posturing, They can prove misleading and dangerous.