Foreign policy is a strategy employed to deal with other nations. Rules of the foreign policy game emanate from the collective imagination of the government. A listing of the rules so the governed could participate would be nice. For example, Breitbart’s Pamela Geller reported the formation of a global police force to fight terrorism that would operate in the U.S. “… Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced at the United Nations that her office would be working in several American cities to form what she called the Strong Cities Network (SCN), a law enforcement initiative that would encompass the globe.” As Geller points out, this brilliant foreign policy decision bypasses Congress and could override the Constitution in favor of the United Nations. Not good.
October 3, 2015, President Obama expressed condolences over the loss of life in a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Doctors Without Borders is a Non-Government Organization (NGO) bringing healthcare to the impoverished around the globe. Interspersed with praises for the NGO, the Commander in Chief demanded a full investigation before he would say more. Excellent decision. The talking drums are alive with blow-back that the Taliban, consistent with past practice, used this hospital as cover for their running gun battles with coalition forces. War is filled with horrors. A war-horrors ranking system would place schools, hospitals, churches, synagogues, and mosques used as killing fields close to the top.
Foreign policy resulting from self-interest decisions can be base. For instance, why is
Doctors Without Borders screaming war crimes and mounting a huge propaganda campaign against the U.S.? The NGO brings life-saving medical services to war torn, famine ridden countries around the world under very dangerous conditions. This is not the first hospital nor the first staff or patients they’ve lost to guns and bombs. Here’s a thought. Prior to the Kunduz bombing, President Obama protecting the crony capitalists in big pharma (and their profits), and Doctors Without Borders begging for drug availability locked horns over drug costs. In October 2014, Huff Post’s Zach Taylor wrote “…Through trade talks, meetings with foreign governments and negotiations with multiple U.N. bodies, the Obama administration has aggressively pursued policies that prevent poor countries from accessing low-cost generic versions of expensive name-brand medications, despite persistent calls from Doctors Without Borders for the White House to reverse course…”. It’s easy to understand why Doctors Without Borders might use the Kunduz hospital as propaganda and leverage. The foreign policy protecting big pharma is convoluted, flawed, and based in self-interest rather than in the interest of the U.S. and its citizens.
Heads Up Cold War Warriors
The Russian phoenix rising from the ashes of the Soviet Union refocused attention on
Middle East Foreign Policy. Russians do not wash their hands without plan while the U.S. appears unable to spell the word ‘p-l-a-n’. Russia’s military bases in Syria make sense with Russia’s context. With a single move on the geopolitical chess board Turkey is now surrounded on three sides, the Russians can control the eastern Mediterranean and Bosporus strait, and they achieved an end run on NATO. The U.S. is left sputtering that the Russians are bombing the wrong targets. Which wrong targets? Russia is much less tolerant of Islamic extremists than the U.S.
What is the U.S. Middle East Foreign Policy? In February 2015, Foreign Policy’s Amy Zegart explained “For 25 years now, a weak-state fixation has transfixed U.S. foreign policy. It all started with the humanitarian interventions of the 1990s, which advanced the idea that American power in a post-Cold War world could and should bring justice, peace, and prosperity to places like Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Kosovo. Freed from the security constraints of superpower conflict, U.S. foreign policy assumed a more muscular moralism during Bill Clinton’s years. After the 9/11 attacks, shoring up weak states became a vital security interest, not just a humanitarian ideal. The Freedom Agenda of George W. Bush’s administration sought not only to strengthen states, but to transform them, spreading democracy abroad to protect democracy and security at home…”. Please note that Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Kosovo are still messes, the highly-touted Arab Spring resulted in terrible losses of lives and culture, and the Middle East remains locked in tribal, ethnic, and religious warfare at the cost of American lives and billions of dollars. Time and nation building doesn’t work.
A primary implementing arm of the weak nation policies is the CIA, which has been active in the Middle East since its formation in 1947. CIA led regime change didn’t begin with the ascension of the Shah of Iran followed by the mullahs. In Syria, the CIA was directly instigated the March 1949 Syrian coup d’état that overthrew a legitimately elected government. The 1949 Syrian coup leads directly to the coup that brought Bashar al-Assad’s daddy to power “…An overarching US policy objective in Syria at the time was allowing the construction of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, which the democratically elected government of Syria had blocked. The “Tapline” project was immediately ratified following the coup…”. (Little, 2003) Funny how that works.
Russia’s arrival on the Syrian front has little to do with any so-called ‘U.S. vacuum’. Russia’s intervention has everything to do with its own Foreign Policy objectives. It’s déjà vu for all who made it through the Cold War. The strong nations, not the weak nations, bear more attention. Weak nations cause damage, but strong nations like Russia and China can take the U.S. out of the game entirely. President Clinton accounted for the one-off nuclear attack that might ensue from a weak nation in 1997 when new guidelines were issued for the Implementation of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Doctrine. During a December 1997 interview with Arms Control Today Robert Bell, then senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council said “in this PDD we direct our military forces to continue to posture themselves in such a way as to not rely on launch on warning—to be able to absorb a nuclear strike and still have enough force surviving to constitute credible deterrence.” The U.S. can absorb a nuclear event from nations like India, Pakistan, or North Korea with only one or two devices. It cannot absorb hundreds lobbed from Russia or China.
Yes, the U.S. was hit hard in 2001 but in the intervening 14 years the face of terrorism is one of fragmentation. There can be little doubt Islamic terrorists want the West in general and the U.S. and Israel in particular dead. They say so and back the threat up with horrific actions. However, Russia coalescing the Middle East by whatever means necessary can devastate the West. Russia’s latest moves coupled with China’s increasing assumption of control throughout the Pacific and Africa is destabilizing the geopolitical dynamics. U.S. Foreign Policy regarding Russia and China appears to be a simple stick with which to poke the bear and the dragon and about as effective. A weakened U.S. might be staring down a loaded, double-barrel, sawed off shotgun and not even know it.
Between George Washington’s policy of eschewing foreign entanglements and being the biggest SOB on the block is the right answer. The last time the U.S. actually had a Foreign Policy everyone could understand was when George Keenan birthed the containment policy during Truman’s administration. It wasn’t a great foreign policy but it beats the ‘winning the hearts and minds’, woo woo policies of today. Persistent conflicts in Libya, Chechnya, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia, Bosnia, and Yemen lead no where. Meanwhile the bear and the dragon frolic in the field.