Thursday, April 24, 2014

Has US foreign policy record ever been weaker?

When President Barack Obama replaced Hillary Clinton on February 1, 2013 with John Kerry as his Secretary of State, he effectively removed the last vestige of effective U.S. foreign policy.

This is not to say that Hillary Clinton was so great at foreign policy, but that John Kerry is so ineffectual at it. Add to this the possibility that Obama might finish his second term as one of the presidents with the worst foreign policy record.

Kerry committed a diplomatic blunder that allowed the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to avoid a military strike against him as a consequence of the Syrian forces’ August 2013 chemical weapons attack on the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus. In so doing, Kerry made Obama seem weak for drawing a line and not following through as he had threatened. Kerry was played like the neophyte he is by Russia’s President Putin.

In what could have been President Obama’s crowning foreign policy achievement, he and Kerry couldn’t get the peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians off the ground. And, today, Israel has suspended the talks in response to a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah. America led by Barack Obama clearly lacks the moral suasion needed to bring such fractious parties together and to “make” them keep talking to one another.

The rapprochement between Iran and the U.S., which began in the second half of 2013, will be proved to have been a mistake and will do nothing to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Iran, Russia, Syria and North Korea all use multi-lateral talks as delaying tactics. They agree to certain things while simultaneously carrying on as before, ignoring any agreements reached in the talks. That is to say, Iran is gaming the U.S.

Despite lines being drawn and threats being made by them, neither President Obama nor John Kerry has had the slightest influence on Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine. Under the current administration, America has become a paper tiger, notwithstanding the fact it owns by far the most powerful armed forces in the world.

Ukraine has been pretty much left to face alone the super-power-sized military of Russia, despite the U.S. being a signatory to the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, a political agreement signed in Hungary in 1994, which provided security assurances to Ukraine in return for it giving up its Nuclear Weapons.

Here too, Russia has used multi-lateral talks to delay and obfuscate. It has ignored an accord to disarm pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, which was signed only last week in Geneva by Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the U.S.

National borders in Eastern Europe and the Baltic are under threat by Russia, which has already illegally ceased Crimea, and the U.S. foreign affairs team fulminates and blusters, but shows little leadership.

On the home front, President Obama is trying to score domestic political points with environmentalists by refusing cross-border passage of Canadian goods—bitumen from the Alberta oil sands—even though the most recent U.S. State Department report found the Keystone XL pipeline wouldn’t increase greenhouse gas emissions, because the oil will eventually find a market whether or not Keystone XL pipeline is built.

The supposed reason for the delay is to wait for a Nebraska court challenge. I think we all know, however, that the administration simply does not want to make the controversial decision before the midterm elections.

The process has gone on well past five years with multiple applications, numerous federal reviews and comment periods and many opportunities for consultation along the way.

The latest edition of Rasmussen Reports found 61 per cent of likely U.S. voters support building Keystone XL. Obama’s own State Department has given the project the green-light and, moreover, Canada needs that pipeline to get its product to market.

Nonetheless, Obama puts political gain ahead of friendly relations with a long-time ally, for he won’t do anything to cross billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, who reportedly plans to provide millions for the 2014 congressional elections, and who is a staunch opponent of constructing the pipeline.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska called the Keystone XL decision’s delay “a stunning act of political cowardice.”

I don’t know whether or not Obama is a coward, but he sure isn’t acting like the leader of Canada’s staunchest ally. Really, with friends like Barak Obama, Canada doesn’t need enemies.

Barack Obama: statesman and leader of the free world or just another Chicago-style political boss?

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