Foreign Policy / Politics / Presidency

Obama’s Missing Ingredient in Foreign Policy

On January 30th, the Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted a meeting focused on the Obama Administration’s successes and future directions in national security for this nation. Ben Rhodes lead the discussion at CAP, and began by explaining three events aided in our creation of restoration of National Security specifically through International Action. These three events (the end of the war in Iraq, the elimination of al-Qaeda, and the restoration of American leadership internationally) have been the sole reason of international presence, leading to national security. Rhodes continued by explaining shifts in the end of combat in Iraq from large scale deployment efforts and combat to diplomatic resolution and relationship-building. This shift marks a self-sustainable government in Iraq, hence the need for withdrawal, as the government gained the recourses available to mark the dawning of a new Iraq. The second focus drew on the decimation of al-Qaeda. With the shift in framework from large scale operations to small scale deployment in Iraq, recourses allowed 2009 to mark the beginning of specialized operations.  These operations allowed the focus to shift towards international terror threats (such as al-Qaeda, and specifically exemplified with the removal of Osama Bin Laden), and therefore allowed for pointed directions and actions to be taken by American Special Forces. Rhodes laid out that with this mitigation of al-Qaeda, the aim is to reach an end state in Afghanistan by 2012, and hoping that a similar tactic (political resolution in conjunction current withdraw tactics) would be able to allow for these changes. By mitigating the troop numbers from 90,000 to 68,000 by summer 2012, the Administration hopes to begin to step in this direction of tactical force.

Other improvements made to impact National Security included Nuclear Security and reestablished relationships providing enhanced security pressure. “The two are interchangeably of the two are not to be misunderstood” stated Rhodes. First, the lockdown of nuclear material by reduced arsenal and increased diplomacy would cause for international communities to follow suit. With this, the United Nations (UN) sanctions over Iran and North Korea would allow for increased international pressure by making these countries outliers in not adopting a similar protocol. In conjunction, by deploying more troops to the South Pacific, doubling US exports to the South Pacific, working with Burman, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syrian governments for diplomatic resolution, and continuing the American alliance with Israel, a heavy international presence would be displayed by the US. This seemingly peaceful presence, when conjoined to strengthening our national ties, would be a mechanism by which both diplomatic and peaceful resolution can be met, as well as skillful deployment of troops if problems arise for special operative action.

More accomplishments, though, needed to progress in order to fulfill our pre-existing security goals. “More progress needs to be done with problems of Pakistan and Eurozone crisis,” continued Rhodes, but with a focus on emerging alliances and use of countries to establish a framework for international system, he believed all problems could eventually be resolved in this manner.  He continued in the question portion by addressing very similar answers that with this tactical diplomacy, Iranian and Syrian problems can be mitigated through multilateral interaction.

It’s wonderful to see the US not throwing trillions towards large-scale deployments, and similarly, for the US not to be associated with an Authoritative regime, and instead focusing on diplomatic resolution. This being said, where is the logic that implies outlier, noncompliant nations to UN sanctions will cooperate with these issues? After years of countries pursuing noncompliance to mandated protocol, I do not understand how increased external pressure will cause dictators to change their approach to governance. The US is an unstoppable external force, yet with these dictators acting as an immovable object, how will diplomatic relations really bring cause to change in stalwart, dictatorial views on how to run a country? I agree that pressure needs to be turned up on these countries’ leaders, but unless these countries come to the table with open minds, and an active willingness to adapt change for what’s best for their people, these countries will not have any willingness to actively engage new forms of government. In line with this, external pressure will probably not give cause for change to UN sanctions or what’s best for the majority in a country fundamentally controlled by a small internal dictatorship. Therefore, what should happen?

Dictatorial governments tend to ignore the rights of the populace and demands of the rest of the world, until both the populace gives rise for concern, and foreign aid/interference has been mitigated. With the US and other nations applying external pressure, why not also apply internal pressure? Personally, my question is why is the US not attempting to teach democratic ideals to the depressed populace in these countries? With heavy unemployment of recent college graduates in the United States, why are more funds (now not being used to fund a war) not being allocated to federal programs used to educate populaces on democratic ideals to the nation? Why not use a completely viable workforce to spread a message in an area, as opposed to under-allocating efforts elsewhere? Why are these American forces of change not showing the people what their country should be doing to empower them, as opposed to depressing them? Why is our nation not interacting to solve the problems in the best possible mechanism, and are, instead, forgoing viable options for real diplomatic, internal solution? A non-violent, diplomatic resolution certainly seems like a wave worth riding in these areas, especially as the Arab Spring revolution continues to illustrate international lust for democratic ideals.


For instance, if half of funds (formerly allocated to the war) were to be allocated to paying off the debt, while the other half was being used for diplomatic action in problematic areas, should not the government want to allocate a large chunk of these funds to Peace Corps action in these areas? When President Obama took office in 2008, he promised to double the size of the Peace Corps by nearly doubling the budget to a figure between $600-700 Million1. This being said, “Both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees Subcommittees for State/Foreign Operations have recommended that Peace Corps funding to remain at just over $374 million for Fiscal Year 2012.”2 Why isn’t the President attempting to double this budget to instill the true change necessary for both job creation of recent graduates, and international mitigation of problems? Why hasn’t he pressed harder for these changes necessary for foreign change? I understand the US wants to change these approaches in a multinational setting, but also internal, social change is necessary to complete this process, using federal agencies like the Peace Corps to instill this social diplomacy. Overall, call me crazy, but only external country pressure is a unilateral approach, whereas internal change and social impact would imply the necessary multilateral approach necessary for true international action leading to national security.



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