Last week President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address. Not surprisingly Obama chose to focus on predominantly domestic issues and gave foreign policy a brief, as well as lackluster, spot towards the conclusion. With the economy still struggling, the utter catastrophic roll out of Obamacare, and a plethora of other domestic issues facing the U.S., this was to be expected. The country is simply sick and tired of politicians focusing on global issues, while quietly sweeping domestic issues under the rug. While this reality is most definitely the primary force behind why the State of the Union was so inwardly focused, I believe there is a secondary reason. Quite frankly, 2013 was a terrible year for the Obama administration’s foreign policy goals. In 2013 the Arab spring stuttered and all but died, China continued to defy the U.S., Chemical weapons were used in Syria, Iraq devolved to pre-2008 levels of violence, and the much anticipated security agreement with Afghanistan was not achieved. These along with many other failures, in which there are too many to name, provided Obama with virtually nothing positive to report on in his address.
As any politician is bound to do, Obama attempted to take his failure and find bright spots to report on. He stressed the quote on quote success of the Iranian nuclear deal as a way to “resolve one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war”. He stated the departing troops from Afghanistan are leaving victorious and successful. Lastly, he reiterated that “American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated”. While the above statements might suffice to appease one who is not versed in the intricacies of the international community, an educated individual can easily see through these supposed success stories.
Lets begin with the Iranian nuclear deal. This was by far Obama’s biggest achievement in 2013. After years of failed negotiations and round after round of harsh sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran finally bowed to U.S. pressure on their nuclear program. Or is it the other way around? Has the U.S. finally come to the realization that anything short of military action would halt the Iranians? I would argue that the answer is yes. The U.S. has been levying sanctions against Iran for years, and for years Iran has been defying the U.S. and the world by continuing their program. With over 12 years of war winding down, waning public support, and more pressing issues at home, Obama has opted to back down from the typical militant U.S. foreign policy and in its place adopted a policy of containment. Iran has supposedly agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear program in exchange for the loosening of U.S. sanctions, but from the get go the deal has been flimsy at best. Mere days after the deal was agreed upon, Iranian President Hassan stated “the deal recognizes Tehran’s right to maintain an enrichment program.” Furthermore Rouhani said, “Let anyone make his own reading, but the right is clearly stated that Iran can continue its enrichment, and I announce to our people that our enrichment will continue as before.” The nuclear deal was not a success, rather it was the U.S. being played by the political skill of Rouhani and Obama attempting to save U.S. face, something in which he badly damaged in the Syrian debacle.
Secondly, Obama and his administration have consistently stressed that the U.S. and Nato are leaving Afghanistan as victors. The United States claims that the goals of eliminating a terrorist safe haven and the bringing of stability and democracy to the Afghan people has been achieved. Obama stated that “with Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.” It’s no secret that the Afghan war has hit rock bottom in public support, and that the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Iraq is merely a preview of Afghanistan’s fate. Historically Afghanistan has been called the graveyard of empires, a name which aptly suits the disaster it has proved to be for America and her allies. No matter how many times Obama states we are leaving victorious, the truth of the matter is Afghanistan has proven to be too much for too long and the pull out date can’t come soon enough for coalition forces.
Finally, Obama nodded his head towards the Syrian crisis and reiterated that the U.S. will “support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks” and that “American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.” While it is accurate that a deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons has been reached and implemented, to say that it was due to the U.S. threat of force is laughable. In reality it was Russia, all be it for reasons pertinent to only Russia, who intervened and created a peaceful solution. If Obama had his way bombs would have fallen and an already terrible situation would of escalated to potentially destabilize the entire region. Obama beat the drums of war and Russia silenced them, it is Russia who kept the peace not the United States.
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