Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy

I didn't vote for Barrack Obama but that doesn't mean I'm an ideologue that seeks his political destruction at the behest of my own center right ideology. Quite the contrary, Obama has thus far proven to be more a disappointment to his far left supporters as he realigns himself with reality, and so I wish him the best if not for himself than for that of my country. And so I offer this small collective of opinions on President Obama's foreign policy outlook which can be found in it's whole, here.

President Obama and Vice President Biden will renew America’s security and standing in the world through a new era of American leadership. The Obama-Biden foreign policy will end the war in Iraq responsibly, finish the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, secure nuclear weapons and loose nuclear materials from terrorists, and renew American diplomacy to support strong alliances and to seek a lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Already shooting for the stars. But that's understandable, even acceptable coming from a branny new commander in chief. The following breaks down our new President's objectives by region and issue.

Afghanistan and Pakistan:
Obama and Biden will refocus American resources on the greatest threat to our security -- the resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will increase our troop levels in Afghanistan, press our allies in NATO to do the same, and dedicate more resources to revitalize Afghanistan’s economic development. Obama and Biden will demand the Afghan government do more, including cracking down on corruption and the illicit opium trade.

The Taliban isn't a great threat to our national security. The alliance between the Talib's and AQ is, at best, a marriage of necessity for mutual survival. Beyond Mullah Omar's ill conceived "brother in arms" sanctuary for Osama bin Laden the Taliban's bizarre and twisted view of Islamic rule didn't include attacking the United States. Better to design plans to divide the Taliban from Al Qaeda and incorporate the more moderate factions into the political process leaving the steadfast resistance to be dealt with in a more kinetic fashion.

If we're going to "crack down" on the illicit opium trade we should do so proactively, realizing that the traditional agriculture of Afghanistan suffered first during the Soviet invasion and more during the subsequent civil war. Current poppy farmers don't likely have the demise of the Western world in mind as they grow a very proliferate and profitable resource. Harness the opiate trade into medicinal production. Don't pound poppy fields with industrial herbicides and impoverish Afghan farmers. Impoverished Afghan farmers equates to pissed off collaborators at best.
Obama and Biden will increase nonmilitary aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan.

First part, good. Nonmilitary aid to Pakistan empowers the civilian rulership of the struggling Asif Zardari and may stave off the possibility of yet another military coup in Pakistan.
Last part, unrealistic in the short term. Pakistan has historically, by design, held no direct control of the Federally Administrated Tribal Area, hence it's designation. The idea that Pakistan is simply going to assert control over a region ruled by fierce Pashtun tribalism is unrealistic.

Nuclear Weapons:
The gravest danger to the American people is the threat of a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon and the spread of nuclear weapons to dangerous regimes.

The threat of a terrorist attack utilizing nuclear weapons may be grave but is it realistic? I doubt it. Contingencies should abound but the more immediate threat, by my measure, is that of a collective terror "blitz" a la Mumbai. Terrorists are more likely to cash in on cheap and realistic tactics that exact exponential costs over the fantastic and fiery (and technologically very, very difficult on too many levels) big boom of even a dirty radioactive bomb.
As for the spread of nukes to dangerous regimes I whole heartily concur. Beyond North Korea is Iran's possible proliferation which is much less about some cataclysmic 12th Imam nonsense and much more about a Middle East nuke arms race as Sunni states arm up to deter a Shia states dominance of the region. This should be addressed via diplomacy, which comes later in this analysis.
Obama and Biden will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and pursue it. Obama and Biden will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist. But they will take several steps down the long road toward eliminating nuclear weapons. They will stop the development of new nuclear weapons; work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material; and set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global.

This combined with the proposed bill to eliminate outer-space weaponry is a great step forward in eliminating yet another arms race between the US and Russia as excited by the Bush administrations bizarre, cold war toss back missile defense shield.
That said I don't see a realistic ban on intermediate range missiles so long as "rogue" types like Iran and North Korea maintain a posture of nuclear proliferation.

Barack Obama supports tough and direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to use the power of American diplomacy to pressure Iran to stop their illicit nuclear program, support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel. Obama and Biden will offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. In carrying out this diplomacy, we will coordinate closely with our allies and proceed with careful preparation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.
A much more sensible approach than the Bush administrations policy of virtually ignoring Iran. The one caveat I would assert is an inclusion of Israel into these talks in an effort to shift Iranian alliance away from the hopeless actors of Hamas and behind the politically realistic Palestinian Authority. Nuke talks with Iran should be as much contingent on WTO promises as they are on inclusion in settling the decades long Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I didn't vote for this guy but I think he's got an immense amount of character capital the world over and the will to defy the political norm. I'm hoping he'll piss off the shallow order of simple minded idealists and make decisions based on reality (if with a leftward slant) and not cave to his most vocal supporters and push a happy face venue of foreign policy.


Dan tdaxp said...

I don't know the technical realities of it, but TM Lutas has been arguing that only something like ABM would be able to shoot down a hijacked ultra-high altitude 'space tourist' jet.

An interesting debate to watch!

Jay@Soob said...

Interesting fellow, TM Lutas. I gave his blog a quick look and will return for a more in depth read.