President Obama’s final State of the Union address was anticlimactic. Nowhere in his administrative policy for the coming year did the U.S. president, the leader of a superpower nation, mention important issues in Asia such as North Korea’s nuclear tests and China’s disregard for international law with its maritime advances.
Furthermore, counterterrorism was the only foreign policy mentioned. Even this was only mentioned in an abstract manner, with neither a concrete plan nor outlook.
Even today, the Sunni extremist Islamic State group continues to incite violence comparable to last year’s terror attacks in Paris and similar suicide bombings in Jakarta.
The war on terror is an important issue that is shared by many countries. However, while President Obama is right to make this his “priority number one,” it is difficult to say that the U.S. is taking any initiative on the issue when all the address stressed was international cooperation.
Last week, former Republican Secretary of Defense Hagel, who served under the Obama administration for two short years, told a group in Washington that “we should have learned from Saddam Hussein and Gadhafi: you can take a brutal dictator out but [you] better understand what you may get in return. We never asked that question, what’s coming after Assad?”
Hagel also criticized Obama’s failure to carry out his promise to remove Assad from Syria during the beginning of the country’s civil war, saying, “to make those kinds of pronouncements and then not follow through does affect the credibility of a president.”
There is no doubt that the prolonged civil war has allowed the Islamic State group to extend its influence. Even if the Assad regime had been overthrown, however, it is likely that even more chaos would have ensued under the rule of the al-Nusra Front, a branch of the al-Qaida terrorist group that has international reach, and the Islamic State group.
The argument that we need to remove the Assad regime in order to defeat the Islamic State group is a futile one that is often made in the U.S. The same argument is also made in Europe.
Russia, however, supports the Assad regime and has been increasing its influence in the Middle East. Unfortunately, this is a result of its level-headed and accurate analysis of the situation. Europe and the U.S., on the other hand, have not correctly grasped the situation, resulting in ineffective strategies. At this rate, they will not be able to produce a sound solution that would remedy the issue.