Obama Must Fix His Diplomatic Failures

In the April 29 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote an op-ed entitled “A Foreign Policy Flirting with Chaos: The Most Egregious Case of Fecklessness Has Been on Syria.” The article criticizes Obama diplomacy and proposes policies for the future.

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Haass’s Analysis:

America’s foreign policy is in disorder. The guiding principle for American foreign policy should be to move emphasis away from the Middle East and toward the Asian pivot described in President Obama’s first term. Current foreign policy by the Obama administration is lacking in this principle. Obama’s recent trip through Asia cannot make up for the lack of effort put into Asia up to this point.

The Obama administration is trying to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the administration still has lingering and ambitious Middle East goals by pursuing regime change in the cases of Mubarak, Gadhafi and Assad. But it isn’t a simple thing to oust a leader. Then, it is incredibly difficult to create a stable government afterward that is better for America. America is then left with a choice of stepping away from stated goals and appearing weak or using vast resources to achieve the goal.

The Obama administration has been mainly selecting the former up to this point: appearing weak. Syria is a good example. Though the administration keeps calling for Assad’s resignation, it does nothing to further that end except give minimal assistance to opposition elements. The administration veered away from a military strike even after chemical weapons were used, furthering doubt about the United States’ credibility and weakening the efficacy of the opposition in Syria. Terrorists are gaining stronger footholds in the Middle East.

It is difficult to justify the efforts put toward resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict by the Obama administration. The conflict didn’t seem ripe for resolution even before the breakdown of these latest talks and it is not currently a centerpiece issue in the Middle East. Creating a Palestinian state will not solve the problems surrounding Syria, Egypt and Iraq.

On the issue of a nuclear Iran, the Obama administration has strengthened sanctions against Iran in order to bring them to the negotiating table. This should be praised. The challenge now is to create an agreement favorable for both sides.

Time is needed for these diplomatic efforts. The secretary of state’s time is limited. Periodic Japan-China-Korean talks, crisis prevention and crisis management is needed in the Asia region. The United States should commit more time to these issues.

The United States should also participate more in Europe. More communication is needed toward Ukraine and Crimea.

The tenacity of the American economy and society is not an alternative for national security, it is at the core of it. America needs to strive for energy development, immigration reform, infrastructure modernization and free trade.

The Obama administration must also send a message to the rest of the world, for increased American strength and continued internationalism in the midst of rising isolationism. There is movement toward a post-America world, but this would be a world which does not fit with American interests.

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Haass, as his title of president of the Council on Foreign Relations suggests, is a leading world authority on American foreign policy. His views carry a lot of weight with many people.

The above Haass criticism of the Obama administration’s diplomacy is right on the mark. American credibility in the world was badly damaged by talking about red lines on the use of chemical weaponry, yet doing nothing about it when Syria did use them. There is too large a discrepancy in the policy goals rhetoric used regarding the Middle East and the actual measures that might be used toward those goals; it is only natural that the United States continually appears weak.

From that backdrop, you can easily imagine how insignificant the United States looks in the eyes of Assad and Putin. There is a real risk of global disorder if the credibility of the United States wanes within the international community.

Haass — again, a respected authority on U.S. foreign policy — asserts that an Asian pivot as a mainstay of U.S. foreign policy would be positive and further states that implementation of such a policy is vital. This should be very welcome news. Haass is clearly aware of the major global issue in the future of handling China. The Okazaki Institute wants the United States to sustain its credibility in Asia.

Haass writes that Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts regarding peace in the Middle East cannot be justified. Haass once wrote a leading book on “Ripeness Theory,” which focuses on conflict resolution. It is a famous work which cites many fields to explain how a ripened state must be achieved in order to resolve a conflict. From his point of view, Secretary Kerry’s intermediary role in the Middle East peace process probably appears to be a Don Quixotean effort.

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