The United States has not succeeded in any of its wars since its war for independence in 1776. There was a stalemate in the Vietnam War (1964-1975), and the U.S. failed to stabilize the Middle East region in the wake of 9/11 with its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The last victory for the U.S. was against Moscow during the Cold War (1947-1989), which led to U.S supremacy in the world. Following America’s defeat in in Vietnam, Jimmy Carter took over the reins of the American presidency. During his term in office, he witnessed the effects of the Soviet defeats in Ethiopia (1977), in Afghanistan (1979), in Nicaragua (1978), as well as the American loss in Iran in 1979. Carter, however, lost the 1980 election to a stronger president in Ronald Reagan, who would bring his anti-Kremlin policy to the White House and score a series of victories against the Soviets throughout the 1980s.
Barack Obama is not Jimmy Carter, and Iraq is not Vietnam. Obama governs with one foreign policy objective in mind that is represented by America’s wars abroad. It is significant that America’s economic power totals $17.4 trillion of the overall world gross domestic product at $77,868,768 trillion (World Bank Statistics 2014.) This is what guides America’s foreign policy efforts and preserves a unipolar world structure. The U.S. maintains this structure through the use of regional allies around the world to manage its global policies. Obama has learned from his predecessors’ experiences in Kabul and Baghdad that there is no need to send American troops overseas to manage two countries through an occupation. He understands that the alternative to failure depends on a regional system that is willing to accept American reforms.
This system is not yet completed, though, in the Middle East, but the road to building it clearly runs through the containment of Iran by implementing the July 14, 2015 agreement regarding the Iranian nuclear program. In addition, this requires including Iran in a regional alliance joining the country with other U.S. allies in Ankara, Riyadh and Islamabad.
Since the fall of Mosul in July 2014, the Islamic State has been one actor providing a window of opportunity for the containment of Iran in Iraq, after the U.S. practically handed over the country to the group following its complete troop withdrawal in 2011. The Arab Spring also represents a second opportunity for Washington to pressure Iran into a policy of containment. What is hampering America’s completion of its goal is a Saudi-Turkish divergence with Washington as to what Iran’s regional role will be. With regard to the thinking of policymakers in Riyadh and Ankara, Syria and Iraq form two policy platforms to strengthen their security while weakening Iranian power. Since March 2015, Yemen, in addition to Syria and Iraq, has been a policy platform assisting their regional ambitions.
Since July 2015, Moscow has been directly entering into the Middle East fray by way of Syria. The Russian entrance into the Middle East follows its concern over an increasingly problematic U.S.-Iranian convergence, one that most recently led to a February 2015 conference in Vienna that did not produce an agreement. Russia has calculated that direct military involvement in Syria is a step to possibly being able to prevent or disrupt the new Middle East alliance with Washington. For that reason it is likely that Russia’s presence will lead to a large confrontation with America. As a result, Obama will use his regional alliance with Ankara and Riyadh in order to foil Vladimir Putin’s attempt in Syria to break the U.S. monopoly of influence in the world. Russia has also sought, through its invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008, to declare that the former Soviet territories are still wholly within Russia’s sphere of influence, even after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
The Russian presence in Syria transcends the Syrian crisis. This will lead to an American-Russian confrontation in order to show Washington that Putin is not weak like Khruschev and Brezhnev were. However, Obama will not interfere with what Russia has been doing in Syria since July 30 by directly challenging the Kremlin’s leadership. This confrontation, if it happened, would be an opportunity to strengthen their position with Ankara and Riyadh following the recent U.S.-Iranian engagement. The possibility of this has made Ankara and Riyadh feel closer to Moscow, thus insulating themselves from the consequences of a close U.S.-Iranian relationship. Here, Obama is betting on the weakness of the Russian economy because he knows that Moscow’s defeat during the Cold War was due to economic instability, not military weakness.
To keep up with Washington’s “Star Wars” program, announced by Reagan in 1983 and subsequently dismantled as part of the nuclear disarmament negotiations that lasted from Stalin’s development of an atomic and hydrogen bomb in 1941 and in 1953 respectively, to the establishment of a policy of mutually assured destruction, Russia pursued a policy of détente. This detente was the reason for the Russian-American mutual balance of power after World War II. Following the events in Ukraine in 2014, Obama punished Russia economically. In Europe, the former Soviet satellite states have used Obama’s regional agency, the European Union, in order to encircle Moscow. Obama has been successful in sewing together the tears in the European continent which his predecessor, George W. Bush, created following his clashes with Paris and Berlin over Iraq in 2003. It has become clear now that U.S.-European harmony is reminiscent of the 1940s and 1950s. This was before Charles de Gaulle and West Berlin’s chancellor opened East Berlin, and before Moscow’s clash with Henry Kissinger over his rapprochement with them in the 1970s.
Barack Obama is working to build a regional coalition controlled by Washington in order to contain China, which has the second largest global economy at roughly $10.4 trillion (2014 statistics). The American president is trying to address what he sees as a growing Chinese threat to his country’s leadership globally. As a result, he has tried to win acceptance for an American military base at Port Darwin in Northern Australia, and a renewal of the U.S. base in the Philippines. These are in addition to an expansion of the Marine base in Okinawa, Japan, and maintenance facilities for warships at a base in the Vietnam’s Kam Ran Bay. Obama also deployed a missile defense system to South Korea in February 2015, and then signed a separate agreement for the deployment of a defense system in Japan.
Obama is making military moves in the Far East now that American troops are out of the Middle East. He is getting closer to the Myanmar government, while at the same time, distancing the United States from the Chinese. The president is also investing in an ongoing Chinese-Indian border dispute that has continued since 1962 in order to paralyze the BRICS countries, and cause China’s neighbors to be hostile to Beijing. Obama has not stopped there. First and foremost, he has tried to incite a confrontation with China by establishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This partnership stretches from the shores of Canada to Chile down to Australia and New Zealand, then to Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand. It also includes a commercial partnership with South Korea, which the American Congress signed off in 2014.
There has also been an unprecedented level of American engagement with African Union member countries. Obama is obsessed with Chinese economic expansion on the continent. However, during the Obama era, there has been no concern over the left-leaning governments in Brazil, Poland or Venezuela, and that will continue so long as U.S. interests are not threatened.
America was the first to recover from the global financial crisis which began in New York in 2008. It is often said that during an epidemic, the first country to recover is the strongest. The United States during the Obama era is not weak. Rather, it has learned important lessons from the Cold War. It understands that economic reasons decided the final outcome of the conflicts in which the world felt the fallout of the numerous proxy wars that occurred around the world between Moscow and Washington. These included the Vietnam War (1964-1975), the Angolan War (1976-1991), wars in Africa (1977-1991), Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in 1979 and the Soviet invasion in the final weeks of the same year.
Obama has also learned from Bush’s mistakes in Kabul and Baghdad. He understands that these wars were a departure from the context of proxy wars that the U.S had waged successfully against the Soviets, whereas the most recent conflicts more resembled the Vietnam War, where American soldiers were directly involved in the fighting. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was therefore incorrect when he asserted that Obama has made the U.S. look weak in the face of Russian advances.