Category Archives: America

Why Obama Must Win in November

 

You’re not going to get a lot of Romney-Ryan sympathy from me – you might not get a whole lot of pragmatic analysis on everyday-life campaign issues either – but what you will get is an authentic foreign policy analysis. Now it’s not that I’m inherently left-wing, not at all, as a matter of fact I have often described myself as centre-right. But honestly? There’s something about this specific Republican Presidential candidate that scares the shit out of me. And it should scare the shit out of you too.

Now some of you, most of you I hope, will be asking that after this and this and this, who could possibly still be planning on voting Republican?

If you asked that question I am pleased to say that I agree with your sentiment, I like you – we share common values – I’d even go as far as to say you’re an intelligent individual and you will probably go far in life. But really it’s for those of you who are still planning on voting Romney-Ryan that this piece is aimed at.

Let’s set aside my personal distaste for Romney and the general value system that the American right-wing seems to have developed over the past 4 years and let’s be clear:

A vote for Romney is a vote for the demise of America’s global power as a force for good; simple.

I mean, seriously, step outside your own personal biases for a minute; what kind of Presidential candidate writes-off 47% of his electorate before he is elected? Aren’t Presidents meant to serve all Americans? If Romney doesn’t even consider the idea of at least campaigning for the vote of half of his electorate what sort of precedent does that set for his potential Presidency? What sort of precedent does this set for the rest of the world?

I think by now it’s pretty clear that the Republicans aren’t really interested in the good of the world, or even the good of the nation. They are self-interested and (generally) represent a small minority of powerful, rich Americans who are incredibly well organised and mobilise effectively every 4 years; and they are effective, you have to give them that. But what worries me is that the man they’ve thrust forth as their ideal specimen – their leader – has not got a clue, especially when it comes to foreign policy. I mean this guy honestly believes Russia ‘is without question our number 1 geopolitical foe’ – get a grip! Unfortunately for the world, and the Middle East in particular, Mitt Romney’s campaign has been, and continues to be, riddled with nonsensical foreign policy stances.

Let me clarify my point. After more than a year and a half of tumultuous revolution, the Arab world is more socially and politically accessible now than ever before. The region is crying out for someone to demonstrate a model of stable, sincere and solid political government; in return the United States give them the possibility of a President in Mitt Romney – does that make sense to you?

Allow me to elaborate further. What really and truly alarms me about the Republican candidates’ approach to the ultimate seat of power and more specifically, his approach to foreign policy is that, in a time when Palestinian voices were starting to be heard, public opinion beginning to push back against the overly-hawkish repressionist movement, and with peace seemingly closer than ever, Romney not only slams Obama for having ‘thrown…Israel under the bus’, but also brazenly implies that Palestinians don’t want peace. Further evidence of this can be seen in the choice of location for one of Romney’s absurd fundraisers: none other than Jerusalem itself – the most fought-over city in world history. This surely further cements the hawkish, anti-peace agenda which is clearly so central to the Republican campaign.

Not only is it considered distasteful for an American political candidate to hold a high-profile fundraiser abroad, as it implies a commitment to a foreign country as a means of reaching out to American interest groups, but the man actually had the nerve to more or less call Palestinians lazy for lacking economic ‘vitality’. This is, let’s remember, an occupied territory – what goes in and out of the country is controlled strictly by the Israeli government. And Romney is blaming the Palestinians for lacking vitality? Oh yeah, did I mention Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Mitt Romney actually first met in the late 1970s when they were co-workers at corporate advisory firm Boston Consulting Group? Disaster.
For all involved Romney as President would be a calamity. For America as a state, (yes, national interest still exists, even when smothered) these sorts of acts throw the more ‘politically conscious’ Arab governments offside. For Israel, there will be a rise in international condemnation of their actions not to mention that their neighbourhood may get even more hostile. Ultimately, for the world, the continued lack of peace that the American government will impose upon the Middle East will continue to hamper security and economic development around the world.

On the other hand we have Barak Obama – a man who has quite adamantly shown that he is not as typically pro-Israeli as previous White House occupants. For all intents and purposes he seems determined to try and counterbalance the immense power emanating out of centres such as Washington, New York and Los Angeles. The President seems willing to give Palestinians and, quite frankly the rest of the world, a fair go.
Despite these seemingly good intentions, under Barack Obama the US has still vetoed UN Security Council resolutions and blocked the road towards Palestinian statehood. On a regional level it has continued play the role of the worlds bully. Drone and special forces attacks continue to violate the sovereignty of greater Middle Eastern regimes. The President has still had to rely on, and be influenced by, the great clout held by lobby groups, special interests and the mega-rich – maybe to a lesser extent than his political opponent, but it was still there.

I’m going to be honest with you – I was extremely hopeful that 4 years under Barack Obama would bring a change that the world so desperately needed in the desperate times of 2008. I was disappointed at the outcome. However, as the plucky optimist I am, I cling to the hope that another term in the White House for Obama is just the right diagnosis for our current illness.
Those among us who strive for stability and prosperity should bear in mind that, should President Obama be re-elected for a second term in office, he will be released from the increasingly nasty and sticky constraints of fundraising, schmoozing and playing generally the ‘politics game’, free to actually do his job.

Barack Obama’s current ‘shackles’ include foreign policy lobby groups such as The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are, as you’d expect, unashamedly pro-Israeli. The liberation from these political shackles will hopefully encourage Obama to enact real change in the Middle East and in particular in the Israel-Iran-Palestine love/hate triangle. It seems to me that Barack Hussein Obama is a fundamentally good man, not a God, a man who makes mistakes and faces adversity, but perhaps most importantly; a man who fundamentally knows right from wrong. That being so, I am of the belief that a man with the drive and ambition of Barak Obama would not want to leave the most powerful seat in office without leaving his stamp for good on the world.
Let’s trust him.

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The West & The Middle East for Dummies: A complicated relationship of power

 

Although other regions of the world do face issues of poor governance, violence, economic disparity and instability, none of these regions are as pivotal to the maintenance of the West’s global hegemony as the Middle East. Despite initially appearing broad and sweeping, this statement is supported by a multitude of historical, political and economic factors which combine to affirm that engagement with the Middle East is indeed vital to the preservation of Western global dominance.

In modern history the role of the West in the Middle East has been fundamental in forming an understanding of the interactions between the two cultures. Perhaps this is best exemplified by what is known as the Asia Minor Agreement. This agreement effectively carved up the post-Ottoman Middle East into British and French spheres of influence; a development which certainly played an obtrusive role in shaping the geopolitical dynamics of the present-day Middle East. To this extent it endures the test of reason that the West continues to act in an overbearing and interfering manner towards the Middle Eastern region, perhaps sensing it holds a duty – but more likely an intrinsic interest – in continuing to shape the region’s future as it so brazenly did in the early twentieth century.

In terms of politics the two most prominent and hotly-debated issues involving both the West and the Middle East are that of the Israel-Palestine discord and the rise of extremist Islamic groups. The Israel-Palestine issue has been at the heart of political tensions between the West and most Middle Eastern states for more than 60 years and continues to play a vital role in the diplomatic relations between the two. In many ways Israel is itself considered a Western state and as such Western support for the country is almost unquestioned. Simply put, to maintain its hegemony the West must support Israel – a Western state in an Eastern region – to do otherwise would be ludicrous and counterproductive. In addition to this ideological battleground the continued existence of an Israeli state serves a far more pragmatic purpose – to champion and maintain American power in the region through both hard and soft power engagement of its Middle Eastern neighbours. Likewise, the relatively recent rise of anti-Western extremist Islamic groups in the Middle East and surrounds has added to Western political engagement and prioritisation of the region. As a result of the rise of such extremist groups the collective Middle East has attained the label of the most anti-Western region in the world. This has resulted in the West taking steps to focus its attention on the region in order to deal with the challenge Islamic fundamentalists have so bluntly and blatantly posed to the dominance of the West.

Economically, the Middle East as a region is indisputably the most important player in the hydrocarbon supply chain. What bestows this oil and gas-supplying region with so much of its power is the control it wields over the global supply of hydrocarbons, a resource which is one of the central and fundamental aspects of any modern economy – from personal transportation to electricity generation, globalised trade to heavy industry, hydrocarbons oil the gears of economic activity in the twenty-first century. Global trade itself is also at the mercy of regional stability in the form of the Suez Canal – a man-made waterway in Egypt connecting the economic powerhouses of Europe and Asia. Should the Canal be shut down global trade would be thrown into turmoil, prices of goods on shelves around the world would sky-rocket and the economies of Europe and Asia in particular would be sent spiralling out of control. The ramifications of a worst-case scenario in both hydrocarbon and trade for a culture which was founded on, and continues to draw its power from industrialisation, capitalism and globalisation need no further explanation. It is for this reason and all those listed above that the West chooses to focus so much of its time and energy on the Middle East – a region racked by of poor governance, violence, economic disparity and instability.

The US & the Arab Spring

 

Just like any other country, the United States and its’ leaders are driven primarily by national interest – in effect, selfishness – putting their own needs and wants above those of others. To do otherwise would not only be illogical but would undermine the very essence of international politics and foreign policy formation. Leading on from this, it is plainly obvious that stability in the Middle East would be of great benefit to America. This is exemplified by the multiple wars in this region led by America in pursuit of a stable, harmonious and submissive Middle East. America’s interests extend far and wide across what is regarded as the least stable and most influential region of the world. From economics to politics, security to human rights, the Middle East is a constantly evolving, generally unstable, yet deeply influential part of the world which the US has been, in many ways, unable to dominate. Thus it would be naive to the point of ignorance for anyone to resolutely state that America upheld its’ democratic values during the Arab Spring. Instead the US presented a two-faced policy with regard to the developments in the Arab world – rallying for democracy in the public eye yet remaining mostly quiet in the real world.

Washington’s options in relation to their policy towards the Arab Spring can, in essence, be simplified to stability vs. democracy. The Obama administration astutely inferred that backing either one horse or the other would create for itself problems, uproar and unpopularity, particularly in the Middle East – a region not renowned for its love of America. Instead Washington slyly portrayed itself as pro-democracy through many words, the culmination of which came in President Obama’s May 19th speech. In reality however, words were all they were; Washington’s actual position on the political situation in the Middle East remained unchanged as it had been for the past half century and could we really blame them? From a political standpoint Washington’s deep, ‘unshakeable’ commitment to Israel meant the formation of good relations with Egypt’s (now deposed) dictator Hosni Mubarak in order to secure peace for the Jewish state. This relationship was literally bought by the American’s through the $1.5 billion in annual aid, most of which was spent on security forces, the very same forces which attempted to crush the January 25th uprising across the country. Clearly, American support for the previous Egyptian regime is undeniable, many would classify the US as an accomplice to the thirty year despotism and ensuing crackdown, they traded support of a dictator in return for stability – stability vs. democracy, and it’s pretty clear which triumphed.

It could be pointed out that, although the US failed in upholding its intrinsic values in Egypt (and many other states) the backing of the UN Security Council’s no-fly zone over Libya and resultant aerial engagement of Muammar Gaddafi’s loyalist forces demonstrated Washington’s support for democracy. In reality this is a flawed argument, not only did America, the world’s only superpower, fail to lead this intervention, but they only joined in with the intention of saving the world from a brutal bloodbath – a humanitarian intervention, not a stand for its’ political values. Instead, it could be said that Washington’s backing of the no-fly zone was to establish a sense of stability, for had the international community not intervened, chaos and anarchy would surely have ensued. Furthermore, Washington’s ‘good deed’ in Libya was offset by their blunt refusal to intervene in Bahrain – a crucial ally and home of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. This yet again demonstrates Washington’s two-faced approach to the Arab Spring, prioritising stability over democracy, national interest over intrinsic values. The Bahraini situation not only gave rise to Washington’s failure to protect the rights of the thousands of democratic protestors, but also demonstrated US complicity in the brutal foreign-led crackdown carried out by the ‘Peninsula Shield’. This intervening force was comprised mostly of Saudi security forces, forces who receive military equipment and training from the USA. In possibly the most outrageous contradiction, President Obama himself said: ‘we will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard – whether it’s a big news organization or a blogger’ . When it came to action however, Washington fell dismally short, standing idly by as Bahraini blogger Zainab Al-Khawaja was ‘brutally arrested’ , not to mention the shameless internet censorship conducted by many of its Gulf allies. Throughout the Arab Spring a recurring theme began to evolve – elaborate, promising rhetoric by Washington yet very little, if any, action. This phenomenon was no accident, instead it was the subtle (or not so subtle in the case of Bahrain) evidence that the US prized stability and influence over democracy in the Middle East.

Perhaps the most blatant evidence of the United States’ real intentions lie in the current massacre taking place in Syria. For better or for worse the US has refused to intervene in this situation, possibly fearing reprisal attacks from Syria’s staunch ally Iran through it’s proxies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip on Israel or even America itself. The morality and ethical values displayed by Washington with regard to its failure to act on Syria are complicated, it is not a clear cut situation, there is no clear path to peace, yet despite this clouded sense of right and wrong one thing is clear – Washington has once again deliberately chosen to preserve stability outside of Syria at the cost of the many thousands of Syrian democratic protestors. The actual Syrian situation and possible intervention may be complicated but this fact is as clear cut as ever.

The Middle East was, is and will continue to be a complicated, intertwined and unstable place and the USA will continue to be a world superpower, at least for the foreseeable future. This being said Washington’s foreign policy choices throughout 2011 and continuing to this day are blatant and obvious to even the simplest minds. The stark reality is that, despite the fluffy sunshine rhetoric exhibited by the Obama administration with regard to their determination to uphold democracy throughout the Middle East, they have knowingly and deliberately chosen to abide by a realist, national interest-driven foreign policy. Is this so shameful?