20 January 2017

Assessing Obama: Foreign Policy


As the follow-up act to George W. Bush, Barack Obama was supposed to restore the United States to the fold of respectable nations whose leaders did not devise such foreign policy goals as “smokin’ ’em out.”
Particularly given Obama’s campaign pledge to engage in dialogue with traditional American enemies like Iran and Cuba — both included in the Axis of Evil-plus-three configuration marketed during the Bush era — optimistic sectors of the international community predicted the advent of a humane, benevolent superpower.
The naïveté of such thinking was rather evident from the get-go; now, at the end of Obama’s reign, it’s glaringly obvious. Consider the recent calculation by the Council on Foreign Relations that the United States “dropped 26,172 bombs in seven countries” in 2016 alone — an estimate the authors acknowledge is “undoubtedly low.”
In February 2015, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that Obama’s covert drone strikes on territories where the United States is not officially at war had already “killed almost six times more people and twice as many civilians than those ordered in the Bush years.”
Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba and his nuclear deal with Iran have been hailed by fans as landmark achievements and alleged evidence of his status as peacemonger-in-chief. Often lost in the celebrations, however, is the fact that both locales are still targeted with sanctionsthat undeniably constitute “war by other means.”
In Cuba, Obama might have bolstered his ethical credentials by fulfilling his promise to close Guantánamo, thereby terminating the US occupation of Cuban territory and ending a symbol of America’s global impunity.
In the Middle East, efforts to defuse the nuclear issue would have been less blatantly hypocritical if Obama hadn’t also approved a $38 billion military aid package to Israel, the largest in US history.
This is the same Israel that happens to maintain a nuclear arsenal and grants itself immunity from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Beyond some jabs at Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama has not allowed the Israeli military’s recurring slaughter of Palestinian civilians to get in the way of his principled commitment to Israel’s right to “self-defense.”
The full extent of the fallout of Obama’s rule, of course, remains to be seen. But for one particularly troubling hint as to his legacy-in-progress, one need look no further than Medea Benjamin’s recent remarks in the Guardian: “The twisted legal architecture the Obama administration has constructed to justify its interventions, especially extrajudicial drone killings with no geographic restrictions, will now be transferred into the erratic hands of Donald Trump.” Call it teamwork. READ MORE AT JACOBIN.