US Foreign Policy Under Obama
Resolute Engagement: Foreign Policy Obamastyle
Less than two years into the Obama presidency, it is easy to glimpse the outlines of a new, unique and invigorating paradigm in US foreign policy; one that is as resolute and ambassadorial as it is mesmerizingly urbane and upbeat.
Unfettered by the usual partisan intrigue and banter that typically eclipse the political discourse when it comes to domestic policy, the events of the last several weeks cumulatively showcase Obama’s awe-inspiring albeit immensely effectual international relations strategy.
True to its ideological bent and other essential qualifications, the Obama foreign policy team has arguably accomplished more in a little over a year than Bush and his cohorts could in eight. Long gone is the era of swashbuckling, name-calling, tough-talking, go-it-alone-and-damn-the-rest-of-the-world hawkishness.
In its place, we have a reasoned, more nuanced but elegantly persuasive approach that seeks to engage sworn enemies, enlist trusted allies, and more importantly, recognize and tactfully exploit the shared interests of the comity of nations around peace, preservation and de-nuclearization.
Not too long ago, the Obama administration publicly chided Israel for threatening the fledgling Middle East peace process with its proposed illegal expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem. Many saw such open tongue lashing of Tel Aviv as incongruent with the duplicitous, blind support that has characterized American policy in the region.
President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, recently signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague that re-established an inspection regime that lapsed last December and instituted new mandates to, within seven years, bar either superpower from deploying more than 1,500 strategic warheads or 700 launchers.
Much as this was received with a dint of skepticism and some disparagement on both sides, especially given American missile defense plans for Europe and Russia’s ascendancy over old Soviet bloc countries, it was still viewed as a necessary step toward the goal of systematically reducing the nuclear stockpiles of both superpower nations and eventually eliminating the threat of a nuclear cataclysm.
Just this week, spurred by an earlier commitment to securing all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide, Obama sanguinely opened a nuclear summit in Washington D.C that brought 47 countries together to strategize on meaningful, agreeable steps toward a world free of nuclear terrorism.
Within hours of the kickoff of this summit, Ukraine announced that it was totally giving up its hoard of weapons-grade uranium. The US, on the other hand, received collaboration assurances from China around a new series of sanctions against Tehran.
The week immediately preceding the summit, President Obama unveiled a new policy restricting US use of its nuclear arsenal. Under the revamped protocol, for the first time ever, the US would spare non-nuclear countries of the wrath of a nuclear response as long as they are verifiably compliant with their obligations relative to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; a position that is a clear break with the Bush-era vow to invoke the nuclear option to retaliate against a biological or chemical attack.
Granted that the foregoing gestures in the larger scheme of things represent a modest beginning, dismissing it as wayward or reckless, as Sarah Palin and other shock-peddling conservatives have done, is alarmingly disingenuous.
One thing is resoundingly clear. President Obama has made controlling nuclear arms materials and technologies a cornerstone of his foreign policy. He seems to better understand that having America recoil from the rest of the world and retreat into its nativist cocoon in a world teeming with ragtag groups increasingly desperate to access and use nuclear weapons, not as deterrent to attack but to cause as much human suffering and devastation as possible, is bankrupt and out of synch with current global realities.
As ought be expected, some will charge him with going too far; others will assail his efforts for not going far enough. Nonetheless, posterity will look kindly upon Obama for his forthrightness and dogged determination to force America to engage the world in a refreshing new way.