Obama’s last-minute foreign policies aim to secure legacy
By gustavo de aristegui | Published: 01st January 2017 04:00 AM |
Foreign Policy is a very serious state matter that must be above the political divide. It should be solid, logical, balanced, far reaching, and its aim should be the protection and defence of national interests. This is especially the case if you are the world’s only superpower, the most powerful democracy and you aspire for a fundamental role of leadership.
American Foreign Policy has had many flaws in its recent history, but the system works. It does not allow successive presidents to veer too far off-course, as the institutions and public opinion would cry foul. A president has to have a road map, a strategy for four or eight years. It doesn’t seem at all logical to hastily shovel down as many Foreign Policy initiatives as you can in the last weeks of your administration, with no plan, order or logic. Even if they seem fair to many.
The question is: why now, why like this, why not at the beginning of either mandate? Secretary John Kerry’s speech was strong and had some points that doubtlessly are a brave and vital part of traditional US Foreign Policy, but President Barack Obama’s personal feud with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and other world leaders has tainted some of his most notorious Foreign Policy decisions.
In Foreign Policy, in general but especially in the Middle East, nothing is white or black, but infinite shades of grey. Why wait for the last four weeks of an administration to try to give an impulse to the ailing peace process? What is really behind this? It doesn’t seem to be sound policy to do nothing of much significance for almost eight years and step on the accelerator just weeks before leaving office.
Foreign Policy these past eight years has been a serious disappointment, fuelled by the personal ideology of President Obama and his closest staff. Many of the latest decisions were also tainted by the bitter defeat of the Democratic Party in the General Election. Even if some of those decisions are part of traditional policy, they cannot be seen as legitimate under the circumstances in which they were made.
The Iran nuclear deal, for example and according to many analysts, overlooked the long-term implications and deeply miscalculated the extent of its opposition from the toughest hardliners in the Iranian regime, including the leader of the Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself. At the base of this ill-thought-through deal was the open hostility of some of President Obama’s most prominent advisers to the monarchies of the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia. Again, fundamental Foreign Policy decisions were influenced by personal animosity rather than by sound analysis.
All of this last-minute hustle is very clearly driven by the obsession of President Obama and his team to “secure his legacy” with a never-ending array of executive orders and irresponsible decisions in Foreign Policy, and to try to tie the incoming president with a tricky spider web of legal traps and restraints. President Obama is trying to strike at some of his adversaries with last-minute ill-advised moves, and many of them seem to be fuelled by a wish to pay back now that he is leaving. Put bluntly, a hasty retribution in the framework of personal rancour for his nemeses both national and international.
President-elect Trump, on the other hand, must stick to the script of reasonable, balanced and responsible Foreign Policy, the kind that takes more than 140 characters to communicate and to understand, one that has to think constantly of the bigger picture of American interests and the responsibility that comes with being the world’s only remaining superpower in a world of growing complexities, dangers and instability. But it will not be achieved with hurried measures that have proven to be new irritants to many of the US’s friends, and could fuel more conflict.
Let’s hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Nothing in the geopolitical horizon suggests a peaceful path in the coming years. I would love to be proven firstname.lastname@example.org