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Herbert London: The Foreign Policy Failures Of 2014

Despite administration claims to the contrary, 2014 was the year of failure on the foreign policy front. In every area of the globe chaos or instability reign.

The Middle East is a cauldron of warring factions and theological imperatives. Libya is falling under the sway of radical groups each trying to gain control of Tripoli. In essence, government has ceased to exist. French forces may be the only hope for the restoration of order, but that is not a sustainable solution.

Iraq is struggling to maintain a state that resembles the recent past. With ISIL carving out a segment for itself and the Kurds banging the drums for autonomy, the future is indefinite. A modus vivendi between Shia and Sunni leaders is also unlikely. On Iraq’s border, Syria is in a similar state of dismemberment. Assad holds on to power precariously with overt Russian support and tacit U.S. acceptance, but his base is restricted to an area around Damascus as rebels of various stripes carve up the rest of the country.

The largely ignored war in the Sinai continues unabated with Egyptian forces taking significant casualties. Sinai has become a sanctuary for terrorists who threaten Egyptian stability and Israel’s southern border.

Iran, a perpetual source of terrorist activity since 1979, has emerged, with U.S. approval, as a stabilizing regional force opposing ISIL ambitions. Yet its own imperial goals remain undiminished. Iranian National Guard members launched a coup against the Yemini government and prevailed. As a consequence, Iran controls the critical sea lanes at the Red Sea and the Gulf of Hormuz.

Negotiations in Geneva and Vienna indicate that Iran will possess sufficient fissile material to build nuclear weapons, a decision that will have profound implications for the future of the region. In addition to altering military strategy, nuclear weapons or even sufficient fissile material to build weapons will roil the political waters for the foreseeable future.

Across the globe, on the Pacific front, the Chinese have made it clear they want to assert themselves as the hegemon in the region. Assertion doesn’t always mean war, but it does represent a challenge, one that the Obama administration neither understands nor is prepared to openly resist. As a consequence, Japan, South Korea, India, the Philippines, Indonesia are searching for leadership, a helmsman who can lead nations with disparate interests, but the same potential enemy.

In South America, U.S. overtures to Cuba seem to suggest that there may be more to gain from opposition to American policies than embracing them. Venezuela, as a proxy for Cuba on the continent, has harbored terrorists and sympathizers of Iran without penalty. The caudillo principle hasn’t died in South America, but the U.S. as a model of democratic government is fading.

On balance 2014 represents the unfolding of the Obama foreign policy failures. It is one thing to renounce the position of global policeman, but another thing to remove oneself from the adjudication of international disputes. As much as President Obama wants the U.S. to be a state like other states, we are different in kind, size and stature. Notwithstanding denials to the contrary, America is still the light of opportunity that shines across the globe, albeit a somewhat less bright light under Obama’s leadership. Restoring that leadership role represents the task ahead. Needless to say, it will not be easy reversing positions and establishing confidence with skeptics, but that is the challenge that lies before us.

Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries atwww.londoncenter.org


The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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