Obama’s Foreign Policy: Same Ends, Different Means

US foreign policy under President Barack Obama will continue to be offensive. America’s ruling elites, Republicans and Democrats alike, continue to reject the proposal that US foreign policy should be defensive, not offensive.


Democrats condemned President George W. Bush’s foreign policy of preemptive unilateralism and the use of military force to defend US strategic interests around the world. But the Obama administration will continue to pursue the same US strategic objectives globally, only peacefully.


The Obama administration says it will use more multilateral diplomacy, and less unilateral military force. But the goals of President Obama’s foreign policy, as articulated before the US Congress by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will remain essentially the same.


More of the same Wilsonian nation-building export of American-style democracy which, to date, hasn’t worked very well anywhere it has been applied in the developing world, from Haiti to Iraq and Afghanistan.


Under President Obama, in essence, the US will continue to endeavor to govern the world. However, instead of sending troops to foreign lands, the Obama administration will deploy swarms of diplomats…


“…to provide forward-thinking, sustained diplomacy in every part of the world; applying pressure and exerting leverage; cooperating with our military partners and other agencies of government; partnering effectively with NGOs, the private sector, and international organizations; using modern technologies for public outreach; empowering negotiators who can protect our interests while understanding those of our negotiating partners. There will be thousands of separate interactions, all strategically linked and coordinated to defend American security and prosperity. Diplomacy is hard work; but when we work hard, diplomacy can work, and not just to defuse tensions, but to achieve results that advance our security, interests and values…(The Obama administration will use) smart power, the full range of tools at our disposal — diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural — picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy. This is not a radical idea. The ancient Roman poet Terence, who was born a slave and rose to become one of the great voices of his time, declared that ‘in every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first.’ The same truth binds wise women as well.”


The State Department will regain its authority and influence as the primary articulator of US foreign policy and diplomacy in pursuit of US national security and foreign policy objectives, according to Secretary Clinton, who stressed at her congressional confirmation hearing that the State and defense Departments won’t be wasting “precious time and energy on turf wars.”

Obama’s State Department will formulate foreign policy; Defense will focus on building “a unified, agile and effective US.”


Clinton says President Obama will fully empower and fund the State Department and other “chronically undermanned and underfunded…civilian institutions of diplomacy and development both relative to military spending and to the responsibilities and challenges our nation has around the world.”


“The State Department,” she adds, “must be fully empowered and funded to confront multi-dimensional challenges – from working with allies to thwart terrorism, to spreading health and prosperity in places of human suffering. We will lead with diplomacy because it’s the smart approach. But we also know that military force will sometimes be necessary, and we will rely on it to protect our people and our interests when and where needed, as a last resort.”


The “dead tree” news media have largely ignored the implications of President Obama’s foreign policy as outlined to Senate leaders by Secretary Clinton during her confirmation.


But William Lind, an American expert on military affairs and pundit on cultural conservatism, predicts that the “great foreign policy experiment” of President Obama and his Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, will fail.


“It will fail for two reasons, one practical and one theorical,” Lind says.


“The practical reason is that, no matter how much money you give them, our State Department and other civilian agencies cannot produce a product,” Lind explains. “If you give the US military an order, something usually happens. It may happen late, clumsily, and expensively, but still something happens. In contrast, with State and other agencies, most of the time nothing happens. That is true even when budgets are ample. Why? Because the internal culture of our civilian agencies is so rigid, bureaucratic, risk-averse and rule-bond that they cannot act… at least without risking their careers. A single broken rule or bent regulation, undotted i or uncrossed t, and they quickly learn to follow the regs and forget about the product. So nothing happens. The Obama administration may wish this were not the case. Worse, it may pretend it is not the case, and learn only by failure. But if it is serious about its ‘one great foreign policy experiment,’ it must start be reforming the internal culture of the State Department and all related agencies. That is a long-term and difficult undertaking.”


The second reason Obama’s great foreign policy experiment will fail is that it represents “a failure in strategic theory,” says Lind. “In effect, it says that the Bush administration’s debacle was a result not of mistaken ends, only of mistaken means…we will insert ourselves everywhere, exporting ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights,’ aka Brave New World. We will remake other societies in our own image, whether they want us to or not (no one does). But this time, it will work because instead of Marines, we will storm the beaches with brave State Department lads, armored with blue suits and armed with briefing papers and bottles of sherry.”


This offensive grand strategy “is itself the root of our failures,” Lind concludes. “We cannot remake societies in our own image, regardless of the means employed. Attempts to do so are doomed to failure, and so long as we insist on undertaking them, we are doomed to imperial overreach, with its inevitable consequences of decay and decline.”




About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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