Emotions Vs Interests - America's Bipolar Foreign Policy

Discussion in 'Politics' started by The BKP, May 18, 2009.

  1. The BKP
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    Amidst rising tensions in the Middle East and growing speculation over deteriorating relations between the two, President Barack Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. Though the leaders' respective agendas both revolve around the issues of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, Iran's burgeoning nuclear program and a comprehensive Middle Eastern peace that addresses the ever-restive Palestinian territories, their prioritization and preferred solutions could not be more distinct. Indeed, the two leaders are as far apart philosophically as Washington and Jerusalem are geographically.

    For Netanyahu, a self-styled hawk, Iran is clearly the top priority. Already facing Tehran's proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, Israelis see an Iranian nuclear bomb as an existential threat. Before serious consideration can be given to resolving the Palestinian issue, Israel's very existence must be secured, the argument goes. One is a long term issue that will redefine Israel's geography and demography, accordingly requiring thoughtful deliberation. The other is a gathering and imminent threat to Israel's survival; hence, the later must be addressed before the former can be considered.

    In sharp contrast, Obama believes the road to a comprehensive regional peace begins in the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories. While Netanyahu would reinforce the intra-Palestinian divide between Tehran's proxy, Hamas and Jerusalem and Washington's preferred Fatah by pressing for economic development in the West Bank and improved capabilities for the Palestinian Authority's Fatah-dominated security forces, the White House is pressing for an immediate cessation of Israeli settlements as the first step towards an eventual two state Israeli-Palestinian resolution.

    The believe is that resolution of the Palestinian issue will provide the administration with the political capital and momentum necessary to pursue both a regional peace and a unified political front opposing a rising Tehran. At the heart of this calculus is the fact that as Iran’s influence throughout the Middle East grows, it becomes a political as well as a military threat not only to Israel, but to the Sunni-dominated states of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikdoms and emirates as well. Thus, increasingly, the Sunni regimes in the region find their strategic interests aligning with that of Israel’s. The administration believes that with the Palestinian issue off the table, it will be more politically acceptable for the Sunni states to openly pursue their mutual interests and normalize relations with the Israelis. However, the first domino that must fall in the White House's intricately laid grand design is the stubbornly intractable Israeli-Palestinian one.

    With the two leaders beginning at an impasse, proponents of both the Israeli and Palestinian positions will be watching closely, meticulously dissecting every word and movement for arcane indications of political nuance and innuendo. In particular, Palestinians and their supporters believe they now have not only a sympathetic ear in the Oval Office, but perhaps a potential champion. Conversely, Israelis increasingly see Obama as being naive at the very least, with others coming to the view he is moving from skepticism towards belligerence and antagonism.

    Meanwhile, many observers view the latest political shift and reshuffling of priorities at the White House as being symptomatic of a greater foreign policy malady afflicting the United States - the lack of a comprehensive strategic vision, one firmly rooted in America's national interests and not blown by the ever-changing political winds.

    While a change in administration invariably entails a change of political philosophy and worldview, however nuanced or dramatic it may be, America's national interests remain strikingly consistent. Instead of basing foreign policy on knee jerk partisan reactions or misguided sentimentality and emotions de jour, the first and final consideration should be how does it reinforce or further her national interests.

    We have long since passed the time when America can afford to episodically lurch between the pie-eyed naivete of left wing idealists and Utopians and the intense tunnel vision of right wing crusaders and Neoconservatives.

    Furthermore, administrations must be mindful of the costs of their policies, both in terms of treasure and more importantly blood. In these days of exploding budget deficits and economic tumult, one would be well advised to approach foreign policy from an investment-to-return focus. Is the goal short term success or long term gains? Does the potential reward justify the risk and outlay of political capital and national resources?

    One should bear in mind, even traditional and stalwart allies like Japan, Germany and Great Britain place their national interests at the forefront of their foreign policy development; and none more so than Israel. Accordingly, America must come to grips with the bipolar nature of it's foreign policy and likewise choose what is in it's interests over it's driving and often conflicted emotions. Bully when those interests coincide with those of others, particularly our allies. However, we must be similarly willing to acknowledge and accept those occasions and areas where they do not. A parting of the ways in a limited number of specific instances should not undermine the bedrock of mutual interests and respect that is the foundation of healthy, long term bilateral relations and enduring alliances.

    Ultimately, it is the American public that will pay the price and bear the burdens of an administration's foreign policy decisions in the sacrifice of their taxes and the blood of their children and loved ones. Accordingly, their interests and that of their nation should be the foundation on which America's foreign policy is built. To do any less, regardless of the political passions of the moment, is both an insult and abridgment of the public trust bordering on malfeasance.

    As Billy Joel said, it's a matter of trust, faithful readers.

    Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and the next nail-biting, action-packed episode of "As The Oval Office Spins"!
     

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