Friday, July 18, 2014

America is no longer alarming to its foes or reassuring to its friends

The Economist has an interesting article that challenges Americas desire, and even its ability, to be a leader on the international stage.

As we have witnessed over the past several months, as Russian has set troops in Crimea, Obama has threatened sanctions, yet has done little else.  His threats had little influence over Putin's efforts.  As Russian annexed Crimea, Obama's America stood on the sidelines, leaning up against a tree.  For that reason, I find this cartoon very fitting. You have the sheep (Ukraine), and the wolf (Russia), and then you have Uncle Sam just leaning against a tree watching.  That said, does the U.S. have any influence at all on the international stage?  In other words, is the U.S. willing and able to defend its allies against aggressors like Russia?

The article starts out by asking:
AMERICA’S allies are nervous. With Russia grabbing territory, China bullying its neighbours and Syria murdering its people, many are asking: where is Globocop? Under what circumstances will America act to deter troublemakers? What, ultimately, would America fight for?
The article continues
The answer to this question matters. Rogue states will behave more roguishly if they doubt America’s will to stop them. As a former head of Saudi intelligence recently said of Vladimir Putin’s land grab in Ukraine: “While the wolf is eating the sheep, there is no shepherd to come to the rescue.” Small wonder that Barack Obama was asked, at every stop during his just-completed four-country swing through Asia, how exactly he plans to wield American power. How would the president respond if China sought to expand its maritime borders by force? How might he curb North Korea’s nuclear provocations? At every press conference he was also quizzed about Ukraine, for world news follows an American president everywhere.
While conservatives chant things like "peace through strength," Obama disagrees.  He said, “Very rarely have I seen the exercise of military power providing a definitive answer,” he told an audience in Seoul."

So it appears apparent that Obama's strategy of using words and sanctions as opposed to military mite will not change.  Because of this, some reporters are asking Obama questions along the lines of "are your actions, or non-actions, emboldening American enemies?"

Yet Obama's answer to this question was that we “haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade.” In other words, American hawks did not learn the lesson of Iraq.

Yet, as the article notes, Obama's strategy does not appeal to voters, who say defending America is "very important."  However, most Americans do not want U.S. troops in Ukraine, with only 6% saying they would use force, according to polls. And, of course, most people don't want action in Syria either.

Of course this makes sense considering no one wants war.  In fact, even hawks don't want war.  Just because troops are put into a country doesn't mean the U.S. wants to go to war.  In fact, just the opposite is true.

U.S. troops in Ukraine would make sense for two reasons:
  1. We promised during the Clinton administration we'd defend them if they disarmed.  So, we'd be honoring our word.
  2. Putin doesn't want to go to war with the U.S., and so U.S. troops in Ukraine would disuade Putin from taking action there, allowing Ukranians the opportunity to create a democracy
As far as for the Middle East, U.S. influence isn't any better: 
In the rest of the region the story is not much cheerier. The new government in Egypt ignores American finger-wagging about human rights and buys lots of Russian weapons. In Syria President Bashar Assad was caught red-handed last year gassing his own people, an act that Mr Obama had specifically warned would trigger American punishment. Yet this “red line” was crossed almost with impunity.
There were sound arguments for all these apparent American retreats. Yet the widespread impression in the Middle East is that the lion has turned into a pussycat. Its foes rejoice; its allies bewail their perceived abandonment.
Iraq’s leader, Nuri al-Maliki, is chummier with Iran than America. Iran jauntily backs militias and political parties in Iraq. It sends bullets and “advisers” to Syria via Iraqi airspace. It sponsors Iraqi Shia volunteers to fight American-supplied Sunni rebels in Syria.
Of late, America has sometimes taken a back seat to other countries, as with France’s intervention in Mali and NATO’s in Libya. Or it has simply shied from doing anything much, as in Syria.
The article does note some successes in the Middle East, however.  For instance, "
oil prices are stable, Israel has never been so prosperous or secure and Iran has agreed (under intense pressure) to curb its nuclear ambitions somewhat. Terrorism now poses far more danger within the Middle East than to the rest of the world."

I think the key words per this article are "Lion" and "Pussycat." While the U.S. was once a Lion with a lot of influence around the world, we are now a pussycat, good for nothing more than our cute looks.  As a lion, we were able to protect ourselves and our allies.  As pussycats we have little or no control over what our enemies do or don't do.

In other words, a pussycat military strategy has made it so "America is no longer as alarming to its foes or reassuring to its friends." Since defending our nation and our freedom is the number one responsibility of our government, this is a serious issue, and one that I hope is addressed by republicans during campaign season.

References:
  1. The decline of deterrence: America is no longer as alarming to its foes or reassuring to its friends