Magazine article USA TODAY

Juggling Hot Potatoes

Magazine article USA TODAY

Juggling Hot Potatoes

Article excerpt

ELIOT COHEN, A FORMER State Department counselor in the George W. Bush Administration, wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, "What's Different About the Obama Foreign Policy?" His conclusion: basically nothing. On the other hand, he argues that Obama "has undertaken a wildly ambitious agenda at home and abroad. ... Some of his ambitions will come crashing into ruin, and surely ghastly surprises lie athwart our path." As he notes, much like the Bush Administration. Cohen, though, misses the subtleties and the broad principles of Obama's policy shifts. The President's policies are, in many cases, diametrically opposed to those of the Bush Administration, thank goodness.

Let us look at some of the points and critical issues that Cohen addresses. He slates, "The Iraq drawdown moves more quickly and definitively than the Bush Administration had desired, but it is not the repudiation the folks from MoveOn.org desired." No, but it is as close to a troop removal schedule as Obama can get. I am in the school of thought that thinks not that Bush was fight about any of this, but that there are major factors beyond Obama's immediate control that will prevent any fast-paced removal. One, Kurdistan and the Kurd-Arab division is a far greater problem than has been admitted publicly. A solution here is decades away. Most Americans do not even know there is a difference between Arabs and Kurds (and between Arabs and Persians). Two, the Shiite-Sunni split will resurface as U.S. troops move beyond the fray. Vice Pres. Joe Biden's proposal to divide Iraq into three autonomous regions--Shia, Sunni, and Kurd--still makes the most sense in the long ran. Three, Iraq has no intelligence apparatus and, especially, no air force. It cannot defend itself against its neighbors nor support domestic ground operations. The U.S. has had good reason for denying the Iraqis an air force, but now we (and Obama) are stuck with it. The U.S. has to slay, at least in the area (Kuwait) for the foreseeable future. Obama is pretty much on track for this.

Cohen insists that Bush carryovers "have implemented a build-up in Afghanistan that began in the last years of the previous Administration." There are carryovers, but the policy is Obama's (for good or ill). Obama clearly campaigned on downgrading the war of choice (Iraq) and moving our war effort to the source of the 9/11 and other terrorist difficulties: Afghanistan and Pakistan. If we are going to attack the problem of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, the Taliban is the target and Afghanistan is the place. Obama is responsible for this shift, not Bush.

On really the biggest international issue today, Cohen states that the Obama Administration "decided to begin its Middle East peace-making by picking a gratuitous fight with another close ally, Israel." This may turn out to be a fight, but it certainly is not gratuitous. The issue of expanding settlements into the West Bank--into territory long ago designated as part of the state that would become Palestine, is of more critical concern to the world community than Afghanistan or global warming. The expanding settlements and continuous encroachment on Palestinian land incite Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims around the world, and much of the Western community as flagrant expansionism. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.