And it isn’t even about whether to increase or diminish American power or to act unilaterally or multilaterally.
The issue is what the United States does with the influence and leverage that it does possess.
For example, the United States gives billions to Pakistan. This is a bad big-spending idea. The United States doesn’t even need to keep troops in Europe anymore. (Now there’s a good money-saving idea!)
To critique Obama foreign policy is not to say that more intervention or starting wars is good. It is to raise the question: Who do you help and support when you intervene on any level, even in the words of a speech?
Helping allies indirectly–even verbally–is a way of avoiding direct intervention. There isn’t a single case I can think of that calls for sending U.S. troops or spending massive amounts of money. On the contrary, it is when American leaders ignore current threats will the country end up fighting more wars and spending more money later.
The real questions revolve around things like these:
–If you have some money appropriated in Egypt to spend on training people politically who do you give it to, Muslim Brotherhood or moderates?
–If you are going to put together a Syrian opposition leadership and direct weapons–paid for and sent by others–to Syria who do you favor being the leaders and getting the guns?
–Do you call for the overthrow of the Bahraini government knowing that even though the Shia majority has genuine grievances this might result in an Iranian satellite regime?
–When Americans are attacked by terrorists in Benghazi do you rush to their defense or find ways to blame America for the assault?
–Do you send armored personnel carriers to a Lebanese army under Hizballah-Syrian control?
–Do you make a speech saying that Iranian dissidents are heroes or do you rush to send a congratulatory letter to Ahmadinejad after a stolen election?
–Is it smart to dispatch billions of dollars to a Pakistani government that gives safe haven to al-Qaida terrorists, supports the Taliban against American forces in Afghanistan, and sponsors terrorism to murder Indian civilians?
–Do you see Colombia or Venezuela as the good guy? In other words, do you hold up Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez as a role model or denounce him as a corrupt dictator?
–Is it better to make a Turkish Islamist prime minister your hero or hope that the opposition gets it together to stop their country’s fundamental transformation?
–Do you keep your promise to the Czechs and Poles to put defensive missiles in their countries—after they agree to do so at considerable risk–or try (and fail) to make Russian dictator Vladimir Putin happy?
–Do you cheer on the brave people of Georgia (country) defend themselves when they are attacked by Russia or do you blame them as being allegedly provocative because they shot back when they are fired on?
–Are you rooting for Israel or apologizing and saving Hamas?
–Even if you try to maintain normal relations with an Egyptian government dominated by the Brotherhood are you saying among yourselves: This is bad. We cannot trust these people at all and we must limit the damage. Or do you say: We must be nice to them and make them like us and they will be more moderate.
–Do you accurately inform the American people or do you feed them misleading ideas about what’s going on in the world?
Obama could reduce the level of U.S. spending abroad, cut back on intervention (he intervened in Libya and is intervening in Syria, for example, and sent troops to sub-Saharan Africa for reasons no one can explain), and bring home American troops. That is not the problem. We are no longer engaged in the debates of a half-century ago in this regard.
Similarly, no one is calling for America to be the world’s policeman. Not only are the resources and will lacking but there is no need to play such a role. And, besides, who wants a policeman who says the Mafia isn’t a threat?
We are not talking about isolationism versus engagement, multilateralism versus unilateralism, or military responses versus diplomatic efforts.
The issue is simply this one: When you say something or do something or spend something whose side are you on?Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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