Friday, May 30, 2014

Despite Flaws In Foreign Policy, US Leadership Role Remains Unshaken

May 30, 2014

As the world's only remaining superpower, the United States is under pressure to respond to demands from its allies and to threats from its adversaries. Political analysts say that despite flaws in its foreign policy, the United States is the only country able to handle these conflicting pressures.  The oppressed, the poor and the vulnerable first look to the United States for support, and analysts say it is likely to remain so for years to come.

The economic rise of China and Russia's territorial ambitions are no threat to the U.S. position as world leader, said Klaus Larres, an expert on international relations at the University of North Carolina.

Klaus Larres, Univerity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"Russia is in the end a declining power, said Larres. "I cannot see that Russia will remain among the great powers of the world."
China is focused on exerting control over its immediate neighborhood and on silencing voices of discontent at home, he said.
The European Union is bogged down in its own woes, including stagnant economy, youth unemployment, illegal immigration and others. So there is no comparable power on the horizon to take over global leadership from the United States, said Larres.
Conservatives in the United States have interpreted President Barack Obama’s moves to share the burden of leadership responsibilities with other western nations as a sign of weakness. But Larres pointed out that Mr.Obama is not the first American president to do so.

"In 1969, President Nixon gave a big foreign policy speech on the island of Guam that became known as the Nixon doctrine. He announced that the United States will continue to lead in the world, as [President] Obama has said recently, but that the burden needs to be shared more equally among the allies."
 
One of the burdens Mr. Obama wants to share is combating terrorism. This is also a much criticized area of the U.S. foreign policy.  The use of drones and spying has garnered dubious success in his anti-terrorism efforts, but has added to the simmering anti-American sentiment abroad. What’s more, the concerted campaign to destroy major terrorists’ camps in Afghanistan has not eradicated terrorism, said Omar Samad, a former Afghanistan ambassador to France and Canada.

“Everybody admits that Al-Qaida is still a phenomenon, says Samad. Everybody admits that it’s maybe decentralized, but the hub, or one of the main sanctuaries of terrorism, still is in the vicinity of Afghanistan and mostly in the tribal regions of Pakistan, and occasionally they venture into Afghanistan. They have linkages not only to the Taliban, the hardcore of the Taliban, but linkages to many other Jihad type organizations in our region."

Samad added that the United States was withdrawing its forces from Afghanistanat a time when the nation’s own law enforcement is not capable of defending it from a possible new insurgency.

President Obama has said that a counter-terrorism effort in one place is no longer an option because the world now has to deal with a myriad of radical fringe groups springing up in the Muslim world and elsewhere.

Barry Pavel, vice president of the Atlantic Council, said Mr. Obama recognizes “that we are in a new era of history in which individuals and groups with global awareness are becoming powerful actors, alongside nations, on a rapidly changing global stage.”

Larres said the president’s idea to set up an international anti-terror fund of $5 billion is a good one, especially if it is to be used for education of young people in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and other parts of the world where unemployed youths are vulnerable to jihadist recruiters. In the long run, he said, soft diplomacy may be more useful in defusing terrorism than drones and spying.

While analysts seem to praise Mr. Obama’s avoidance of military entanglements in Syria, Ukraine, Africa and other places that do not touch directly on U.S. security, many complain that both the United States and Europe have turned a blind eye to military coups ousting democratically elected governments worldwide.

"We now have military dictatorships in Egypt, which also treats its opponents in a very crass way -- not what a democratic country like the United States should stand for -- and also in Thailand," said Larres. The Obama administration should have unequivocally condemned those coups and urged the military to restore democracy, he said.
 
“The United States must always lead,” said President Obama in his new major foreign policy speech, delivered at West Point graduation ceremony on May 28. And it should, said Larres. “The United States has more political, economic and military power to lead than any other country in the world. But it must use it more to help those that need it."

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