US Foreign Policy

We've all become so used to clunking missteps and contemptuous bullying that the emergence of a subtle, serious and intelligent foreign policy on the part of the United States is something strange to behold. As with many politicians or professionals with just a little bit of virtu who become celebrated today because of the mediocrity around them, it would be wrong to read too much into things. It is, however, interesting to look on.

I think that there are five major challenges which face the present administration, and my regular reader will know that I've been consistent in this. For convenience, I think that I should list them;

1) The dangers of war merging with recession, peak oil and the need for resources and flaring over a seaborne crisis, such as a conflict over the Spratleys, the Straits of Hormuz, or Malacca, Taiwan, or the Dokyu islands.

2) The danger of a global monetary collapse causing a dollar unwind and a massive inflation in what commodities are left to be required or extracted

3) A colossal diversion into the nonsense of global warming

4) The malign expansionism of the present Iranian regime as Iran slips into crisis

5) A split with Russia over nuclear proliferation or defensive rockets.

I think that one could add the danger of isolationism and a definitive split with the European states to that list, and curiously enough Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan don't figure in them because I think that they aren't emerging problems or systematic problems, but symptomatic and, in that cruel language of strategic studies, containable.

The Obama administration has started doing obvious and sensible things. Proposing to get rid of nuclear weapons, for instance, is a Gorbachev-style 'no-brainer', since any reduction in the utterly useless arsenals will reduce stocks and add immensely to global moral capital as well as saving bags of money. In addition, it puts pressure on Iran and encourages the Russians, whom I suspect have never really wanted other than a minimal Gaullist expenditure on their devices. If the action leads to Russia offering Iran nuclear reprocessing facilities and meaning it, and strengthening Medvedev against Putin, well, drinks all round. This is how the game should be played.

I also notice that the administration is, sensibly, reaching out to Iran formally and through means which undercut the Ayatollahs and Iranian rural nationalists from behind a wall of steel which is not going away. I assume that Israel's use of drones and their continued efforts to deal with Iranian revolutionary guards and Sudanese conspirators who are encouraging Hamas to continue their murderous, oppressive rule will continue; and I assume that this is with Washington's blessing.

I can also see the emergence of stronger links with Turkey and Lebanon. If it is clear that Iran has to behave on western terms, but not be humiliated, and if Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are brought into a strengthened alliance--along with American support for the Khalijee gulf currency, but with US treasury and not OPEC oil backing--then the project of a 'Mediterranean Union' outwith European structures will have been brought closer. This will eventually normalise Israel and ease the pressure on the US.

Finally, I note that the US is refusing to go spare and to react in an angry way to North Korean behaviour, whilst pushing ahead with funding for nuclear fusion technologies in a serious way. The environmental commitments seem to be lip service and I note their use as a vehicle for encouraging the conservation of resources; I think all the administration needs to do there is delay until it becomes obvious that global warming is nonsense. They are.

The last American election campaign promised grown-ups in charge. I disagree very strongly with some of their actions; but, on a morning when the volcanoes are rumbling all over the earth, it pleases me a little to see the republic acting realistically again. Still, the most realist, and one of the most enlightened states, of the past three hundred years, was Prussia (I've been reading an old Sebastian Haffner history); and, mein Gott, look what happened to them.


Anonymous said…
Anonymous coward here.

Perhaps its the language barrier but the English language press doesn't seem to sufficiently address the intense concerns anyone sane living in Japan ought to be cringing over at the moment. As the only country in the world to be nuked maliciously, I would be extremely concerned about being first in line for a repeat.

As a connoisseur of bloodthirsty insane dictators, I put Kim Jong-il near the top of my list, right below Muamar Gaddafi, for calculated insanity. Aside from remaining in power, I think his dictatorship's two main objectives have been to become a credible nuclear power and to seem crazy enough to actually use nuclear weapons.

Madeline Albright didn't seem to think he was crazy, merely reclusive.

This very poorly made documentary is further testament to how weird North Korea is.
Martin Meenagh said…
I tried to recall all Shakespeare's cowardice quotes, anonymous, since I enjoy your comments, and found only that in Henry V-- 'I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety', spoken appropriately enough by an unnamed character. That sounds sensible enough to me.

The North Koreans are nuts. My impression of the culture of the peninsula is that it is highly demonstrative and riven with brinkmanship in things great and small.

My concern would be that any state that calculating which had more than one bomb would have distributed them or placed them very deep underground; it would be very difficult for any ordnance to get to them. They also have enough conventional weaponry pointed at Seoul to wipe the place out, and a population poor enough and brainwashed enough to bear any bombing without terror. But their leaders are corrupt as sin and in the pay of the Chinese in most things.

Equally, the US deficit and the preponderance of investment in it by the South Koreans, the Japanese and the Chinese effectively trap America into the role of applying threats and attempting deterrence from outside. I've blogged before about the Spratleys; I'm thinking about blogging on the dokdo dispute. My impression of the whole region is of a tinderbox and for once, I think America holds the fire back, but I wonder at what cost.

What we might need is some flexibe international friend-a sort of cross between the Agency created by the International Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Atomic Energy Authority--to go in there with a full staffing from the South and an observer from somewhere like Vietnam or China and buy them off whilst the South Koreans find some way through the minefield.

The Japanese are in the nightmarish situation of being able to do nothing. This is one of those situations when a stable China or a more active Russia might actually be a force for good.

But these are just my idle thoughts. I'm going to set up a little counterfactual blog in the next few days to waste even more time--maybe interested readers can explore some of this on there.

Many thanks for your comment


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