Obama or Romney, it’s a foreign policy sham

By Ameen Izzadeen
Cecil V. Crabb Jr. in his book American Foreign Policy in the Nuclear Age defines foreign policy in these words:
“Reduced to its most fundamental ingredients, foreign policy consists of two elements: National objectives to be achieved and means for achieving them. The interaction between national goals and the resources for attaining them is the perennial subject of statecraft. In its ingredients the foreign policy of all nations, great and small, is the same.”
In other words, theoretically speaking, a country’s foreign policy is just an extension of its domestic policy. But in reality, the country’s interests are compromised to give priority to the political survival of its rulers and the financial survival of the elite, be it a democracy or any other form of government.
A more realistic twist to the definition of foreign policy would be that foreign policy is the interaction between the goals of the elite and imperialistic means such as wars and neo-colonialist schemes utilised to achieve those goals.
On Monday, as President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party candidate, and his main rival Mitt Romney of the Republican Party debated their foreign policy objectives, it became clear that they had learnt the art of defining national interest and foreign policy in terms of their personal political goals or the goals of their handlers and donors. The two candidates debated within the premise that what was good for the political elite was also good for America, while the majority of the Americans, perhaps with the exception of the Occupy Wall Streets protesters, remained indifferent to such subtle skullduggery. Perhaps, the masses caught in the rat race of materialistic pursuits have little time to stop and realise that national interest and foreign policy objectives are not matters for the rulers alone. They react to foreign policy issues not on moral grounds but on material grounds only when the policies come back to hit them. Amid this indifference, leaders often market their foreign policy decisions as good for the country. A recent example is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to bail out Greece amidst widespread opposition within the country. Unknown to most people, it is the multi-billion dollar arms industry that promotes and benefits from these deals. In the United States, the interests of multinationals and industrial and financial lobbies often come into play when policy decisions are made, with such accommodation being justified on the basis of the so-called trickle down effect. If the rich and the powerful move forward, they take along with them the middle class and the poor just as the big wave takes along with it small waves in its path as it reaches the beach. But in reality, this does not happen. The trickle-down effect is nothing but the crumbs that fall from the master’s table for the starving dogs to lap up. The gap is widening; it is one per cent against the 99 per cent, the slogan of regular Occupy Wall Street protests.
While protecting the interests of the one percent or the Wall Street elite, President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Romney, declared their hawkish intentions to defend US imperialism abroad. They had few qualms about violating the sovereignty of weaker nations, especially those in the Middle East and Pakistan. Their warning was not only directed at Syria and Iran, but also at those countries that have freed themselves from dictatorship and are trying to free themselves from Western neo-colonialism. Obama’s subtle message to the new leaders of Egypt and other countries where the Arab Spring has ousted dictators who were agents of US imperialism was that Washington was keeping a close watch on them and they had no option but to support the US counter-terrorism efforts. According to the Obama doctrine, if the US says X is an enemy, Egypt, Libya and other Arab Spring democracies should say “Yes, X is our enemy too”. It appears that Obama has not deviated from George Bush’s policy of “Either you are with us or with the terrorists”.
Romney, on his part, tried to show he was also not a softie when US interests were at stake. He said he would go after the bad buys and kill them to take them out of the picture. In fact, the word ‘kill’ was liberally used by both candidates, Obama a Nobel peace prize winner and Romney, an ardent Mormon.
But rhetoric apart, the debate was a big sham. Either Romney was a foreign policy novice or he simply followed the script to please the one percent or the elite.
When Obama boasted that his administration had got rid of Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who also had American blood on his hands, Romney did not hit back as he should have. Moral values apart, he should have said, “Ok, you killed bin Laden and other leaders of al-Qaeda, but Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is in fact larger than bin Laden, is still at large. You said you finished Gaddafi off, but there are other dictators in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, for instance. They crush pro-democracy dissidents with brutal force.”
The fact that Obama did not mention Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s repression of people-power protests and that Romney did not point out this omission once again underscored the sham that is US foreign policy.
On the question of the use of drones, both candidates said they were in favour of it. Romney said he “absolutely supports” the President’s drone programme – a euphemism for the United States’ extrajudicial killings. One wonders why moderator Bob Schieffer, the veteran CBS journalist, did not phrase the question in such a way as to get an answer that not only dealt with US security interests but also provided some solace to the hundreds of innocent victims – children, women and the elderly – who get killed for the only crime of living in an area dominated by the Taliban. Neither was there a question about the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty during drone attacks and the raid on the bin Laden hideout. Schieffer, simply asked questions described in cricketing parlance as ‘full tosses’ for the two candidates to have a free go at each other. There was no attempt by the moderator to tell them that they had failed to answer the question when they deviated from the topic and boasted about their questionable achievements. On this score, Obama was at his best. He debated according to the techniques found in the text book, while his rival looked a novice.
In another example that shows foreign policy decisions are not exclusively made in the United States or by the elected leaders, the two candidates tried to outdo each other in expressing their loyalty to Israel.
President Obama, notwithstanding some hiccups in relations with Israel during the first three years of his presidency, said twice during the debate that “Israel is our closest ally”. At one stage, Obama went to the extent of warning Arab Spring democracies that the United States would make sure they “are standing by our interests in Israel’s security, because it is a true friend and our greatest ally in the region”. The warning was particularly directed at Egypt. “They have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That is a red line for us, because not only is Israel’s security at stake, but our security is at stake if that unravels,” Obama declared showing scant respect for the freedom of a sovereign nation to make policies that are in keeping with its national interest.
The President also said his Syria policy was made in consultation with Israel and other pro-US allies. Hope the Syrians rebels who fight the Bashar al-Assad regime take note of this statement and realise that the US is supporting them not because it wants to set up democracy in Syria but because it wants to help Israel.
No to be outdone, Romney chimed in to say, “Syria is an opportunity for us because Syria plays an important role in the Middle East, particularly right now. Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea. It’s the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally Israel… We need to make sure as well that we coordinate this effort with our allies and particularly with Israel”.
Neither candidate spoke of the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of their ally, Israel. There was also assurance that they would stand by Israel, come hell or high water, if Israel attacked Iran.
It is no secret, the Middle Eastern part of the US foreign policy is written by Israel, which is represented in the corridors of US political power by the mighty American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) or the Jewish lobby. With the Jewish lobby controlling the financial markets and the media, no candidate can defy Israel and win elections. President John F. Kennedy realised this and wanted to bring in legislation to eliminate outside pressure on foreign policy making. But he was assassinated before he could bring in the reforms that could have established US independence in foreign policy making.
The sham behind foreign policy making indicates that whoever wins there will be little change in US politicies after November 6. At best, the status quo will continue and at worst the world may witness more conflicts in the Middle East. But given the choice between the two hawks in sheep’s clothing, Obama might still be a better candidate because he offers a ray of hope – with his planned withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014 and the courage that he displays once in a way to disagree with Israel. Romney’s election may bring back the dreaded neocon cabal which dreams of ruling the world.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka on 26.10.2012)

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
This entry was posted in Political analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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