U.S. Foreign Policy 2009-2010

Written by  //  April 29, 2010  //  David/Terry Jones, Foreign Policy, U.S.  //  Comments Off on U.S. Foreign Policy 2009-2010

See also Israel and Afghanistan

Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more. … We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. … for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. … To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist
. President Obama’s Inaugural Address, 20 January 2009

Obama fulfills Cairo pledge with entrepreneur summit
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama launched a new effort on Monday to build business and social ties to the Muslim world, but analysts said the need for progress on big issues like Middle East peace would overshadow the initiative.
Obama hosted a two-day Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship that brought together about 250 successful entrepreneurs from more than 50 countries, most with large Muslim populations, fulfilling a pledge he made in his Cairo speech to the Islamic world last June.
Pakistan concedes on U.S. push against militants in tribal region
In a significant change in the mood in Pakistan, officials are reconsidering long-standing pressure from the U.S. to combat Taliban and other militant groups in North Waziristan — a strategy that some feel is now in Pakistan’s best interests. The U.S.-Pakistani consensus on militant groups operating out of the tribal wilds near Afghanistan speaks to improved relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, but it also represents recognition of a shift in the priorities of the militants. While Pakistan has traditionally left alone those groups based within its sovereign territory but focusing their attacks on Afghanistan — or India, in the case of Lashkar-e-Taiba — the same groups are targeting the Punjab region and elsewhere within Pakistan. The New York Times (free registration) (4/29) , The Guardian (London) (4/29)
8 April
Upheaval in Kyrgyzstan Could Imperil Key U.S. Base
Protests appear to have overthrown the government, calling into question the fate of a U.S. air base that supports the war in Afghanistan.
7 April
In Quest to Break Mideast Stalemate, a U.S. Option Emerges
The White House is still pushing for Israelis and Palestinians to start indirect talks, but President Obama may introduce his own proposal.
What that would be remains up in the air, but most Middle East experts draw the same outline for an eventual peace deal. First, Palestinian officials would have to accept that there would be no right of return for refugees of the 1948 war that established the Israeli state, and for their millions of descendants. Rather, the Palestinians would have to accept some kind of compensation. Second, the two sides would have to share Jerusalem — Palestinians locating their capital in the east, Israelis in the west, and both signing on to some sort of international agreement on how to share the holy sites in the Old City.
Third, Israel would return to its 1967 borders — before it captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the Six-Day War — give or take a few negotiated settlements and territorial swaps. Fourth, the United States or NATO would have to give Israel security guarantees, probably including stationing troops along the Jordan River, to ease Israeli fears that hostile countries could use the Palestinian state as a springboard for attacks. And finally, Arab neighbors like Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel.
31 March
Thomas Friedman: This Time We Really Mean It
The Obama administration is violating at least three cardinal rules of Middle East diplomacy when it comes to dealing with Afghanistan and President Hamid Karzai.
27 March
Obama Completes Arms Control Deal With Russia
President Obama finalized a new arms control treaty with Russia on Friday that will pare back the still-formidable cold war nuclear arsenals of each country. The agreement brings to fruition one of the president’s signature foreign policy objectives, just days after he signed into law the most expansive domestic program in decades.
25 March
Obama snubbed Netanyahu for dinner with Michelle and the girls, Israelis claim
(Telegraph) Benjamin Netanyahu was left to stew in a White House meeting room for over an hour after President Barack Obama abruptly walked out of tense talks to have supper with his family, it emerged on Thursday.
9 March
U.S. signals support for Iranian opposition
In a new shift in U.S. policy toward Iran, the Obama administration has signaled its support for the opposition movement in Iran — and identified it as a strategic plank in efforts to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. The U.S. and allies believe that supporting domestic unrest and applying direct financial pressure against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard could potentially lead to regime change. Los Angeles Times (3/9) 
Biden Condemns Israel’s Approval Of Plan To Build New Settlements In East Jerusalem

I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel. We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them. This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict.
26 February
Presidents of Iran, Syria scorn U.S. Mideast policy
In a joint news conference, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scorned the U.S. Mideast policy as an attempt at “colonialism” and predicted “demise and annihilation” for Israel. The remarks were seen as a rebuke to the U.S. announcement that it will return an ambassador to Damascus five years after breaking off relations. The Washington Post (2/26)
7 February
Dazzled by Asia: When will China lead the world? Don’t hold your breath.
(Boston Globe) The future of American power is a vital question. America’s foreign policy choices will be directed by judgments about the United States’ staying power, and how the United States, like Britain before it, should adapt to new powers emerging on the scene. If, as Jacques argues, America’s influence will naturally fade while Asia’s grows, Washington should adopt policies similar to Britain’s in the mid-20th century – ceding influence over large portions of the world while working to ensure that it remains an important player on a few key issues. American leaders would have to radically shift their style, adopting a new humility while selling the US public on a diminished global role, a major comedown for a superpower.
1 February
Obama’s new hardball with China, Iran
(CSM Editorial) The White House shifts from conciliatory diplomacy to get-tough actions, notably in arms sales to Taiwan and in stiffer sanctions on Iran for its nuclear deceit. Obama can no longer appear to be weak, but then again, there are risks to adopting a confrontational style.
26 January
Outside View: Obama rejects high-tech cooperation with India
(UPI) — Once in office, U.S. President Barack Obama apparently decided to abandon his own policy preferences in favor of those of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Given the reluctance of the former president and the current secretary of state to agree to an equal partnership with India, it is no surprise that the past year has seen the killing-off of the tiny shoots of U.S.-India high-tech cooperation promised by former President George W. Bush.
20 January
Obama: Expectations for Mideast peace too high
(Haaretz) U.S. president: Israel, Palestinians have been unwilling to make bold gestures for sake of peace.
Obama said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was “as intractable” an issue as he has ever encountered. “Both sides … have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions, or the divisions within their societies were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation.
3 January
Daniel W. Drezner: What part of this governance equation fails to add up?
The neoclassical economic framework provides some serious leverage to understanding how the world works. It remains an incomplete approach to political analysis, however. Take, for example, Daron Acemoglu’s Esquire essay on the importance of governance to economic development
1 January
Michael O’Hanlon: Cheney’s Wrong, Obama Has Had ‘Solid First Year’ In Foreign Policy
(Politico) Vice President Cheney has been excoriating President Obama’s foreign policy approach of late, and Republican partisans reportedly sense an opportunity to portray yet another Democratic president as supposedly weak on national security in the coming months. The last week of 2009, with an attempted plane bombing in Detroit and tragic attack against CIA operatives in Afghanistan capping off the year, helps set the context for these criticisms.
But in fact, Obama has had a solid first year in foreign policy matters. By one measure, comparison with other first-year presidents in modern history, Obama ranks with the three or four best since World War II by my estimation – and I write this as someone who opposed Obama during the Democratic primary process of 2007-2008 largely because of fears at the time that he would not be strong on national security.


19 December
Obama raced clock, chaos, comedy for climate deal
(AP) It was almost unthinkable. The president of the United States walked into a meeting of fellow world leaders and there wasn’t a chair for him, a sure sign he was not expected, maybe not even wanted.
Obama’s 15-hour, seat-of-the-pants dash through Copenhagen was marked by doggedness, confusion and semi-comedy. Constrained by partisan politics at home, and quarrels between rich and poor nations abroad, he was determined to come home with a victory, no matter how imperfect.
This account of Obama’s hectic day is based on dozens of interviews and statements by key players from numerous countries.
17 December
Is there an Obama doctrine?
“Just war”, not just war. And affordable, please
(The Economist) BY HIS own admission, Barack Obama received his Nobel peace prize when his accomplishments were still “slight”. But he has big plans—including signing a new nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Russia and, eventually, ridding the world of atomic weapons altogether. When he collected his prize in Oslo on December 10th, he also gave a thought-provoking acceptance speech. To some it hit the rhetorical heights of Cicero (Simon Schama, a historian, in the Financial Times). For others (David Brooks, in the New York Times), there were echoes of Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian with a gloomy view of human nature. The question now obsessing America’s commentariat is whether this speech outlines an “Obama doctrine” in foreign policy. If so, what is it?
7 December
David Jones writes in the Hill Times (subscription required) Orienting Obama
With China our economic connection has become parlous. Beijing holds massive amounts of U.S. debt resulting from our huge trade deficit. On the other hand, it has been the opportunity for virtually unrestricted trade with the United States that has provided China the opportunity to expand its manufacturing base and reduce poverty. Managing our economic relations puts all other issues into distant second place. Beijing wants us to avoid inflating the dollar (and thereby reducing the value of their dollar holdings) or legislating trade barriers. Washington wants China not to “dump” dollars and to continue financing our trade deficit. Consequently, Beijing knows that U.S. objectives such as restrictions on the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs are “nice to haves” rather than vital. Even further down the hierarchy are enhanced human rights for various Chinese minorities (Tibetans, Ughirs, Falun Gong) and/or greater Internet openness for Chinese citizens. Thus, it was disconcerting that the media didn’t appreciate these realities and belabored the president for not pressing harder on human rights issues. Simultaneously, the Chinese stiff-armed an Obama “outreach” objective by thwarting a projected speech to any beyond a selected and limited audience unlikely to be swayed by rhetorical flourishes.
20 November
James Fallows: Manufactured failure: press coverage of Obama in Asia
(The Atlantic) For the moment, two more installments in my argument, previously here and here,  that Barack Obama’s recent swing through Asia was a relative success, and certainly nothing like the disaster that most U.S. coverage implied.
Installment one: me talking with Bob Garfield of NPR’s On The Media just now, about why American fantasies of an omnipotent, rising China may have distorted American press reaction to what Obama said and did.
Installment two: the before-and-after analyses from a private client newsletter by Damien Ma, Divya Reddy, and Nicholas Consonery of the Eurasia Group, reinforcing the idea that what actually happened on the trip was almost exactly what informed observers expected to happen, and not some humiliating disappointment.
18 November
Obama Trip Shows Gaps on Issues as Role of China Grows
The joint statement indicated that there would be many more rounds of talks ahead on all the major issues: more talks to discuss how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, more talks on how China could help bring peace to South Asia and, of course, more talks on the trade gap. Currency valuation and trade issues are the top priorities in a series of continuing bilateral talks between the two countries called the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
12 November
The U.S. and China: The Defining Issue of Our Day
In his current Asian trip, President Obama visits Japan, then addresses a forum of leaders in Singapore, and eventually ends up in Seoul to discuss nukes and North Korea. But make no mistake, the axis of this week is the time Obama will spend in China, which has catapulted to the forefront of international affairs and is on its way to joining the United States as the alpha and omega of the global economic system. Americans still don’t quite get it. China represents the first time in any American’s lifetime that the United States is faced with a country that it cannot coerce. Click here to read more.
Report: Secret China-Pakistan nuclear deal revealed
Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan said that in 1982, China sent Pakistan 15 tons of enriched uranium as a way of jump-starting the South Asian country’s nuclear program, according to a report in The Washington Post. Khan further elaborated that China provided instructions for a simple nuclear weapon, thereby providing Pakistani scientists with everything but the personnel to build a bomb. The secret deal reportedly was set in motion in a 1976 meeting between China’s then-leader, Mao Zedong, and Pakistan’s then-Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. U.S. officials said they confronted China about the transfer but that Chinese officials denied it. The Washington Post (11/13)
12 November
Obama sets off for Asia, China looms large
(Reuters) Obama described China as a “vital partner, as well as a competitor.” But he warned of “enormous strains” in relations between the world’s two most powerful nations if economic imbalances between them were not corrected. Those imbalances — America’s excessive consumption and borrowing, facilitated by China’s aggressive export strategy and purchases of U.S. debt — are seen by many as a major cause of the boom and subsequent bust in the global economy. Obama said he would talk to the Chinese about revaluing their currency, the yuan, as well as encouraging Chinese consumers to spend more and opening Chinese markets further to U.S. goods.
Obama’s nine-day tour includes a stop in Singapore for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, followed by visits to Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul.
The Sleazy Advocacy of a Leading “Liberal Hawk”
(Salon Magazine) Peter Galbraith’s vast, undisclosed financial interests in the policies he spent years advocating as an “expert.”
The New York Times today details the unbelievably sleazy story of Peter Galbraith, one of the Democratic Party’s leading so-called “liberal hawks” and a generally revered Wise Man of America’s Foreign Policy Community.  He was Ambassador to Croatia under the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s and, in March, 2009, the Obama administration (specifically, Richard Holbrooke, Galbraith’s mentor) successfully pressured the U.N. to name Galbraith as the second-in-command in Afghanistan.  The NYT does a good job today of adding some important details to the story, but it was actually uncovered by Norwegian investigative journalists and reported at length a month ago in pieces such as this one by Helena Cobban.  In essence, this highly Serious man has corruptly concealed vast financial stakes in the very policies and positions he has spent years advocating while pretending to be an independent expert.
4 November
John Bolton: This is no time to kowtow to China
(Globe & Mail) As Obama visits, it’s not a strong U.S. policy that’ll provoke Beijing, but a weak one
4 November
America Needs Human Rights in China
(WSJ) Since taking office, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—both of whom mustered some criticism of China’s rights record while they were candidates—have said that human rights shouldn’t “interfere” with other issues in the U.S.-China relationship, knuckled preemptively under Chinese pressure not to meet the Dalai Lama, and generally behaved as if the United States has no power in the bilateral relationship.
The Obama team seems to think that such an approach will elicit greater cooperation from China. This is a miscalculation that demoralizes China’s small but vibrant human-rights community and gives the government leeway to crack down harder. As President Obama prepares for his first trip to China later this month, he needs to rethink his approach.
28 October
Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll
The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raise significant questions about America’s war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House [and] have created deep divisions within the Obama administration. The critics say the ties complicate America’s increasingly tense relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.’s practices also suggest that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban.
26 October
Call in the Civilians
Counterinsurgency is at least 50 percent civilian. So where have all the Foreign Service officers gone?
(Foreign Policy) Call it Washington’s blind spot. Since the September 11 attacks, the United States has suffered from a myopia that sees military expansion as paramount and civilian support as an afterthought. As a result, the State Department’s ranks have been depleted and overstretched to the core. And the civilian half of warfare has suffered.
16 October
Shah Mehmood Qureshi defends Kerry-Lugar bill in NA
(Dawn Media) He said the bill supports all the stated policies of Pakistan, adding that governments will come and go but the state’s interests must remain supreme. He was briefing the National Assembly on his return from Washington after the US Congress issued a clarification aimed at allaying concerns voiced over the bill by the opposition and the army. US President Obama has signed the bill into US law, which will inject Pakistan’s social sector with a record 7.5 billion dollars over the next five years, with a pledge to extend in for another five years. Text of the Bill
15 October
With Al-Qaida Fading, Why Expand the Afghan War?
Given that the Western world, and above all the United States and the Middle East, have been obsessed with al-Qaida since 2001, and given the tides of words that have been written about this organization, systematic knowledge about it and its members remains limited, at least in public discourse, neglected if not ignored in much public, political and press discussion of the matter in the U.S. and abroad.
14 October
Barack Obama’s Pakistan policy in disarray after opposition to $7.5bn aid conditions
(Times Online) Officials of the two countries were locked in last-minute negotiations on how to salvage the Kerry-Lugar Bill, which triples US civilian aid to Pakistan. It seeks to broaden the campaign against Islamic militancy by fighting poverty in regions along the Afghan border and tries to ensure that military aid is not misspent. Military chiefs, the political opposition and even members of the ruling coalition have protested over conditions laid down in the Bill that they say constitute a humiliating violation of Pakistani sovereignty.
Nobel committee bets ‘Obama can’
(Al Jazeera) The Nobel Peace Prize committee has awarded Barack Obama, the US president, a “means to give momentum” to changing US foreign policy
An Egyptian colleague summed up the vehement objections voiced by many to the Nobel committee’s choice by pointing out that Obama’s Cairo speech, cited as one the justifications for his selection, has not been followed with substantial change in US policy. What, she asked, has Obama done to make the world a more peaceful or just place? With Israel and Iran each flouting US policy goals with equal impunity, it is hard to see the justification for rewarding the US president and architect of those policies, however laudable they may be.
4 August
Bill Clinton meets N Korea leader
(BBC) Former US President Bill Clinton has met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during an unannounced visit to the country, state media have reported. Mr Clinton is in Pyongyang to discuss the fate of jailed US journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. (NYT) Former President Bill Clinton left North Korea on Wednesday morning after a dramatic 20-hour visit, in which he won the freedom of two American journalists, opened a diplomatic channel to North Korea’s reclusive government and dined with the North’s ailing leader, Kim Jong-il.
4 June 2009
Obama seeks ‘new beginning’ in Muslim world
(MSNBC) President tells Egypt audience ‘America and Islam are not exclusive’
CAIRO – Invoking the Quran and his rarely used middle name, Barack Hussein Obama declared Thursday that America has a common cause with Islam and never will be at war with the faith — an overture intently watched by the Muslim world and welcomed in unlikely quarters. An Iranian cleric called the president’s speech “an initial step for removing misconceptions.”
Obama spoke at a seat of Islamic learning, his 55-minute address suffused with respect for touchstones of the religion. He said the time had come to “speak the truth” and “seek a new beginning.”
7 May
Sen. Kerry looks for window to ratify Law of the Sea
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) is crafting a strategy to ratify the long-stalled Law of the Sea Treaty this year — a move that ocean and foreign policy experts say is increasingly important as climate change reshapes the Arctic.
26 March
Marc Ambinder: A First Look At Obama’s New Afghan Policy
(The Atlantic) President Barack Obama’s new posture toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be unveiled tomorrow, codifies for the first time Iran’s role in regional diplomacy, emphasizes counterterrorism as the primary mission of U.S. policy, and includes a multi-modal surge of civilians and economic aid to both countries.
According to people who have been briefed on the results of the policy review, Obama plans to emphasize results-driven cooperation with both countries. He will endorse a Senate bill, authored by Sens. John Kerry and Richard Lugar, that would condition a significant increase in aid to Pakistan on measurable improvements in Pakistan’s internal efforts to combat terrorism. (President Obama and Vice President Biden were cosponsors of the bill in the Senate.)
12 February
Kerry shakes things up at the SFRC
(Foreign Policy) The new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has revived a tradition once started by Senator Fulbright, holding regular round tables with policy and regional experts, at which senators and invited experts sit around a table and have discussions with each other, rather than the more formal, traditional hearings formats. He has hired a top investigative journalist to lead the committee’s investigations arm, and a former investment banker to advise the committee on the intersection of global finance and foreign policy. And this past Wednesday night, he and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry had committee members of both parties and their spouses over for dinner at their Georgetown home.


13 November
Hillary Clinton: Secretary of State

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