U.S. Foreign Relations in 2011-12

Written by  //  December 28, 2012  //  Adam Daifallah, David/Terry Jones, Geopolitics, U.S.  //  5 Comments


World Outlook for 2013

(Council on Foreign Relations) As the year draws to an end, the United States faces three major challenges in 2013, says James M. Lindsay, the head of CFR’s Studies Program. One is the Middle East, where the continuing conflict in Syria is upsetting to stability in the region, and where Iran is approaching a “red line” on its ability to make nuclear weapons. He says the “rising tensions” in East Asia between China and its neighbors threaten the peace. And lastly, he says that how the United States resolves its current “fiscal cliff” crisis may play a major role in the overall health of the world’s economy.

David Kilgour: Obama betters Romney on foreign policy
David Jones: ‘Quarterback’ Obama fumbles foreign policy, still gets the credit

Matthew Kroenig: Time to Attack Iran
Foreign Affairs Jan/Feb 2012
Opponents of military action against Iran assume a U.S. strike would be far more dangerous than simply letting Tehran build a bomb. Not so, argues this former Pentagon defense planner. With a carefully designed attack, Washington could mitigate the costs and spare the region and the world from an unacceptable threat.
Colin H. Kahl: Not Time to Attack Iran
Foreign Affairs Mar/Apr 2012
Matthew Kroenig’s recent article in this magazine argued that a military strike against Iran would be “the least bad option” for stopping its nuclear program. But the war Kroenig calls for would be far messier than he predicts, and Washington still has better options available.
The Age of Kennan — Brilliant, generous review by Henry Kissinger and a must-read for students of American Foreign Policy
Woman of the World
(Vanity Fair | June 2011) In her ninth year as America’s most admired woman, Hillary Clinton is dealing with radical change across the globe, as well as trying to transform U.S. diplomacy on the nuts-and-coffee level. But despite the secretary of state’s punishing pace—half a million miles in her Boeing 757—and the complex relationship between her and President Obama, Clinton seems clear about what she can (and can’t) accomplish, and, as Jonathan Alter reports, her friends are clear about something else: Madam Secretary is in her element.
John Parisella: Why Canadians Admire Hillary Clinton
(Americas Quarterly) Canadians have generally shown greater affection for Democrats in the White House over Republicans since the JFK assassination. Most Canadians would have preferred a second Clinton Administration under Hillary’s stewardship than any other choice in 2008. While President Obama remains highly popular north of the border, Secretary Clinton is seen as very effective on her own, and very much a co-architect of the Obama foreign policy. Canadians appreciate her moderation, her civility, her approach to diplomacy and her overall civic engagement.
Relations between Canada and the U.S. under the Obama Administration are built on mutual respect and mutual interests. Clinton has worked closely with two successive Foreign Affairs Ministers, Lawrence Cannon and John Baird. The Canada-US partnership remains the closest on the planet both commercially and strategically.

The Elephants in the Room
Barack Obama’s Republican challengers haven’t thought very deeply about foreign policy. It shows.
(Foreign Policy Magazine | November 2011) The world beyond America’s borders just doesn’t figure in the 2012 campaign. In the 2008 Republican debates, candidates regularly crossed swords on the war in Iraq, the nuclear showdown with Iran, and the proper conduct of the war on terror. … the rise of the Tea Party in recent years has reshaped Republican politics entirely, not only on domestic policy but also on foreign policy. The Tea Party is the faction of Less — less spending, less government, and, generally, less engagement abroad. And all the Republicans aspiring to win the 2012 nomination have responded to this powerful new voice in one way or another. … Years of slaughter in Iraq and the demoralizing stalemate in Afghanistan have increasingly convinced Americans of both parties that there is little good the United States can do in the world. Democracy promotion, the keystone in the arch of Bush-era foreign policy, has come to be seen as folly, nation-building as hubris, and intervention as an invitation to disaster. See also (NYT) In G.O.P. Race, Foreign Policy Is a Footnote


Departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Leaves Behind a Legacy of Firsts
(ABC news) After 31 years of public service, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves the limelight behind.
On Friday, President Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to take her place as secretary of state, leaving Clinton to help him move in and then bow out.
Over the past three decades, Clinton has served her country in one way or another, a tenure that was full of firsts.
She was the only first lady to refuse the traditional cookie bake off and the first secretary of state to visit more than 100 countries. She served under the first black president and was the first first lady to have an office in the West Wing of the White House. Clinton was the first secretary of state to visit East Timor, and the first first lady to later win elective office. And long before she ever appeared on a ballot, Clinton was the first child born to Hugh and Dorothy Rodham.
21 December
John Kerry: From good soldier to secretary of state
(BBC) The Massachusetts senator has been chairing the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee since 2009 and is well-steeped in the details of world affairs and diplomacy from years of committee hearings but also hands-on experience.
Mr Kerry brings with him to the job valuable personal relationships with world leaders, from Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He will in many ways be able to hit the ground running, once he is confirmed in the new year. The confirmation process is expected to be speedy.
Over the last four years, Mr Kerry has also been the administration’s unofficial envoy to various hotspots.
13 December
Susan Rice ends bid to succeed Hillary Clinton
(BBC) UN Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name for consideration to succeed Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state, the White House says. In a letter to the president, Ms Rice said her confirmation process would be “disruptive and costly”, NBC News said. Ms Rice has been at the centre of Republican criticism over the Obama administration response to a deadly attack on a US consulate in Libya.
Mrs Clinton has said she will not serve a second term at the state department.
30 November
Rwandan Ghosts. Benghazi isn’t the biggest blight on Susan Rice’s record.
… Perhaps the most damning anecdote — told by French academic Gérard Prunier and confirmed by New York Times journalist Howard French — was of a private converation Rice had after her first trip to Central Africa around this time: “Museveni [of Uganda] and Kagame agree that the basic problem in the Great Lakes is the danger of a resurgence of genocide and they know how to deal with that. The only thing we [i.e., the United States] have to do is look the other way.”
20 November
Clinton Sent to Seal Egypt-Mediated Truce
(IPS) – Until Tuesday, Obama, whose four-day swing through Southeast Asia was designed in part to underline his administration’s “pivot” from the Middle East to the Asia Pacific, had confined his involvement in the past week’s violence to telephone calls to regional leaders, public statements of support for Israel softened by concern for civilian casualties, and hopes for de-escalation.
The staunch backing Washington has given Israel for its latest assault on the Gaza Strip has seemed to be business as usual, not so very different from the position taken by the George W. Bush administration during Israel’s three-week 2008-9 “Operation Cast Lead”. … However, the administration has also made known its preference that Israel not introduce ground forces that have been massed along the Gaza border over the last several days.
Congress, as might be expected, has been even more extreme, with both houses issuing nearly identical statements in full support of Israel’s actions without either urging an end to hostilities or, unlike Obama, expressing concern for civilians on either side.
Even a second-term president, while theoretically freer to act since he need not worry about running for re-election, is still concerned about his congressional allies and his need to work with Congress on key initiatives.
And in this case, Obama has some more immediate concerns that would make him averse to taking on the powerful pro-Israel lobby at this time, despite his well-known personal dislike for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
With the Dec. 31 deadline for reaching a budget agreement with Congressional Republicans on averting the so-called “fiscal cliff”, the last thing Obama wants to do is get into a major partisan battle – and risk splitting his own party’s Congressional delegation given its strong support for Israel – over an unrelated matter.
18 November
Burma greets Obama with great expectations
Barack Obama is the first serving US president to visit Burma and hopes are high his arrival signals a better economic future
(The Guardian) The visit is also seen as critical outside Burma: in Washington, policymakers see the country as a key part of the US strategic “pivot”, which will privilege Asia over Europe or the Middle East. Obama’s aides hope the intense diplomatic effort will yield dividends where similar attempts to engage other “rogue states” such as North Korea have failed. A key goal is to roll back Chinese influence.
Obama on Gaza: next 48 hours will show what progress can be made
President says he has been ‘actively working with all parties in the region’ to end violence that has killed dozens since last week
President Barack Obama suggested Sunday that it was “preferable” that Israel did not launch a ground invasion in Gaza, but stood firm over support of its ally despite mounting Palestinian civilian casualties.
Speaking at the start of a three-day tour of south-east Asia, he reiterated the White House position that rockets fired into Israel by Hamas were the “precipitating event” in the ratcheting up of cross-border conflict.
25 October
US foreign policy ill-served by its election
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
(Other News) The prolonged campaign for the White House shows why the US finds it so difficult to pursue a rational foreign policy in a world of unprecedented complexity. Articulating foreign policy in the heat of an election produces an irresistible temptation to proclaim simplistic remedies to complicated foreign challenges.
Hence the hasty public declarations that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad must go even before a realistic US policy to achieve that goal had been formulated. And hence the deference shown to the fevered pleas of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, for an ultimatum to Iran and the repeated references to the eventual use of US military power, without much consideration for potential regional or even global consequences. Hence, also, the pledge by Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, to announce that on day one of his presidency – without any prior negotiations – he would take punitive steps against China’s “currency manipulations”, irrespective of likely retaliation.
Alas, such a foreign policy – derived from politically expedient, short-term commitments – risks setting in motion dynamics that ultimately lead to international chaos. In particular, the idea that the US could somehow ensure Israel’s future by imposing a new order in the Middle East – through the forceful export of “democracy” to both Syria or Iran – is dangerous daydreaming.
16 October
James Heffernan: Benghazi and Republican Hypocrisy
(HuffPost) Remembering how intelligence was spun in the years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, we might question Biden’s claim that the White House reported “exactly” what intelligence officials told it. But what’s the bone of contention here? It took the White House about one week to get the Benghazi story straight, or about as straight as anyone could in a week. (See Birnbaum’s story again on how hard it is to find the truth in Benghazi.) How long, then, did it take the Bush administration to straighten out its story on Iraq, to admit that there were never any weapons of mass destruction there when we invaded that country and thus launched a war that killed 4,486 American soldiers, plus over 162,00 Iraqis (including well over 100,000 civilians), and will end up costing us well over a trillion dollars? You know the answer all too well.
And in light of that answer, the Republican spin on the Benghazi attack has just set a new record for hypocrisy.
12 October
The Election 2012 Weekly Report: Veeps Week
The Benghazi fallout continues
(Foreign Policy) The Obama administration continued to face criticism this week over its handling of the Sept. 11 attack that killed U.S. Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Contradicting the initial statements made by senior administration officials, the event is now being described as a terrorist attack unrelated to the protests over an anti-Islam video that erupted elsewhere in the Middle East on the same day.
28 September
Tom Engelhardt: Obama against the world
(Al Jazeera Opinion) Obama’s people are focused on the election, but the question is: Will he make it to November 7 and a second term?
… if you want a little horse-race entertainment for the next six weeks, skip the Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia polls, don’t worry about the results of the coming debates, or the court tests on restrictive new voting laws. After all, there’s going to be no better show in town than the acrobatic contortions of the Obama crew as they work to keep global disaster off the menu until November 7. …
But there’s another far less entertaining problem few are thinking about right now. Consider it our problem. The Obama people are understandably focused on the election. Being of a managerial frame of mind, their thoughts don’t tend to run to the long-term anyhow. I doubt they have, at this point, put a second’s consideration into what’s likely to happen, if they manage to keep everything under wraps, six weeks from now – and beyond. It’s not as if war with Iran, disaster in Afghanistan, chaos in the Middle East, a staggering eurozone, a stumbling Chinese economy (in the midst of seaborne saber rattling), rising oil and food prices, climate change, and so much else won’t be as threatening then. None of these are problems, however managed, that are going away anytime soon or are likely in the long run to prove particularly manageable from Washington.
The question for the rest of us is: What the hell happens next? It’s one you better start thinking about because the Obama people, much as they want to rule the roost for four more years, don’t have a clue.
23 September
Egypt’s president wants more independence from US
(AP via NBC) – On the eve of his first visit to the United States as Egypt’s president, Islamist Mohammed Morsi said he will demonstrate more independence from the U.S. in decision-making than his predecessor Hosni Mubarak and told Washington not to expect Egypt to live by its rules.
“Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region,” he told the [New York Times] in the interview published late Saturday, drawing a clear distinction between the American government and the American people. Those administrations “have taken a very clear biased approach against something that (has) very strong emotional ties to the people of the region that is the issue of Palestine.”
He stressed that unlike his predecessor, Mubarak, he will behave “according to the Egyptian people’s choice and will, nothing else.” (NYT) “Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region.
18 September
SECRET VIDEO: On Israel, Romney Trashes Two-State Solution
(Mother Jones) During the freewheeling conversation, a donor asked Romney how the “Palestinian problem” can be solved. Romney immediately launched into a detailed reply, asserting that the Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”
Romney spoke of “the Palestinians” as a united bloc of one mindset, and he said: “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.”
12 September
Tragedy in Libya
…What makes the deaths all the more tragic is that they will inevitably become politicized. On Tuesday, conservative websites were highly critical of a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that came ahead of a protest where demonstrators breached the embassy’s walls in a moment reminiscent of 1979 in Iran. Liz Cheney and the Republican-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee joined in, accusing the administration of issuing an “apology” for a bizarre and mysterious film attacking the Prophet Mohammed that served as a pretext for the protests.
24 August
MJ Rosenberg: American Jews Do Not Put Israel First
(HuffPost) … I think it is “wise” for me and others like me to speak out and say: I’m a Jew and the lobby does not speak for me. I care about Israel but the interests of my own country will always come first. I understand that the interests of the United States and Israel are not identical and, when they conflict, my default position is to stand with my president not Israel’s prime minister. (Lobby activists never criticize Israeli prime minister, but only the U.S. president, whether Democratic or Republican, when the two countries diverge.)
10 Foreign-Policy Flashpoints in the GOP Platform
The Republicans will present a united front at the convention, but divisive issues are bubbling below the surface.
(Foreign Policy) What are the most notable takeaways from this year’s platform-drafting process, beyond one eagle-eyed delegate requesting that a reference to “Czechoslovakia,” which ceased to exist in 1993, be changed to the “Czech Republic?” Here’s a deeper look at what one committee member has called the “most conservative platform in modern history.”
8 August
Dr. Charles Cogan: Romney, the ‘Hand of Providence,’ and Israel
(HuffPost) Culture is an elusive and elastic concept. It can lead outside observers, who may not know much about the region, to make missteps when they venture there. Mitt Romney, apart from having recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in contradiction with U.S. official policy that does not — pending negotiations between the parties — has held that culture is the reason that the Israelis are so much more developed economically than their neighbors across the Jordan River, the Palestinians. (Not surprisingly, Palestinian public opinion in the occupied West Bank and elsewhere was offended.) … While we can join with Mr. Romney, who comes from a particularist culture himself, in admiring the special qualities of the Jewish people, we need not go as far as to suggest that the “hand of Providence” has brought about the success of the state of Israel… if for no other reason that we just don’t know!
Thomas Wright: Outlaw of the Sea
(Foreign Affairs) Recently, a group of 34 legislators promised to vote against the UN Convention on the Law of The Seas, ensuring that the bill will not be ratified. Their move will make it harder for the United States to continue to build up a rules-based order in the South China Sea. It could also spell the end of treaties as a tool of U.S. national security policy
When U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), both vice presidential hopefuls, recently declared their opposition to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, they virtually guaranteed that it would be dead on arrival if it were sent to the Senate. A group of 34 senators, including Ayotte and Portman and led by Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), is now on the record promising to vote against UNCLOS, which is enough to make getting the two-thirds majority necessary for ratification impossible.
UNCLOS was first negotiated 30 years ago. But back then, U.S. President Ronald Reagan objected to it because, he argued, it would jeopardize U.S. national and business interests, most notably with respect to seabed mining. A major renegotiation in 1994 addressed his concerns, and the United States signed. Now, the U.S. Navy and business community are among UNCLOS’ strongest supporters. So, too, was the George W. Bush administration, which tried to get the treaty ratified in 2007 but failed due to Republican opposition in the Senate.
7 August
Making Friends with Friends
Mitt Romney, Charles Krauthammer, and conservative pundits are plain wrong: Barack Obama hasn’t lost Europe. That was his predecessor’s doing.
(Foreign Policy) In recent weeks, some foreign-policy commentary — associated mainly with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s trip to Britain and Poland — has asserted that America’s ties with Europe have been undermined during the last four years by President Barack Obama and his administration. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer made a particularly absurd claim last week that the Obama administration had shifted its missile defense plans in Europe to “appease Russia” and surmised that Romney had made great strides in repairing this damaged realm of U.S. policy. This is part of a broader political assertion that the United States has turned its back on its allies in Europe — and it is wrong
6 August
Obama: real actions, not bluster, in support of Israel
By Edgar M. Bronfman
(Haaretz) Obama has not adopted the swagger and bravado of his predecessors in terms of his support for Israel – he has simply done it. His practical and deliberate support for Israel make redundant the verbal attacks and innuendos about him spread by his opponents.
4 August
David T. Jones: Don’t make too much of Romney’s pronouncements on Jerusalem
(Ottawa Citizen) … the UN Security Council condemned the 1980 Israeli annexation claim and called on countries to withdraw embassies from Jerusalem; currently, no state has an embassy in Jerusalem.
The consequence has been a tortured political regime with existential disconnects between political bravado and substantive diplomatic action. Such has been blatantly obvious in the United States (particularly during election years) when efforts to cement (or secure) Jewish support and financial contribution have driven the political rhetoric of contending politicians. …
(On a personal note, in 1984 I was involved with formulating and explaining the foreign policy positions of a presidential candidate. Urging the candidate not to endorse moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, I thought I’d won the point of adhering to UN resolutions. However, when the candidate endorsed a platform calling for embassy relocation instead, I was told privately that potential campaign contributions were defining.)
Were the United States a parliamentary government, such platform commitments might have been meaningful; however, U.S. political party platforms are ignored even before they are written and are no more guidance for future action than the Dead Sea scrolls. In 1995 Congress passed a law requiring embassy relocation to Jerusalem by 1999 — but with a loophole permitting the president to defer such transfer for six months. And, unsurprisingly, every six months embassy transfer has been deferred.
3 August
Salami Slicing in the South China Sea
(Foreign Policy)Although seemingly a distant player in the drama, the stakes for the United States are high. Both the global and U.S. economies depend on freedom of navigation through the sea; $5.3 trillion of global trade passes through the South China Sea each year, $1.2 trillion of which passes through U.S. ports. Second, the United States has a strong interest in preventing any power from unilaterally rewriting well-established international maritime law to its liking. Finally, the credibility of the U.S. alliance system and its reliability as a security partner will be at stake.
1 August
Reckless Romney
Mitt’s world tour revealed more than his gaffes.
His foreign-policy ideas are actually quite scary.
(Slate) … in comparing Romney’s foreign policy to Obama’s, a more accurate formulation might be: They’re the same, except when Romney’s is more reckless or mysterious. Not a good bumper sticker.
31 July
Nothing startling, but a timely reminder
The Election, the Presidency and Foreign Policy
(Stratfor) The world shapes U.S. foreign policy. The more active the world, the fewer choices presidents have and the smaller those choices are. Obama has sought to create a space where the United States can disengage from active balancing. Doing so falls within his constitutional powers, and thus far has been politically possible, too. But whether the international system would allow him to continue along this path should he be re-elected is open to question. Jimmy Carter had a similar vision, but the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan wrecked it. George W. Bush saw his opposition to nation-building wrecked by 9/11, and had his presidency crushed under the weight of the main thing he wanted to avoid.
Presidents make history, but not on their own terms. They are constrained and harried on all sides by reality. In selecting a president, it is important to remember that candidates will say what they need to say to be elected, but even when they say what they mean, they will not necessarily be able to pursue their goals. The choice to do so simply isn’t up to them. There are two fairly clear foreign policy outlooks in this election. The degree to which the winner matters, however, is unclear, though knowing the inclinations of presidential candidates regardless of their ability to pursue them has some value.
Romney Flops in Europe
(Spiegel) He’s only been abroad for a week, but the Palestinians are accusing him of racism, the Brits are annoyed and Polish union leaders don’t like him. Mitt Romney’s trip to Europe and the Middle East has been marred by one fumble after the next.
(Slate) We Will Always Have Poland — Why did Romney choose Poland for his overseas tour?
27 July
(Slate) Romney’s World: Mitt’s insults, mistakes, and blunders abroad aren’t gaffes. They actually represent his true worldview.
In London, Romney faces an Olympic marathon of errors
(Globe & Mail) A brief foreign tour is usually supposed to help U.S. presidential candidates bolster their foreign-policy credentials and show off their diplomatic skills. (25/7)
But then there’s Mitt Romney.
25 July
The Candidates Talk Foreign Policy
(NYT editorial) In a speech about foreign affairs, Mitt Romney had the chance to show that he could be a better international leader than President Obama. He fell far short.
18 July
U.S.: Republicans Sink Law of the Sea Ratification for Now
(IPS) – Defying the wishes of both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Navy, Republican senators have effectively halted – for now – an effort by the administration of President Barack Obama to gain ratification of the 30-year-old Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).
The product of some 15 years of negotiations, LOST, which has been ratified by 161 countries and the European Union, sets rules governing most areas of ocean policy, including navigation and over- flight rights, exploitation of the seabed, conservation and research. … , a growing number of [Republicans] have argued that international treaties unduly constrain Washington’s freedom of action in the world and threaten its sovereignty.
9 July
Everywhere Is America: Scenes from a Mali Mystery
(Esquire) Mali is a mess. It was a democracy for 20 years, and then, shortly before the last presidential election, the military took over the government:
Naturally, the newly installed dictator learned a lot of his soldiering over here, at Fort Benning, as part of a program that also included our pouring a few billion into Mali for the purposes of fighting “an al Qaeda offshoot” in the north of the country. The coup, by all accounts, was almost an accident.
21 June
What to Do About Pakistan

With an “ally” in a state of perpetual dysfunction, it’s time for Washington to reconsider its options: containment or benign neglect.
(Foreign Policy) The last year and a half has been a rocky road for U.S.-Pakistan relations — and once again, domestic and foreign policy developments seem ever more perilous. The year 2011 opened with the cold-blooded assassination of the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, by a fanatic who denounced him as a blasphemer. Americans watched aghast as Pakistan’s elite failed to defend Taseer, while many Pakistanis praised the assassin. Shortly thereafter, U.S.-Pakistan relations convulsed when two ISI ruffians confronted a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis. Davis shot the men dead. No sooner had the two “allies” managed to weather that crisis than the United States conducted a unilateral raid to kill Osama bin Laden, who was ensconced in the cantonment town of Abbottabad, near Pakistan’s acclaimed military academy. Before relations could thaw, an accidental raid on Pakistani troops at the Salala checkpost in November killed 24. The United States steadfastly refused to apologize publicly. Pakistan retaliated by shutting down all ground supply routes into Afghanistan. And this is where we find ourselves today.
19 June
Obama Invites Mexico To Join Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Talks
(HuffPost) President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday formally invited Mexico to join controversial free trade negotiations known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, reinforcing consumer and environmental group concerns that the deal may establish broad new powers for corporations.
The invitation comes less than one week after a leaked U.S. document sparked an uproar because it proposed terms that would grant corporations the ability to bypass U.S. public interest laws and regulations in courts here and appeal directly to international tribunals. U.S. advocacy groups and some members of Congress have criticized the U.S. proposals.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has spoken favorably of NAFTA and other U.S. trade pacts, and has urged Obama to sign the Trans-Pacific deal quickly. [Emphasis added]
3 June
Access to Pacific harbors key to U.S. strategy: Panetta
(Reuters) – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited a deep-water Vietnamese port near the contested South China Sea on Sunday, calling access to such harbors critical as the U.S. shifts 60 percent of its warships to the Asia-Pacific by 2020.
14 May
U.S. Interests in Asia
by John McCain,
Text of speech:
Reviewed by David T. Jones in American Diplomat
In a presentation to Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies on May 14, Senator John McCain offered a sophisticated tour d’horizon on Asia and U.S. interests in the region.
Underlying his commentary, McCain expressed deep concerned over U.S. citizens’ lack of faith in government—an attitude also affecting foreign observers, prompting them to question our commitments and ability to implement them.
McCain offered two “givens” regarding China: we want its continued peaceful development and “reject the notion that America wants to contain China…”
23 April
Michael Spence: Reinventing the Sino-American Relationship
(Project Syndicate) Both sides can and should gain from forging a new relationship that reflects evolving structural realities: China’s growth and size relative to the US; rapid technological change, which automates processes and displaces jobs; and the evolution of global supply chains, driven by developing countries’ rising incomes. But first they must acknowledge that the old pattern of mutually beneficial interdependence really has run its course, and that a new model is needed.
13 April
Ms. Rousseff Goes to the White House
(Salon.com) Barack Obama recently visited with current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. President Obama didn’t receive her, however, with the kind of pomp and circumstance, that has been given to nations like Indian and China. President Rousseff only met with Obama in a brief meeting, she did not receive a state dinner, and Obama spent most of the day rolling Easter eggs on the South Lawn.
… Could it be that Brazil has advocated for the cause of Palestinian statehood, that it has traditionally had amicable relations with Iran, that it is a member of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), or that it has pressured the US to include Cuba in the meetings of the OAS (Organization of American States)? Indeed, Brazil is currently involved in an $800 million modernization project of the western harbor of Havana.
19 March
Al-Qaida documents show Obama was right about targeting Islam, and Gingrich and Santorum were wrong.
(Slate) Two years ago, President Obama changed the way the U.S. government talked about its conflict with Osama Bin Laden. The administration announced that we were at war not with “jihadists,” “Islamists,” or even “terror.” Instead, our enemy was al-Qaida, and al-Qaida’s Muslim victims were our friends. Republicans denounced this reframing of the war as a capitulation to radical Islam and political correctness. …
Obama and Brennan were right. So was George W. Bush in his steadfast refusal to blame Islam for 9/11. Bin Laden wanted a religious war. Bush and Obama refused to let him have it. At the end of his life, isolated by left-wing drone strikes and marked for death by PC commandos, this was Bin Laden’s chief lament. And that, Sen. Santorum, is why you don’t call it a war on radical Islam: because choosing your words carefully is part of winning the war.
5 March
U.S., Israel Pull Closer on Iran
After Leaders Meet, U.S. Believes Pressure Eases on Netanyahu to Launch Attack
(WSJ) Israeli officials, meanwhile, said that President Barack Obama’s public and private acknowledgment of the Jewish state’s sovereign right to defend itself was a crucial gain as the two countries seek to deter Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also praised Mr. Obama’s stated willingness in recent days to use U.S. military might to counter Iran.
3 March
Dr. Charles Cogan: Turning the Tables On Netanyahu
(HuffPost) In one sense, it is gratifying to see an under-leveraged Benjamin Netanyahu return to Washington to plead the case for U.S. help in an Israeli attack on Iran. After twice flouting the president of the United States … Netanyahu has returned to a position of supplicant.
15 February
Xi’s Tour Won’t Fix the U.S.-Chinese ‘Trust Deficit’
Elizabeth Economy
(Foreign Affairs) Before Xi’s visit to the United States, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Cui Tiankai, bemoaned the two countries’ “trust deficit” and suggested that they give full attention to fixing it. He’s right about the problem, but in any relationship, trust is only built over time. It requires clarity of intention, predictability of action, and a willingness to give before taking. And all that is sorely lacking between Washington and China.
U.S. officials greet China’s heir apparent with tough trade talk
(Foreign Policy Morning Brief) As Xi Jinping, China’s vice president and leader-in-waiting, made his rounds in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, U.S. leaders focused on one issue in particular: trade. Vice President Joe Biden raised concerns about intellectual property theft and China’s currency, noting that cooperation “can only be mutually beneficial if the game is fair.” President Obama expressed a similar desire for everybody to play “by the same rules of the road.” Senator John Kerry pledged to tell Xi the story of an American company whose technology was sold to China.
7 February
U.S. Jews Should Heed Top Israeli Soldiers Who Oppose Bombing Iran
(The Daily Beast) Some of Israel’s leading soldiers and spies are warning against bombing Iran. American Jews should listen to them rather than accept Netanyahu’s apocalyptic claim that Tehran’s nuclear program is an existential threat to the state. Plus, Niall Ferguson rejects the arguments against attacking Iran.
1 February
Dr. Charles G. Cogan: Does Obama Have Baraka?
(HuffPost) Baraka is a prized quality in the leaders of the world. The late King Hassan II of Morocco seemed to possess it, having survived two assassination attempts … In foreign policy, Barack Obama seems to be edging into this category.
19 January
Obama names his world leader best buddies!
(Foreign Policy) in an interview with Time’s Fareed Zakaria, Obama named his international BFFs and the surprising list includes: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
12 January
Dr. Charles Cogan: Not Another War, Please!
(HuffPost) The rhetoric toward war is increasing between the United States and Iran. The prospect of further sanctions against Iran, coupled with the Iranian promise that, if this happens, Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz, has upped the ante. American troops are out of Iraq, which frees up a least some American troops. Since the U.S. has gone from Iraq, and since Iraq has no air force, Israel now has more or less a straight shot at the Iranian target.
Apart from the question, never asked and never answered, as to why Iran cannot have nuclear weapons while India and Pakistan can, there is the lassitude that has set in over the successive wars in Afghanistan — which has lasted much too long — and Iraq — which has been essentially fruitless. A new war is certainly to be avoided, if possible.
12 January
Is anyone paying attention to foreign policy?
A newly released Gallup poll asks Americans, “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” “Foreign aid” and “international issues” received 2 percent each, compared with 31 percent for the economy in general and 26 percent for unemployment. The relative indifference to foreign policy could be bad news for Obama, who receives much higher ratings for his handling of international affairs than domestic matters.


28 November
Pakistan PM: No more “business as usual” with U.S.
(Reuters) Pakistan’s prime minister ruled out “business as usual” with the United States on Monday after a NATO attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and the army threatened to curtail cooperation over the war in Afghanistan.
19 November
The omission of any direct reference to China in President Obama’s speech to the Australian parliament speaks volumes.
(The Mark) Much of the speech sought to reassure China’s neighbours about America’s commitment to regional security in the face of rising Chinese power. The rest of the speech addressed several other hot button issues in U.S.-China relations. For example, the president emphasized the need to ensure that “commerce and freedom of navigation are not impeded” and that “countries with large surpluses take action to boost demand at home.” He called for a “level playing field” for business in which “every nation plays by the rules” and “intellectual property and new technologies that fuel innovation are protected; and where currencies are market driven so no nation has an unfair advantage.” Moreover, he spoke strongly about upholding human rights – and workers’ rights, in particular. These messages were clearly intended mainly for China.
18 November
With Us or (Mostly) Against Us
(Foreign Policy) The Republican presidential hopefuls have a pretty clear idea of who they think America’s enemies are. But what about its friends?
17 November
Obama in Asia
(Foreign Policy) The president is touring the Pacific this week, with stops in Hawaii, Australia, and Indonesia. On his trip, Obama is promoting a new base for U.S. Marines in Australia and a new Pacific Rim free trade agreement, both initiatives likely aimed at responding to an emergent Chinese military and economic threat. The president’s comments abroad have made their way into the campaign as well. The president noted in an interview in Hawaii that the U.S. government had been “a little bit lazy … over the last couple of decades” in promoting the United States as a destination for international investment.
12 November
Obama Says Leaders Agree on Outline for Pacific Trade Accord
(Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama said the U.S. and eight other Pacific nations have agreed on the outlines of a free trade accord and negotiations to work out the details will get underway this year.
Obama spoke today in Honolulu after meeting with leaders from countries in talks with the U.S. to form a Trans-Pacific Partnership that would expand trade in the region.
‘Israel’s advocate’ to leave White House
(Al Jazeera) Dennis Ross, Obama’s strongly pro-Israel Middle East aide, will leave his post for a position in pro-Israel think tank.
11 November
Trans-Pacific Trade Deal Could Revolutionize Commerce: View
(Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama travels to Honolulu this weekend to meet with the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation bloc. The president hopes to advance a trade deal few know about but that could shape the future of U.S. commercial relations overall, and with fast-growing Asia in particular. It also offers the U.S. a chance to pivot from austerity politics to economic revival.
Obama hopes to do all that through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal now being negotiated that would unite the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam in a single free-trade community. TPP would lower tariffs and other trade barriers among the nine countries. The U.S. hopes the promise of open access will entice Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and others to join and eventually extend the free-trade zone throughout the Pacific Rim.
3 November
The UNESCO cuts: What’s next on the U.S. chopping block?
(FP) The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has admitted the Palestinians as a full member, prompting the Obama administration to impose millions of dollars in congressionally mandated cuts. Meanwhile, the Palestinian U.N. envoy in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, said the Palestinians were now studying the prospects of joining 16 other U.N. agencies, raising the possibility of further U.S. funding cuts.
Last year, the U.S spent $7.6 billion on U.N. related activities. Most of that money — more than $6 billion — went to pay the U.N. secretariat’s administrative costs, and to fund peacekeeping, humanitarian relief work, health care, and refugee services. None of those funds will be threatened by U.S. legislation, passed in the early 1990s, that prohibits the United States from funding U.N. agencies that admit Palestine as a member state. The reason is that these big-ticket items fall under the purview of the U.N. General Assembly or the U.N. Secretariat — and the United States has the power to block any Palestinian quest for membership in those bodies.
Ironically, the $238 million contribution to the U.N. Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) — which provides assistance to millions of Palestinians refuges settled throughout the Middle East, is likely to be untouched by the congressionally mandated cuts, because UNRWA is not a membership-based organization, and the Palestinians can’t join it.
31 October
Russia: Rebuilding an Empire While It Can
(Stratfor) U.S.-Russian relations seem to have been relatively quiet recently, as there are numerous contradictory views in Washington about the true nature of Russia’s current foreign policy. Doubts remain about the sincerity of the U.S. State Department’s so-called “reset” of relations with Russia … The concern is whether the “reset” is truly a shift in relations between the two former adversaries or simply a respite before relations deteriorate again.
The reset actually had little to do with the United States wanting Russia as a friend and ally. Rather, Washington wanted to create room to handle other situations — mainly Afghanistan and Iran — and ask Russia for help.
25 October
Did the idea of a legal war die along with Muammar al-Qaddafi?
(FP) When he was elected, Obama promised an America that, in a sharp break from its very recent past, would lead by example and reinvigorate its respect for the rule of law, both at home and on the international stage. Obama’s conduct of the war in Libya points to a White House that is perhaps more cautious than its immediate predecessor in foreign military exploits, but just as assertive in the area of executive prerogative.
24 October
‘Obama doctrine’ begins to take shape
Foreign analysts say the approach underlines a form of high-tech, low-budget and politically astute intervention that maximises the influence of the US
19 October
Does Obama understand what’s been unleashed?
(Al Jazeera) In response to an alleged assassination plot, Washington plans to impose even tougher sanctions on Iran.
12 October
Twilight of the Wise Man: The 2012 election may well mark the last gasp of the Republican foreign-policy establishment. But what’s more remarkable is that it lasted as long as it did.
House committee approves bill to cut UN funding
By a party line vote of 23-15, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a measure sponsored by committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., to cut U.S. funding for the United Nations by 50% if the world body does not shift over to permitting voluntary contributions. Proposed legislation would also see the U.S. withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council and disengage from any UN body that endorses a change in status for Palestinians. Polling released by the Better World Campaign indicates that large majorities of Americans want the U.S. to be active at the UN and want the U.S. to pay its dues. United Nations Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth said, “This polling once again shows that Americans do not want to see the United States go back into debt at the United Nations.” Inter Press Service (10/13), The Washington Post/The Associated Press (10/13)
Clinton would recommend a veto of Ros-Lehtinen’s bill
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that she would recommend that President Barack Obama veto legislation proposed by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to change the way the U.S. contributes to the United Nations. In a letter, Clinton said the bill would curtail U.S. participation in the world body, damage long-standing treaty commitments and jeopardize troop safety overseas. ForeignPolicy.com/The Cable blog (10/12), The Hill/Floor Action Blog (10/12)
6 October
Does Israel Actually Want the U.S. to Defund the UN?
Some Israel supporters are calling for the U.S. to disengage from the United Nations, but this would actually harm Israel’s interests — and go against the wishes of its diplomats
(The Atlantic) According to multiple sources in the State Department and the U.S. mission to the United Nations, as well as Israeli officials, Israel continually asks the U.S. to remain engaged at the UN — and often to ramp up its engagement. “Every time an Israeli diplomat comes to meet with us, they thank us for being so involved on their behalf at the UN — particularly places like the Human Rights Council,” one high-level State department official told me. As to the recent anti-UN campaign by self-described “pro-Israel” groups and individuals, he said, “Israel is not thrilled this is happening.”
Afghanistan and the Future of U.S. Foreign Policy
(Foreign Policy) What is true in Afghanistan is increasingly true throughout the world. U.S. military strategy reinforces sovereignty by partnering with nearly every military in the world. Over the last decade, the American security assistance program expanded from about 50 to 150 countries. Funded through the Department of State, security assistance is implemented by the Department of Defense. This type of assistance includes bringing foreign officers to the United States to teach them how to pilot helicopters, to helping countries control their maritime space by providing ships and training.
In contrast to the Cold War, when countering a “peer competitor” in the Soviet Union was the fundamental organizing principle of the international system, “weak states” preoccupy strategic thinkers today. The 2011 National Military Strategy of the United States underscored this by noting, “In this interdependent world, the enduring interests of the United States are increasingly tied to those of other state and non-state actors.” This preoccupation with weak or failing states is one of the enduring impacts of the last decade.
Showdown looms over Palestinian UNESCO bid
The executive board of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on Wednesday granted initial approval of a bid by Palestinians for full membership in the organization, setting the stage for a vote later this month — and a showdown with the U.S., which opposes the Palestinian initiative. Current U.S. law could mandate a stoppage of all dues and voluntary contributions to UNESCO — accounting for some 22% of its budget — if the Palestinian effort ultimately is successful. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (10/5), Bloomberg Businessweek (10/6)
U.S. bill would trim $50 million from UNFPA
Conservative lawmakers took aim at the United Nations Population Fund in a bill that would eliminate the $50 million budget request made by U.S. President Barack Obama for the agency. Republicans who backed the bill in the Foreign Affairs Committee said they were upset by UNFPA’s work in China, which maintains a policy limiting the number of children each family can have, and said the UN agency was complicit in forced sterilizations and abortions. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Howard Berman of California, said, “Don’t hold the UN culpable for what a sovereign country does, as obnoxious as it is.” The Washington Post/The Associated Press (10/5)
2 October
Dr. Charles Cogan: A Glaring Omission in Obama’s UN Speech
In the aftermath of the President’s speech and the threatened U.S. veto of a Palestinian state in the United Nations Security Council, U.S. credibility in the Middle East is now at its nadir. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser, had this to say on Bloomberg Television over the past weekend:
If the [Israeli-Palestinian] issue continues to fester, the Middle East will become more anti-American. We are in the process of being pushed out of the role as a power broker in the region, and eventually Israel is going to be fatally threatened if peace is not achieved.
13 May
George Mitchell resigns as US envoy to Middle East – He has shuttled between the Israelis and Palestinians trying to bring the two sides together for peace talks.

5 Comments on "U.S. Foreign Relations in 2011-12"

  1. HERVE February 14, 2011 at 6:26 am ·

    I would recommend two books :
    America’s Nazi Secret by John Loftus [Editor’s note: for a good book review]
    A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West by Ian Johnson
    Both authors have their internet site.
    The first book gives lot of information about Frank Wisner Sr and the OPC. The following letter is very interesting :
    The second book mentions frank Wisner Sr and is mostly about the introduction of islamism in the occident.

  2. An informed observer February 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm ·

    The opinion piece by Mr. Hart is spot on. For decades, unconditional support for Israel over all other countries in the Mideast was premised on the argument it was the oasis of democracy in the desert of Mideast tyranny. It was a convenient oversimplification that certain Israeli interest groups in the West, as well as the Israeli government itself, used to demand unconditional support – even as Israel committed what several UN agencies and the ICC have deemed flagrant violations of international laws and conventions. Criticism of Israeli policies and actions, from small groups/agencies such as KAIROS and Rights&Democracy to the UN and ICC, was simply dismissed as ‘anti-Semitic’ (a term I am not fond of, if only for if it’s misuse of the term ‘Semitic’).
    These same Israeli interest groups would influence Western foreign policy through political action committees, seeking to silence any criticism, dissent or calls for collective actions such as boycotts. In many Western countries, ‘Friends of Israel’ groups were organised for the express purpose of lobbying their respective governments on behalf of Israel. And they would do so openly: We have them in Canada (Liberal Friends of Israel, parliamentary Friends of Israel). Where was CSIS? It recently took a turn for the absurd in Montreal when federal MPs were dispatched to silence Israel boycott demonstrators at a local shoe store.
    The events of the late 60’s led to economic crises in the 70’s and 80’s, Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment in the 90’s and the eventual economic failure that led to these protests and the end of the regime.
    Suffice to say (I believe) the history of Egypt’s conflicts with Israel played a significant role in the ultimate unravelling of Egypt’s revolutionary regime. This will likely lead to a weakening of Israel’s position in the Mideast as Western governments re-evaluate their Mideast policies going forward. A case of ‘what goes around comes around’ I suppose.
    Just for clarification, support for Israel in and of itself was never the problem; it was the unconditional [emphasis added] support of Israel, irrespective of whether its policies or actions merited it, the political/social/economic consequences for the rest of the region, or the impact on multilateral/international agreements and institutions, that was the problem.

  3. Guy Stanley October 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm ·

    Re: Twilight of the Wise Man
    The ability of the US to maintain a more or less constant line vis à vis the USSR after World War II seems in retrospect an amazing achievement. The list mentioned is quite remarkable and as the author notes, could have been longer. Was Kissinger a great Secretary of State? The other historical person people ask that about is Anthony Eden–was he a great foreign secretary? Perhaps the failures of the latter help explain the failures of the former. A more comprehensive treatment of bipartisanship in those days might also focus on the Chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, especially Fulbright,a Dem of course -but Arthur Vandenburgh was also a strong promoter of a bipartisan foreign policy–and then there were some outstanding House speakers as well, including Sam Rayburn–another Dem– and Joe Martin, one of the last Republican congressmen from Massachusetts (!), Rayburn’s mentorship of LBJ is well known. Joe Martin was also a friend of both men. Very difficult to imagine the Tea Party in such a lineup. It was also he who invited MacArthur to address Congress in what turned out to be the ‘old soldiers never die’ speech…Wonder what kind of speech McCrystal would have delivered..

  4. Diana Thébaud Nicholson November 2, 2011 at 11:01 am ·

    Re U.S. defunding of UNESCO
    Matt Gurney of the National Post reminds us that “For the Americans, the decision to defund was automatic. Thanks to Clinton-era laws that automatically strip any UN agency that recognizes Palestine of funds, as soon as UNESCO announced its decision the State Department had spokespeople in front of cameras telling UNESCO to not expect that next cheque. The State Department regrets having to defund UNESCO, they were clear, but believe that Palestinian efforts to gain recognition through the UN’s agencies is unhelpful in achieving peace in the Middle East.”

  5. Retired U.S. diplomat September 16, 2012 at 6:17 pm ·

    Frankly, I think that Steyn has hit the mark. … As well as the dragged through the streets photos of the ambassador’s body, there are Internet reports that he was sodomized before being murdered. If these are true, they absolutely need to be publicized. Knowing the true nature of an enemy is vital; we seem to be mesmerized by a turn-the-other-cheek policy with a soft-answer-turneth-away-wrath rhetoric.
    I believe that we need to become really angry. Across the globe we are encountering mindless mobs–they cannot be talked to or argued with. Force or surrender/escape are the only alternatives. I believe they view the USA with contempt–not fear. It was several administrations ago that one USG official (probably quoting some nameless Roman) said along the lines, “I don’t care if they hate us; just as long as they respect us.”

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