In three years President Barack Obama will be gone and hopefully replaced by a Republican President. Among the biggest messes that person will have to clean up is the foreign policy horror show of this administration. Putting one major cart before the horse, I will attempt to figure out how the next president should approach foreign policy in a post-Obama world.
First it has to be said that the United States is weaker and more isolated in the world than it has ever been. Everywhere, you see it. Terrorism is on the rise in South America and in Africa in places like Mali and in Kenya.
Because of the wish of federalists in the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that the America has ably led is weaker than it’s ever been (see Ukraine).
And in Asia, the troubles might dwarf everything else. China is menacing neighbors over parts of the East China Sea and islands in that region. At the same time North Korea continues to rattle sabers and develop nuclear weapons. China, which could lift a finger and deal with this problem, will not do so. And now Japan is militarizing and while that is understandable, that is only going to make everyone in the Asian sphere nervous.
As for the Middle East? The deal in Syria essentially turned that region over to Russia. And other countries in the region have taken notice as Egypt has done. And thanks to the obsession of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry with establishing a Palestinian state, Israel is right to wonder if they are alone in the world now.
So what should the next Republican President do? First it’s time to stop looking to the United Nations to try to rally the world community. As long as Russia and China have vetoes, nearly any initiative we push forward in that body will fail. And while we need to remain in the UN to keep our veto, it’s time for this country to recognize that it’s a failing and anachronistic organization.
So how do we deal with the problems that will arise in the world? It’s time to deal with regional organizations. And while it wasn’t perfect, we’ve already had an example of that cooperation with the African Union during the troubles in South Sudan. Now, dealing with regional organizations like the Organization of American States, the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization or even the Arab League can mean dealing with some nasty characters. But it’s at that level that this country can exert influence.
Specifically we need a re-ordering of priorities. A pullback in the Middle East is necessary. We have two key issues in that region now. The first is stopping Iran’s nuclear program (if they don’t have the bomb by the time we elect a new president). The second is the preservation of Israel. There is no reason to have American military personnel in Saudi Arabia. First, that country is more hostile to us because of our lack of action in Syria to help the rebels fighting Assad. Second, our presence there buttresses a terrible regime that does not deserve our protection. Third, one of the provocations that terrorists cite for their war against us is the fact that American soldiers were in Saudi Arabia, sacred land in the Muslim religion. Leaving won’t end the War on Terror but it will remove that complaint and that’s important in the ongoing war for the hearts and minds of persuadable Arabs in the Middle East.
In Asia, it’s time to have more of a naval presence (and I mean aircraft carriers) in that theater, no matter how China feels about it. Doing that may slow the process of Japan’s militarization; because while it is difficult for the USA to continue providing defense for our ally because of the state of our fiscal situation, a revved up Japanese military makes peace more tenuous. And given China’s unwillingness to control Kim Jong Un who is a live hand grenade in that region, it’s time to support the Philippines, Japan, and anyone else in disputes over territory in that region. Another way to pressurize China (and Pakistan) is to start a dialogue with India over establishing closer ties.
In Central and South America, Hugo Chavez is no more, Venezuela is in open rebellion against his successor, and the seeds of revolution he planted in other are starting to unravel. A strong America has to take advantage of this. And the best way to do that is trade and encouragement of movements against pro Chavez/Castro governments. Also, where we can, we have to cooperate with governments to root out al-Qaeda in those countries. This sphere of the world is where the USA should have major influence, and it’s one that has to become a major focus.
The other region that needs a major focus is Africa. Because of the goodwill created by President George W. Bush’s efforts to help fight AIDS in that continent, Africa is a place where the USA can and should wield a lot of influence. Trade, especially selling cheap energy, is one of the fundamental things that American needs to do. This country more than any other, can help these economies modernize. Improving these economies can equal less poverty and less of an opportunity for al-Qaeda to convert people to their cause. And where we find friendly governments willing to fight terrorism we must help them.
One of the things that underpin my view about foreign policy after Obama is that energy is a weapon. Often on Foreign Matters (Thursdays, 9 p.m.) we’ve discussed this and how the sheikhs in the Middle East and Vladimir Putin’s Russia understand this. Energy can be used to control other countries, or it can be used to liberate them. The new President must, on Day One, do whatever he can to turn loose America’s ability to develop our oil, natural gas and coal resources. If we do, not only can exert downward pressure on the price of oil internationally (crippling Russia’s economy and hurting those oil sheikhs who have funneled money to terrorists for so many years), we can export oil to these countries so they don’t have to get them from the Middle East, Russia or Venezuela.
It’s also necessary to get our fiscal house in order. A $17 trillion debt has rendered the United States’ ability to project power in the world nearly null and void. And as we’ve seen in the world, the absence of American leadership leads to trouble and chaos. We might not like being the world’s policeman but there is no one else. It has to be us, because if we don’t do it, as surely as history shows us, the evil that festers will redound to these shores.
Finally the State Department needs a major overhaul. Mainly the department is full of people who often pursue their own agenda (and usually it’s in favor global governance and international organizations) instead of America’s agenda. Too many people in that department don’t put America’s interests first. There is only one man that can deal with this. That man is former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. If there is anyone that can get rid of these careerists that don’t care about the USA’s power or position in the world, it’s Bolton. And this is close to non-negotiable for me when looking at who I will support in the next Republican primary. The state department can’t carry on the way it has since Ronald Reagan was president.
Beyond wishing for a Republican victory and a different approach to oil exploration and production, there is one other major thing that will make anything I’ve discussed here possible. That it doesn’t get much worse in the next three years under President Obama. And that’s the real problem, you haven’t lost too often betting that the President will make something worse.