Obama has given US foreign policy something it sorely lacked–intellectual clarityby Robert Fry / December 31, 2015 / Leave a comment
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Peace talks on Syria, backed by the UN, will begin in January and the process, which will culminate in elections, will be completed within 18 months. Syria will therefore be unfinished foreign policy business when President Obama leaves the White House in early 2017.
To many it has been a domestic issue presidency and a sharp contrast to the belligerent unilateralism that preceded it. But there is an Obama world view. His handling of the Syrian war has revealed it.
Throughout the wars of 9/11, the United States has deployed four armies. The first was named after Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defence Caspar Weinberger. The Powell/Weinberger army was a legacy of the first Gulf War and operated to a doctrine of overwhelming force, international endorsement and a clear exit strategy. It was the instrument of a nation at the height of its powers, contemplating a world it understood and dominated. In the event, it never went to war.
Never one for established orthodoxies, Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defence, immediately looked for a different response to 9/11. Instead of the measured deliberation of Powell/Weinberger, he created a second, light touch, army for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It consisted of limited ground forces, overwhelming air power, a client infantry founded by the Afghan Northern Alliance and an urbane and compliant (at least then) politician in Hamid Karzai. Al-Qaeda was evicted from Afghanistan and the Taliban scattered back to its villages or across the border into Pakistan. For a brief time, America was convinced it had found the philosopher’s stone of intervention and employed the same techniques in Iraq.
Afghanistan has always been a strong society but a weak state; Iraq, since its inception, has been a strong state but a weak society. This is not a complete explanation of US failure in Iraq, but,…