In business, it would be called “on spec” how Europe, already in 2009, shortly after being elected and ahead of any major foreign policy decisions, awarded President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. In doing so, “Europa got the kind of transnational American president it wanted,” The Wall Street Journal recently noted in a commentary. After almost eight years of Obama foreign policy, one, however, must wonder how much regret the selection committee may now experience about its decision.
It was President Obama, himself, who after his election made the point that “elections do have consequences.” While his comment was made about domestic politics, U.S. presidential elections, of course, always also have worldwide consequences. It now appears that the awarding of Nobel Peace Prizes “on spec” may also have (unforeseen) consequences.
In Obama, the country elected not only the least qualified and least informed president in foreign affairs in recent memory but, in addition, also an individual whose very limited knowledge of world history had been formed based on extremist anti-colonial and anti-imperialistic indoctrination from childhood. Under this worldview, the U.S. and most of the Western White World were the bad boys of history, while the mostly brown and black Third World, as victims of Capitalism, Colonialism and Imperialism, were the good guys.
Removing Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office, therefore, became a very symbolic first foreign policy act the new president took after moving into the White House, since Churchill, of course, represented British Colonialism at its best, which Obama’s father, Barak Obama, Sr., had so valiantly fought in his home country Kenya. That this world view would affect all of Obama’s foreign policy decisions, therefore, was not only predictable but, simply for psychological reasons, likely unavoidable. Add to this psychological predilection, the overconfident self-appreciation of a highly intelligent, yet severely egomaniacal personality, who in addition, just based on his rhetorical representations, is awarded the Peace Nobel Prize, and a historical constellation of personalities and circumstances becomes apparent, which explains why even Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, a committed Liberal and strong former supporter, recently concluded that history will view Obama as one of the country’s worst presidents in executing foreign policy.
Being awarded the Nobel Prize so early in his presidency, and only based on expression of his obviously deviant political world views from those of his predecessors, undoubtedly, further strengthened Obama in his political convictions and, at least in part, explains his practical unprecedented audacity in making major foreign policy decisions in complete isolation and, often, against the expressed recommendations of his national security staff and military leadership. These decisions then often led to disaster, nowhere more obvious than in Iraq and Syria, with over half a million dead and millions of refugees in camps in neighboring countries and flooding Europe.
After his reelection, the need to obfuscate his ideological background further diminished. His national security team was increasingly made up of individuals with similar ideologies or with yes-man and women, who only further strengthened him in his political convictions. Consequences were the Iran deal, the normalization of relations with the Castro brothers’ Cuba, cordial and rather uncritical relationships with Socialist regimes in Venezuela and elsewhere in South America and persistent outreach to the Muslim world while, at best, demonstrating benign neglect of friendly Western countries but, often, indeed, hostility to traditionally friends, like the state of Israel.
How much the world has changed in eight years of Obama presidency is, indeed, almost impossible to comprehend. Whatever one may think about the preceding Bush years, Obama inherited a relative stable world order. In eight years of Obama foreign policy, the world order established after WWI appears completely uprooted, and the incoming Trump administration, likely faces the most complex and dangerous security situation in the world since the 1930s and start of WWII.
Like in the 1930s, we here at The Canary, once again, consider Europe to be the most dangerous flashpoint. With the European Union facing an existential crisis, Western Europe being overrun by Muslim migrants, and several central European countries facing Muslim majorities within just a few short decades, with Russia again pursuing an expansive foreign policy in efforts to reconstitute the geo-political power base of the old Soviet Union, Europe appears a powder cake, ready to explode.
No easy solutions are apparent. The most likely solution is contraction of the European Union back to a smaller but economically and politically more cohesive union of states, with other former member states in looser affiliated positions, and, potentially serving as buffer states between Europe and Russia. This core group of countries making up the United States of Europe (USE), in analogy to the U.S., must be able to function as one federally governed country of individual states, with its own border security and military, capable of defending itself against Russian expansionism without being dependent on the U.S. Despite BREXIT, we can see the United Kingdom as a cornerstone of such a USE, joined by Germany, Austria, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and, possibly, other countries.
President Trump’s foreign policy should be strongly supportive of such a USE, which could become a strong economic as well as military ally of the U.S. if relationships are properly managed.
The Middle East
This region of the world is characterized by the largest number of failed states. Moreover, since this is the center of the Muslim world, everything is linked to religion. Developments in Turkey, which by the West was considered the example how Muslim countries could evolve as liberal secular democracies, have, unfortunately been regressive, as Erdogan has been concentrating power in his hands, democratic freedoms are receding and a national policy of secularism is replaced by religious Islamism.
Though Sunnis, it appears increasingly likely that, out of a common fear that the Kurds in their countries may form a new continuous state of Kurdistan, Turkey will continue developing closer relationships with Shiite Iran. Though for the longest time a primary foe of Syria’s Assad, this coalition may, in the end, also include Syria and Iraq since these two countries also contain major Kurdish minority areas, and have close relationships with Iran. Finally, because of Iran’s influence, Lebanon can also be expected to join this coalition of states which, of course, will have strong political and military support from Russia
The rest of the Arab Sunni world, from Saudi Arabia, the Emirates to Egypt and the North African Muslim countries of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, appears less united than in the past. Disappointed by U.S. policy under President Obama, these countries in recent years have for the first time in decades again developed relationships with Russia. The whole region has remained a minefield of danger, at any given moment subject to a new political disruption.
This, of course, also includes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which since 1967, now for almost 50 years, includes Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory on the West Bank (in Biblical terms, Judea and Samaria) and of the Golan Heights from Syria. Though in view of recent events in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, this conflict has lost its centrality, it, nevertheless, cannot be overlooked because it no longer is only a conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. It for many years has become a proxy-war between Iran and Israel, with the Iranian goal being to encircle Israel from the north (Hezbollah in Lebanon) the west (Hezbollah and Iranian Quds forces from Syria and Hamas from the West Bank) and the south (Hamas in Gaza)
Publicly sworn to the destruction of the state of Israel (the only United Nations member state that expressed publicly its desire to destroy another U.N. member state), Israel, not surprisingly, therefore views Iran as an existential threat. In contrast to President Obama’s administration, the incoming Trump administration appears to share this opinion. Moreover, since Obama has, unopposed, ceded so much influence to Russia in the region, Israel has, strategically, become even more important to U.S. national interests as the only truly politically stable state which, in addition, also maintains the strongest and most sophisticated military in the region.
We, therefore, anticipate from the Trump administration a more forceful and open military and political affiliation with Israel, either as direct pact between the two countries or, if not opposed by other member states like Turkey, possibly even including the NATO alliance.
U.S. relations with Russia have reached the lowest nadir since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This is a remarkable development, considering the “reset” of relations Obama and Hillary Clinton had been striving for. Who, indeed, can forget the live microphone that allowed the world to hear President Obama telling, then Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, that he ”would have more leeway after his reelection in dealing with Russia.”
Things quite obviously did not work out as expected! As in so many other political hotspots around the world, the Obama administration viewed the Russian – American relationship through pink rather than realistic geopolitical glasses, completely misreading Putin’s intent on “making Russia great again.”
President Elect Trump’s approach to Russia will be interesting to watch. His selection of Rex Tillerson, who is known to have a personal friendship with Putin, as Secretary of State, can be a double-edged sword. It may not hurt to develop a better relationship with Putin; though “trust but verify” (ala Ronald Reagan) must be a guiding principle in dealing with Putin and his former KGB colleagues.
Here at The Canary, we are rather skeptical that one can do business with people who murder their opponents, deny the obvious (i.e., shooting down of airplanes, and use of their military in the invasion of Ukraine and other neighboring countries) and have turned their country back into a dictatorship; but who knows; maybe, Trump and Putin will succeed in reestablishing detente. It, certainly, would help in stabilizing a very unstable world.
Trump’s readiness to engage in another nuclear proliferation race with either Russia, China or whoever challenges the U.S., should be viewed as a positive statement. As the multiple diplomatic disasters of the Obama administration so well demonstrate, diplomacy can only be effective from a position of strength.
Considering how messy a world the Obama administration is leaving behind, we, despite the obvious danger a nuclear North Korea with intercontinental ballistic capabilities represents, consider Asia the least threatening part of the world to U.S. national security. China’s saber-rattling in the South China Sea is, of course, disturbing but, very obviously, is again to a large degree a product of foreign policy weakness of the Obama administration. President Elect Trump has been sending the correct messages to the Chinese leadership when taking the congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s president.
The message is loud and clear; when the U.S. agreed to a one-China policy under Richard Nixon, there was also a clear understanding about mutual political behavior of both parties. Trump is absolutely correct in pointing out to the Chinese that agreements go both ways; If they want the U.S. to adhere to the agreement, then the U.S. can expect appropriate behavior from the Chinese in return. In other words, building artificial island in the South China Sea is not appropriate; refusing to take tough actions against a rogue North Korea is also unacceptable; stealing billions of dollars in intellectual property through hacking and other illegal measures every year is also unacceptable behavior for a nation that wishes to assume a leadership position in the world; and, finally, trade agreements between nations need to be fair.
We also trust that Trump’s comments about the potential nuclearizing of Japan and South Korea were not only empty threats. Those are, indeed, the logical next steps if China continues its aggressively expansive policy in the South China Sea and refuses to help in the denuclearization of North Korea.
Trump is also correct that China is economically more dependent on the U.S. than the U.S. is on China. As a senior government official once noted to The Canary, “China is not a country of 1.3 billion citizens, as is widely believed. It is more a country of ca. 300 million citizens (like the U.S.) with the additional burden of 1 billion peasants, the Chinese leadership must bring out of poverty to maintain the current government structure.”
Though there may be hiccups on the way, we, therefore, are confident that a usually highly rational Chinese leadership will in a Trump administration conclude that, considering the alternatives, it behooves them to step back from the kind of aggressive posturing we have seen over the last few years.
After Europe, Pakistan is, likely, the most dangerous spot on the globe, considering that this is a Muslim country with usually unstable governments. The good news is that the country just underwent a completely uneventful change in military command, with a highly regarded and militarily successful commander stepping down at the end of his term. While nothing unusual in Western democracies, this unchallenged change of command represented a big step forward for Pakistan, where the military is the real power behind the civilian government, and controls the nuclear hardware of the country.
The country’s nuclear arsenal is especially dangerous for the world because Pakistan is, likely, the most unstable nuclear power in the world. The risk that nuclear material falls into the hands of terrorists is, therefore, always substantial. Because of its financial problems, North Korea, of course, represents similar risks since it, in the past, has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to supply weapons and know how to whoever is willing to pay.
A new world order
Post WWI, the world established a new world order, based on two principal power centers, the Soviet Union and the U.S. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. remained the sole super power, and learned the hard way that this is not necessarily as good as it sounds, comes with considerable responsibilities and becomes politically as well as financially overbearing.
President Obama recognized this but decided on categorically incorrect solutions. Instead of trying to establish a new power balance between the strongest economic (U.S., China and European Union) and military powers (U.S., Russia and China), Obama decided to retreat and “lead from behind.” Instead of a rational new order, what evolved was then the chaos around the world we just described.
A new worldwide foreign policy strategy, which we believe Trump has in mind, must attempt to return the world from a unipolar, U.S.-driven to a multi-polar balanced world, in which the U.S., Russia and China (and, if not dissolving, the European Union or its successor), combined, assume responsibility for a balanced tri- or quatro-polar world. In other words, the only chance of cleaning up the mess left behind by eight years of Obama foreign policy, is a balanced “Kissinger world” and this, we believe here at The Canary, is why President Elect Trump has spent so much time with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.