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As the wheel turns: US policy for the Middle East

Map of the area where U.S. international policy is least defined
Map of the area where U.S. international policy is least defined
www.baghdadmuseum.org

With the advent of the current growing crisis in Iraq, the past several years of the Obama Administration's international policy agenda has be put into question. From Syria, to Africa, to Iraq the question asked by many across the globe is what is America's foreign policy, especially for the Middle East?

From the beginning, President Obama stood for the retreat of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Highly public timetables were set, against the advice of many, setting these moves in stone.

At the same time the Obama Administration also supported the Arab Spring, going so far as to bomb Libya, without Congressional consent, via the sole authority of the President and questionably in opposition to the War Powers Act. At the time President Obama argued that dropping bombs from drones did not qualify as acts of war, even as the world raised eyebrows to the statement.

Ultimately, Libya ousted Muammar al-Gaddafi and fell into a state of turmoil. The idealized support for America that was envisioned by the Obama Administration evaporated rapidly. This lead to the death of 4 Americans - of which one was an US Ambassador.

Almost a year ago to the day, President Obama was again facing the question of how far Executive Power extends before the War Powers Act applies. During the summer of 2013, President Obama pushed to defend the red line he had drawn for Syria and the internal conflict in the nation. He urged, and promised, military action - again while at odds with a Congress he had not conferred with on the matter. As the situation boiled over, with allies in Germany and England abandoning the President, Russia took an opportunity to play the peacemaker (embarrassing the US and trapping the nation into a political stalemate) ending the pending conflict.

Which brings us once again to Iraq. As was predicted, pro-terrorist and Islamic fanatical forces have grown in power and sought to retake Iraq. The fragile stability and many of the gains garnered via the blood of US soldiers have been lost. Potentially the Iraq nation could fall back into the hands of a terrorist group as bad as, and some say worse than, Al Quida.

President Obama and his Administration have started to bomb again in Iraq. Once more Congress is split on this action. Several members of Congress have set deadlines for President Obama to either cease operations, or come before Congress and seek approval to continue. Many fear that this is the beginning of another conflict requiring troops to once again land on Iraqi soil, like Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) of the House Armed Services Committee,

"Where this ends, I don’t think any of us know. But the president has to be very, very clear about timing and purpose. Thus far, it’s insufficient from my point of view."

This is the foreign policy of the US under the Obama Administration.

It is a policy of retreat on one front and aggression on another. A policy of non-interference in the sovereign actions of nations, while injecting action under the call for humanitarian aid in other (and somtimes the same) sovereign nations. Calls of humanitarian aid that only apply in some nations (Iraq, Syria) while genocide goes on without notice (Dafur) and other nations must fend for themselves (Israel, Ukraine, all of Africa).

Why is it that you chose to stop a potential act of genocide in this one place when you have signally chosen not to prevent things that you have actively described as genocide in other places? - Arshad Mohammed of Reuters

It is a policy of helping organizations that are opposed to US interests (Syria), while opposing other groups (Iraq) that hold the same position. It is a policy of humanitarian aid, selectively applied based apparently on geography and US strategic interests alone.

As has been noted often, the US international policy is apparently incoherent especially when considering the Middle East as stated by Mackubin Thomas Owens, Editor of Orbis for the Foreign Policy Research Institute

"U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, characterized by drift and incoherence. It is at best a-strategic at worst anti-strategic..."

Especially of note is the problem of Executive Power. When it comes to the Middle East, drones have and are being used throughout the region to bomb various targets (Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, ect) without the consent of Congress. High profile detainees from Guantanamo have been traded without the knowledge of Congress. Military actions have been unilaterally threatened without regard to national security interests, and in violation of the War Powers Act if executed.

And the result of this conflicting mix of international policy decisions?

Iraq is in disarray. Libya is in disarray. Syria is still in civil war. Darfur continues to have an ongoing genocide. Afghanistan looks more and more like Iraq post-US forces withdrawl. Terrorist groups are on the rise and gaining credibility.

Domestically, both Parties are splitting on what to do and how. There is massive partisan gridlock. A huge and unprecedented legal battle is looming - on the overreach of Executive Power, which happens to be part and parcel of the Obama Middle East doctrine.

If this were a soap opera, it would be a very good one. But instead this is the world we are living in, and the chaos seems to not have ebbed since 2010. Whatever the legacy will be of the Obama presidency, without swift action to enact a coherent international policy - especially in the Middle East - that legacy will surely rank akin to that of President Jimmy Carter. Perhaps not even that well.