Monday, September 1, 2014

Global Democracy: A Dream From Obama’s Father?

Global Democracy: A Dream From Obama’s Father?
Samuel L. Skogstad, Ph.D
August 29, 2014

President Obama’s manner of dealing with international issues has consistently shown a reticence to act without first seeing the formation of a collective coalition, or “community of nations.” News commentaries from fans and detractors alike seem uncomfortably aware of this indecisiveness. The posture commands no respect—and has no deterrent power-- in global crises of aggression such as the three major ones dominating the news during 2014. This change in the American approach to international crises seems to have surprised allies and enemies alike. Yet it seems wholly consistent with the foreign policy direction that Candidate Obama clearly endorsed in his campaigns, namely that the United States’ proper role in the world is not one of leadership, but one among equals in the community of nations.

Most recently, he has watched the advance in Iraq and Syria of ISIS, perhaps the most vicious of the savagely militant Islamist factions. ISIS’s successful blitz and brutal conquests threaten worldwide mayhem, with the ferocity of demons and near boundless resources. Yet our president has not led the formation of a strategy to confront and defeat them, concentrating instead on international community organizing. In this as in all international matters, his affinity for collective action seems to blind him to the reality of impending international disaster if ISIS is not stopped soon and decisively.

The flagrant Russian invasion and conquest of significant portions of Ukraine has been met by the same preference for community action as seen in our tepid reaction. First Russia invaded and occupied the Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The U.S. response represented little more than finger wagging.

Our Commander in Chief warned—gently--that any further incursions would be extremely rude and would lead to somewhat increased sanctions (provided our European allies agreed.) Putin smiled, and our response to the crisis gave him no significant encouragement to leave Crimea. Last week, Russia blatantly invaded more of Ukraine’s important eastern territories. Commander in Chief Obama again disapproved, but hastened to assure all that the United States would not use force to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty. No U.S. demand has been made of Russia to return Crimea and terminate the occupation.

Our president, in fact, would not even use the word “invasion” when commenting on the Russian invasion in a press conference last week. The Russian invasions are the most egregious violations of another nation’s sovereignty since Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland in the 1930s. We, however, apparently have chosen to look the other way, especially scanning the horizon for a “community” to lead the civilized world’s response.

The United States’ response to the latest Hamas-initiated war with Israel, in Gaza, was to send Secretary of State Kerry to win agreement of both sides to stop the violence. Thomas Friedman echoed the Obama Administration’s implicit position that Israel should “change its mindset.” Kerry, predictably, failed, as his proposals offered Israel no confidence that its security concerns would be met. Egypt took over the lead in negotiations and apparently has come close to a temporary narrowing of the gap between the two sides. Whether this was with U.S. blessings, or Egypt merely came to fill the leadership vacuum, is unclear and unimportant. The point is that the U.S. posture was not that of a forceful negotiator. Nor was U.S. partisanship in Israel’s favor, even hinted. Again, U.S. behavior underlined the Obama view that the US role on the international stage should be subject to governance by “the family of nations.”

This small sample of U.S. action in the realm of Foreign Policy, is consistent with the view that President Obama’s dream for the world, like that of his father, is to have a global democracy. There is such inequality among the incomes and the wealth of citizens of the world’s nations that collective action using that vehicle is required to compel the “more fortunate” of the world to share more with the “less fortunate.” With the world’s laws and regulations promulgated by a single popular democracy, which take precedence over individual nation’s laws--much like the laws of the U.S. national government reign supreme over those of states-- the Global democracy could achieve less inequality and more “fairness.” Given the President’s dedication to economic “equality” as an end, and massive income and wealth redistribution as the means, is it not highly likely that abandonment of leadership to groups (or a group) of nations, is a significant motivator in his international as well as his domestic agenda?

Of course the foregoing represents only one logical construct to make sense of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy decisions. But the belief by this writer that it is plausible is not based on a sample of U.S. posture in three crises. Rather, it is based on a reading of Obama’s own writings in Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope, as well as dozens of news commentators and print sources, especially the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Financial Times and The Economist. A number of books have also been important in forming this view.

Heaven help us if our policy, both domestic and foreign, do not soon undergo a dramatic change of course from the sophomoric, or worse, path to which we have been sentenced for the past 5+ years.

Note: Dr. Skogstad is a blog reader, an economist and, most importantly, a brother Marine. ~Bob

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