US foreign policy in shambles as blunders multiply Comment on this post ↓
October 25th, 2013 by Warren Swil

Decline of American

influence in the world

is gathering speed

Secretary of State John Kerry spent most of the week putting out fires. Click image to enlarge.

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE John Kerry spent most of the week putting out fires around the globe, and even President Obama fielded two phone calls from irate allies.
The signs are everywhere that America’s foreign policy is in disarray. Allies are anxious; enemies are gleeful.
They all point to a surprising acceleration in the decline of U.S. influence everywhere, most particularly in the volatile Middle East.
Increasingly, the U.S. is seen as weak and getting weaker. It didn’t begin with the Obama administration, but it has not been getting any better, either.

NO BETTER EVIDENCE of the continuing spectacle can be found in the debacle involving massive spying on friends and foes alike.
The headline on Page 1 of The New York Times on Thursday said it all: Anger Growing Among Allies Over U.S. Surveillance.
After noting the protest this week from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Alison Smale reported:

The New York Times page 1 story Thursday about angry allies denouncing America. Click image to enlarge.

“The damage to core American relationships continues to mount. Last month, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil postponed a state visit to the United States after Brazilian news media reports … that the N.S.A. had intercepted messages from Ms. Rousseff, her aides and the state oil company, Petrobras.”
Smale added the other spying revelations that have caused embarrassment in Washington: monitoring of President Felipe Calderón of Mexico while he was still in office, and the mass surveillance of French citizens, as well as spying on French diplomats.
“Furious, the French summoned the United States ambassador, Charles H. Rivkin, and Mr. Hollande expressed “extreme reprobation” for the reported collection of 70 million digital communications,” of French citizens.”
But the spying scandal is only the most recent and most prominent example of a foreign policy in disarray.
There are serious and growing problems in the world’s most volatile region, the Middle East.
After a 10-day fact-finding trip during the Syria crisis, we reported this from the region in September: INESCAPABLE CONCLUSION: U.S. influence in Middle East wanes
The situation there took a dramatic turn for the worse this week.
A summary can be found in The New York Times on Thursday in its story Criticism of United States’ Mideast Policy Increasingly Comes From Allies
“On his trip through Europe, Mr. Kerry repeatedly sought to counter the impression that the Obama administration was ducking tough challenges,” reports Michael R. Gordon from Rome.
The article was an account of the Secretary of State’s attempts to mollify vital U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are displeased for widely divergent reasons.
First, Israel. Before the meeting in Rome, we find out what is on the mind of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Jerusalem Post report Netanyahu airs fears of Iran compromise as he meets Kerry in Rome.
Tovah Lazaroff, Yaakov Lappin, Michael Wilner reported Wednesday that Netanyahu warned the US that a bad deal with Iran is far worse than no deal at all.

The position of the Israeli prime minister reported in the Jerusalem Post. Click image to enlarge.

“A bad deal is worse than no deal, if it leaves Iran with the capacity to produce nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned US Secretary of State John Kerry before the two met in Rome on Wednesday.”
Israel believes that the international community must continue to pressure Iran economically until it dismantles its nuclear weapons facilities and removes enriched uranium from the country. It fears that the US and other world powers would ease financial pressure against Iran in exchange for an agreement with Tehran in which it would curb but not halt its program.
After the meeting, in The New York Times, we learn:
“Mr. Kerry’s comments appeared to do little to persuade Mr. Netanyahu, whose demands that Iran dismantle its nuclear program are tougher than any compromise that the United States and other world powers seem prepared to explore as they seek a deal with Iran’s new president.”
Does anyone need a more clear example of the lack of American influence in Israel?
After President Obama’s failure to enforce his “red line” over Syria, Israelis have no confidence he will enforce his “red line” against Iran.

THE GRIEVANCES OF Saudi Arabia are entirely different but just as significant.
The New York Times reports:
“Saudi officials have made it clear they are frustrated with the Obama administration – not just for its reluctance to do more to aid the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and not just for its willingness to engage Iran in negotiations, but also for its refusal to endorse the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and the crackdown on Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party.”

The Guardian featured a story on Saudi Arabia’s displeasure with US foreign policy. Click image to enlarge.

The Obama administration has cut some military aid to Egypt, drawing criticism from both Israel and Saudi Arabia. But, that move is being thwarted.
“Beyond criticism, the Saudis have been working against American policy in Egypt by providing billions of dollars in assistance to the authorities in Cairo, which has more than made up for aid the United States has withheld,” Gordon writes.
This was preceded by the report in The Guardian in the U.K. on Tuesday, Kerry holds urgent talks as US-Saudi rift deepens over Middle East policy.
“A deepening diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia and the US burst open on Tuesday after secretary of state John Kerry acknowledged that Washington’s key strategic ally had serious misgivings about US foreign policy in the Middle East,” reported Dan Roberts from Washington.
But this was not about either Egypt or Iran.
“Kerry held urgent talks with his Saudi counterpart in Paris on Monday amid complaints from Riyadh that the US was not doing enough to help Sunni-dominated rebels in Syria following a decision not launch US military action.”
So Saudi Arabia is dismayed about American policy on three fronts; Israel is feeling isolated and threatened by the warming of relations with Iran, and its lack of resolve over Syria.
Germany, France, Brazil and Mexico are disgusted with over-reach by American spy agencies.
Russia is harboring U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden, responsible for most of the diplomatic kerfuffles. China is threatening a de-Americanization of the world financial system.
Do we need any more evidence that American foreign policy is a shambles? That U.S. influence is on the decline – and dropping like a stone?
Perhaps if the country had not been hijacked by a few radicals in the House of Representatives more attention would have been paid to our deteriorating international position.
It is not too late. It should be made a top priority.

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4 Responses  
  • Martin Trailer writes:
    October 25th, 2013

    I was with you until the second to the last sentence. There is no evidenceto resented to support that claim.

    Also, it is suggested the decline of influence started at some point in the past, when might that be? 1 year, 2 years, 5 years?

    • Warren writes:
      October 25th, 2013

      It actually started many years ago, but the decline was given a HUGE boost in 2002-03 by the lies told by George Bush, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell in the lead-up to the disastrous invasion of Iraq, and all that followed.
      America’s credibility has never recovered.
      Obama inherited the mess … but has not been able to do much about it.
      Congress even blocked his attempt to shut down Guantanamo!
      After the Syria fiasco, every news outlet I saw in the Middle East proclaimed a Russian victory, a US defeat.
      The spying scandal has just made it worse – and obvious for everyone.

  • Peter Rabbit - France writes:
    November 2nd, 2013

    We need an in-depth analysis of Israeli and Saudi objectives, particularly in the light of impending US oïl sufficiency. They are not invariably our allies and often have more nuisance value than positive contribution to make. We should definitely not placate them as primary objective. The US has its own interests which are often very different – but given how febrile they are they need to be handled with an iron hand in a velvet glove. I’m not sure Team USA is up to it which could lead to a catastrophe for the rest of the world.

    • Warren writes:
      November 2nd, 2013

      You are right, Peter, that the US needs to re-think its relationships.
      But Israel’s objective is clear: survival.
      One could almost say the same about Saudi: Iran’s nuclear ambitions pose an existential threat to that nation.
      John Kerry is going again to Saudi Arabia this week.
      Trouble is, US influence in the region has been declining for years, and with the debacle over Syria has hit a new low.
      It should not be over-estimated.

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