Barack Obama - Page 2

Syria Strikes Indicates What’s Wrong with US Foreign Policy

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During his presidential campaign in 2016, Trump repeatedly indicated that the interventions in the Middle East were stupid and unnecessary. He must have surprised his supporters when he announced that he commanded the US military to launch airstrikes against Syria in response to the supposed chemical weapons attack. Britain and France followed the US in this mission.

Although he spoke differently in the campaign, his preferences obviously changed when he got the seat in the office. He definitely thinks that America cannot watch from the side and as the world leader, his country needs to do something about the atrocities in Syria. Perhaps Trump is not so different from Obama after all. While many would disagree with such a statement, there are similarities between the two presidents. Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump made promises that they would change the role of America in the world. However, both failed to do so when faced with pressure. They sensed that they should act and so they did. As a result, we have had a poorly thought-out intervention and this is only going to become more prominent with the Trump administration in power.

According to psychological studies, people are prone to react to something which is happening around them. Inaction is seldom the solution. The studies have shown, that World Cup goalkeepers have more chance to save their net if they stay put, but most of them would dive during a penalty kick. Of course, the stakes are much higher in politics, than they are in soccer, but the bias towards reaction is not debatable. Obama was not the first president to start off with biased reactions. We have to mention George W. Bush whose choices were detrimental to the country and his Foreign Policy only weakened the US influence around the world.

The criticism comes from all sides of the world, whereas media also forces the world leaders to do something about a particular situation. Furthermore, we need to take into consideration that America has the most powerful military in the world, and the cost of airstrikes is negligible. When all of this is combined, we have expected no other reaction from President Donald Trump.

Source:nytimes.com

In 2013, President Obama was seeking approval from Congress to launch airstrikes on Syria due to chemical attacks, but the Congress was against it. This turned out to be a good decision because Obama managed to negotiate the removal of chemical weapons in Syria. This was a risk worth taking, but instead of ending chemical attacks once and for all, it only delayed them for several years. And here we are today.

Jump a few years into the future, and we have Mr. Trump who authorized missile attacks on Syria. The strikes were far less efficient than the dialogue and negotiation since the attacks on civilians didn’t cease, and the Syrian government still uses chemical weapons. Comparing the two decisions by two presidents, Obama made a better one – or the Congress in that matter. Yet, he was widely criticized for the inaction, whereas Trump was praised for the attack. Even some of his biggest critics acknowledged such a move and recognized Trump as someone who can deal with the situation outside the US borders well. Quick action may be effective, but it may sometimes have long-term consequences. Trump’s Syrian airstrike in 2017 proved more effective than Obama’s attack in Libya in 2011, for instance, which was disastrous.

Source:worldtorahnews.com

Before we conclude this topic, we need to look at one more case of poorly thought-out intervention. When the US overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, it caused the European refugee crisis and the civil war which killed more people than the intervention saved. The removal of Gaddafi may have been the biggest mistake of the US foreign policy as Muslims flooded into Europe, settling in the West in countries such as Germany and France. However, Obama came to understand that the intervention needs to be planned carefully. But his epiphany came too late.

Obama doesn’t have an impulsive character, and yet he found it difficult not to act. Donald Trump will be even more impatient, and this is something that needs to be changed. The interventions need to be carefully planned by a president and a leader who knows what he is doing, and Trump is not that leader.

Source: nytimes.com

Here’s Why Asia Pivot Was Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake

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During his tenure in the White House Barack Obama did many amazing things. The one that wasn’t all that great was the “pivot to Asia.” This move will most likely be remembered as his biggest mistake. At one moment during his reign, Obama called himself “the first Pacific president.” President Obama did so because he wanted to shift the foreign policy more in the direction of Asia (the economic center of the 21st century) away from the Middle East.

He felt that, after the disastrous Libyan revolution that ousted Gaddafi, the responsibility for keeping stability in the region should fall on the shoulders of America’s European allies. The Libyan campaign was mostly a product of French and British pressure, but neither of the two countries had sufficient resources to bring Gaddafi to heel and stop the civil war that tore the country apart. President Obama sensed that the American public was fed up with costly Middle Eastern adventures that drained blood and treasure and that other countries should step up to the plate.

This pivot turned out to be a complete failure. Not only for the U.S. foreign policy. It had an adverse effect on various parts of the world, mostly on Europe and the Middle East.

The reason that pivot failed was that it was based on wrong assumptions. Obama and his associates believed that U.S. foreign policy has been neglecting the Asia Pacific. This part of Asia had a substantial economic rise in recent years, and the president decided that he could assign more military resources to the region. Those same resources would be pulled from the Middle East and other areas. This caused the tension in Asia-Pacific while at the same time it brought chaos to the Middle East and The Old Continent.

So, what assumption was wrong? When Obama started his term in office, Asia-Pacific wasn’t neglected. The Bush politics in this part of the world was actually a success. It lowered the historically high tensions between China and Taiwan. The free-trade agreements were signed with Singapore, South Korea, and Australia. These agreements were the foundation of what’s today the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The deals with India regarding their nuclear arsenal were signed, parallel with negotiations with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some of these deals were later changed as apart of Obama’s pivot.

Source:globalresearch.ca

Obama’s Asian pivot did initiate new diplomatic relations (Myanmar), but it shifted its direction regarding security and defense policy. Making Asia the center of its security strategy annoyed the Chinese government. To Beijing, this move seemed like the U.S. is trying to contain their military power. Because of this China became hostile and aggressive. Before 2008, the relations between two countries were normal.

The situation escalated when the Air-Sea Battle doctrine became official. This doctrine was an effort to prepare the U.S. for a possible confrontation with China. The Secretary of The Defense at the time, Robert Gates publicly confirmed this, and as you can expect, authorities in Beijing weren’t glad upon hearing this. The doctrine was seen as a plan to contain China militarily and economically and to narrow the circle around them.

The first significant issue is that primary part of the pivot was militaristic. The second one was that it even had a military element to it. The Asia pivot promised that the U.S. is focusing on that part of the world for economic reasons, but they first started to arm themselves. The primary focus on military shows a little about the economy which was promised.

The premise that Chinese expansion could be checked by the use of soft military power was flawed from the start and only encouraged Beijing to start flexing their military muscles in return, using the American actions as an excuse. Its navy began a series of excursions further away from China’s coast in an effort to assert its dominance in the South China Sea, making securing the infamous 9-dash line its priority. Any objection from American allies in the region was checked with the statement that Beijing is merely responding to Washington’s action.

Source:theweek.com

When Obama declared in 2015 that “TPP allows America — and not countries like China — to write the rules of the road in the 21st century” the Chinese were assured that the primary goal of the pivot was to stop the rise of China. The United States officials publicly confirmed this. The situation was made worse by President Trumps refusal to sign TPP, thus further weakening America’s negotiating position in the region.

The matter didn’t have to go this way. Instead, America could join Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. They were even invited by China. Instead, they refused and also criticized the U.K. for joining. By steering up military tensions, the U.S. missed on many economic opportunities.

The third mistake was that while dealing with Asia, America completely neglected Europe and the Middle East. When they took their eyes away from Europe, Russia went on the field trip to Ukraine glancing at the Baltic states at the same time. This move unsettled Poland and Hungary. In the Middle East, Syrian Civil war exploded causing thousands of deaths and creating 11 million refugees. Islamic State moved to Iraq, while the former U.S. allies in the Gulf fell under Iranian influence.

The power vacuum left by the U.S. withdrawal and its focus shift has only served to encourage Russia and Iran to increase their efforts aimed at obtaining influence in the region. Again, same as with TPP, Trump’s intentions of completely abandoning America’s allies by pulling even the modest number of troops left in Syria will only serve to invite both Moscow and Tehran to step up their game and increase pressure on surrounding nations. Syrian regime in the meanwhile holds steady and is closer every day to regaining full control of the country, with massive Russian and Iranian help.

In the end, the pivot failed. It didn’t stop China from rising. They are more aggressive now and have set their eyes on the South China Sea and to the Senkakus. Militarily they have never been closer to the U.S., and the economy is still on the rise. The TPP is no more, while China is signing trade agreements with its neighbors. It was essential to focus foreign policy to Asia-Pacific but not at the expense of Europe and the Middle East. Now America is at a disadvantage on both fronts. And it’s all thanks to Asia pivot which was Barack Obama’s biggest mistake.

The Reason American Foreign Aid Works

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If you ever doubted whether US foreign aid works, we need to go a few years back when Barack Obama was the President of the United States. In spring, 2014, Obama’s visit to South Korea marked one of the greatest success stories of foreign aid in the history of the United States. At that time, South Korea increased its budget for foreign assistance by 11 percent. Not only would this help the other countries in the region and the world, but the US has gained a valuable ally which improved the country’s economy and security.

After the Korean War, South Korea was devastated. Their entire country needed to be rebuilt, and the USA worked together with the Korean government in the following decades, to bring Korea back from ashes. The US invested around $35 billion in foreign economic assistance which protected this country from the possible attack from their neighbors. Today, South Korea is one of the richer countries in the world, with Seoul being the economic center.

Source:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seoul

The transformation of South Korea was a victory by the US. It showed the government of the United States and its citizens that this was a smart investment. This state has become the tenth largest export market for the goods made in the United States, and the trade has developed even more in the recent years, facilitated by the US-South Korea free trade agreement signed in 2012. Initially, South Korea was a heavily dependent foreign aid recipient, but the country role has changed for better. They are now a major international donor, and they joined the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), thus becoming the third Asia-Pacific country to do so.

The ways in which South Korea has helped the world are numerous. They donated $680 million to Afghanistan for reconstruction purposes and medical facilities as well as paved roads and police training stations. Furthermore, five years ago they added another $43 million to improve women’s rights and access to medical services in Afghanistan.

Luckily, South Korea’s story from a war-torn country to one of the countries which are providing assistance due to America’s intervention is not the only one in the world. The US also sent assistance to Colombia which had problems with insurgents that threatened the lawful government back in 2001. Thanks to the American aid, Columbia managed to combat the insurgent groups and they have become another major country where the US exports its goods. Since 2000, the profit from the US exports has grown from $3.6 billion to approximately $20 billion today. The US donated around $8 billion in combined military and economic assistance so you can do the math.

A major change happened in 2003 when President George W. Bush established the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. This plan allows the US to support almost 66% of all antiviral treatments for HIV/AIDS in the world. Since the pressure of AIDS dropped in African countries, partly due to American assistance, the economic growth ensued.

Source:vox.com

Washington keeps taking necessary steps to make the foreign aid more transparent and as effective as possible. In the last decade, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was established by Congress, and the MCC was ranked the top agency among 67 international donor organizations a few years back.

Although some congressmen question the effectiveness of foreign assistance, the fact is that stopping to aid countries around the world would undermine America’s national security and economic growth. The good thing is that more lawmakers are in favor of such aid, which benefits both America and the countries which need to receive much-needed donations.

FPI Analysis: Bush, Obama, and Islam

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The politics of two presidents – George W. Bush and Barack Obama differed greatly. However, after notorious Paris attacks, Obama pay respects to Bush and his decision not to declare war on Islam. Bush managed to differentiate Islam from terrorism although terrorism is connected to this religion often. At the press conference after the Paris attacks, Obama declared: “I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam.”

Both of the presidents recognized that terrorism and Islam were not connected. However, both of them failed to explain to the Americans why a significant number of Muslims joined the Islamic State, which is predominantly made of people whose religion is Islam.

9/11 – Terrorism and Islam

Source:bbc.co.uk

To understand the relationship between Bush and Obama as well as their views of terrorism, we have to go back to the darkest hours of the American history – 9/11. The devastating attacks which happened on September 11, 2001, caused Bush to go to the Islamic Center of the capital city and call for tolerance. At the Islamic Center in Washington D.C. Bush said:

“These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” He added that Muslims contributed greatly to the society and reminded the nation that they are “doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms, and dads.” He also said that “they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”

After the notorious event and his visit to the Islamic Center, Bush met with the Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Indonesia is the country with the largest number of Muslims in the world and Bush wanted to make sure his voice is heard. He told Megawati: “I’ve made it clear, Madam President, that the war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims, nor is it a war against Arabs. It’s a war against evil people who conduct crimes against innocent people.”

Source:gettyimages.com

Although Bush kept trying to explain that terrorism and Islam are not connected whatsoever, he made a mistake by saying: “This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.” The word “crusade” drew a lot of attention, and many people started believing that Bush intended to go on a war against Islam. That was the word he never used again in his speeches regarding the war against terror.

Did and how things changed under Barack Obama?

Obama’s campaign was highly successful, and his selection to the highest seat in the country was a historical event and a major step forward for African-Americans in the country. In his campaign, Obama addressed the war against terrorism and just like his predecessor, he tried to show the difference between terrorism and Islam. In his campaign, he said: “In the first hundred days of my administration, I will travel to a major Islamic forum and deliver an address to redefine our struggle. I will make clear that we are not at war with Islam.”

Source:politico.com

He had a vision similar to Bush’s, and in Cairo, after the Paris attacks he pointed out that the values of Islam are similar to the American values. He said: “Let there be no doubt. Islam is a part of America. Muslims have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights.” He added that America and Islam do not have to compete against each other and that they overlap. On several occasions, Obama spoke the same words as Bush, saying that “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.”

Both Bush and Obama fought to distinguish Islam from terrorism. Take a look at these two situations and tell us what you think. When he was in Cairo, Obama said: “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. The United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.” Let’s walk down the memory lane and recall the words said by Bush. He stated: “Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America. That’s not the America I know. That’s not the America I value.”

As you can see, the two presidents have the same views. Nothing has changed in Obama’s administration in terms of Islam and terrorism. And while Bush fought the hopeless and costly war in Iraq, Obama did the same in the states of North Africa. They were trying to differentiate Islam and terrorism and yet they fought against Muslim countries continuously.

“Hijack” and “Pervert”

The two presidents tried to explain that the terrorists were using Islam as a justification. They both conveyed the same meaning, but they used the different terms. Bush preferred to say that the terrorist who committed crimes in the name of Islam used to “hijack Islam” while Obama favored the syntagm “perversion of Islam.”

On several occasions, Bush said: “[Terrorists are] traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.” And one year later: “We respect the [Islamic] faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.” While he was in Abu Dhabi, Bush warned: “Today your aspirations are threatened by violent extremists who murder the innocent in pursuit of power. These extremists have hijacked the noble religion of Islam, and seek to impose their totalitarian ideology on millions.”

On the other hand, Obama had the same answers. After winning the Nobel Prize and accepting it, he pointed out: “the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam.” A few years later he answered: “There is an element growing out of Muslim communities in certain parts of the world that have perverted the religion, have embraced a nihilistic, violent, almost medieval interpretation of Islam.”

However, there was a “significant difference between the two presidents. Obama never used terms such as “Islamic extremism” and “radical Islam” because he believed that terrorism and extremism would be connected to Islam. He avoided these terms, whereas Bush had no problems using them. On the other hand, he did state that such extremism should not be connected to Islam. At one point he acknowledged: “Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it’s called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam.”
Majority of Muslims are against this extremism, advocating peace. If this holy war is false indeed, why so many people join it? That was something neither Obama nor Bush could explain.

Is Islam the problem?

Source:islamicity.org

Bush and Obama tried so hard to distinguish such extremism from Islam as we have mentioned that several times in the article. However, this constant need to explain the phenomenon and separate the two terms had consequences. They kept refusing the fact that Islam and terrorism were connected and this has motivated a large part of the population in America to believe that the jihadists and extremists DO represent the religion. Several scholars, advisers, and congressmen said that ISIS and Islam are related and that this is the fact people need to accept. We just have to point out that this doesn’t mean that all of those who believe in Allah should be considered extremists, but we have to agree with the fact that Islamic State and Islam are connected to some degree.

American Retreat

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Four years ago, the United States discovered what their interests around the globe were. President Barack Obama showed the American people that many interests of the country, as well as principles, could be surrendered in several hours. Namely, Obama announced the prisoner exchanged with Cuba and his decision to normalize the relations between the two countries putting the most basic American principle at risk.

According to the Washington Post, Obama offered the Castro brothers an “undeserved bailout” in exchange for no liberalization at home. Senator Robert Menendez noted that this rewarded the Castro system and the brutal behavior of the two brothers. Marco Rubio, another senator, stated how this would have negative effects on the US people. He wrote: “Mr. Obama’s new Cuba policy is a victory for oppressive governments the world over and will have real, negative consequences for the American people.”

Source:fhrcuba.org

The White House insisted that the US didn’t trade three Cuban spies to have Alan Gross released. Alan Gross worked for the US Agency of International Development, and he was arrested in Cuba. This only showed that American hostages could be used as bargaining pieces. Obama made matters worse when he tried to normalize relationship with Cuba, which gave an impression as if Cuba managed to smash the US policy just by taking one man a prisoner.

Not only did Obama’s decision undermine the American principle, but it also challenged the federal government. In the past, together with the president, the Congress has established the policy towards the island, and three major Acts were introduced – the Cuban Democracy Act in 1992, Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act in 1996. Obama has ignored the Congress and its role in this decision, and the world placed him under the microscope for this move.

To make matters worse, Sony Pictures announced that the release of “The Interview” would be canceled and that the company would capitulate to the demands of the “Guardians of Peace” hackers. According to the FBI, the North Korean government was responsible for Sony attack. These two events happened in the matter of hours and America showed that it was no longer the force it had been. Before the Sony Picture’s made this decision, the press in the United States had received some disturbing information. Namely, they received leaks that a Sony executive and a producer made racist jokes about Obama in the latest James Bond script. All the media covered this news which only made it worse for the US and they were losing its first cyber war.

Source:variety.com

North Korea threatened the USA that they would pull off 9/11 on any theater that showcased the movie, which caused some to give up on the premiere. Consequently, Sony Pictures had to abandon the film which meant that the freedom of expression was undermined. The United States lost in this war, and they were ashamed, but Obama and his administration were figuring out the way how to respond. What they should have taken into consideration is that Pyongyang threatened the United States. Furthermore, their government committed constant crimes against its own people as well as its neighbors, and they should have been listed as the sponsor of terrorism.

America backed away from its own principles on these two occasions. Obama administration made mistakes that should not be repeated by the current POTUS and his associates. The freedoms at home are something every American has the right to, and they must be granted that freedoms. Anyone who is looking to undermine such freedoms should be considered an enemy of the USA and its people. Four years have passed since this “hostage exchange,” and the Sony Picture’s “The Interview,” but not much is done regarding North Korea and its involvement in the second scandal.