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America’s Foreign Policy Quagmire


After a weekend of golf in Palm Springs, President Obama returned to the White House and   ordered 300 ‘boots on the ground’ (including intelligence analysts, logistic experts and special ops) into Iraq after declaring that “The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work togetherand that America will “not allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation” – and if you are thinking that US foreign policy is little more than an irrationally complex multitude of contradictions and a dysfunctional ideological strategy that defies logic and common sense – you would be correct.

To further confuse exactly what is the Administration’s policy, the president has recently announced that he is now prepared to take “targeted and precise military action,” a campaign of airstrikes.

And if a US government that has militarized its foreign policy with more military bases (over 1000 ‘unofficially’) in 120 countries as compared to 272 State Department embassies and consulates around the globe gives the impression that US foreign policy is dominated by military considerations rather than diplomacy, you would be correct again.   See “State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America’s Empire” by Stephen Glain.

And if you believe that US foreign policy is the result of a comprehensive, thoroughly vetted plan, impartially weighing geopolitical and economic risks while considering long term implications, unintended or otherwise, you would be wrong.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is a prime example of how a Secretary of State sounds more like a Secretary of Defense when he promised that  “the Apaches will come and they’ll come very soon” referring to a delivery of ten Apache attack helicopters to Egypt’s military.

For instance, here’s where a ‘real’ Secretary of State could have actively pursued a negotiation with Sisi regarding the release of three al Jazeera reporters who have now been sentenced up to ten years for ‘false news’ rather than offering meaningless denunciations.  Kerry further muddied his role as negotiator-in-chief with an incredibly disingenuous “The United States of America is not responsible for what happened in Libya, nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today.”

And just to set the record straight, here’s a flow chart that clarifies exactly how US foreign policy choices have been decided beginning with the 1991 Gulf War and up to today’s current military interventions and assorted debacles:


Reprinted from Agora Financials

In a further effort to clarify what is otherwise thought to be a mass of disorderly, incoherent and incomprehensible piecemeal choices that varies from country to country thwarting a greater understanding of exactly who are our allies, consider the following Who’s In and Who’s Out in the Middle East.  The US

Supports:   Shia Nouri al Maliki government in Iraq but

Opposes:  Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq and the Shia-related governments of Iranian; President Hassan Rouhani and Bashar al Assad in Syria and the Shia civil war in Yemen

On the Other Hand, the US

Supports :   Sunni extremist monarchy of Saudi Arabia (15 of the 19  9-11 participants were Saudi citizens)  and the Sunni monarchies of Bahrain and Jordan and the Sunni extremist rebels in Syria referred to as ‘moderates’ but

Opposes: Sunni extremists of ISIS, the Taliban (which had nothing to do with 9-11) and al Qaeda affiliates but

Supports: Sunni President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan

Perhaps this simple attempt at illumination has only further muddied the waters of understanding and admittedly there are more cultural, ethnic, historic, geographic and political details than this exercise includes but hopefully you get the point.   We, the American public, even those of us who consider ourselves well-informed, don’t know what the hell is going on from a policy perspective – with US relationships significantly different from one country to the next.  Ok, we can guess that petroleum is the bottom line but if we add the Israeli-Palestinian crisis to the equation, what we have is an increasingly indefensible, incoherent policy that is destroying the Middle East as well as our own country better than al Qaeda had ever hoped.

And lastly, here are a couple of perplexing policy questions, the answers of which may tell us more than we want to know:

Will ISIS military brain General Ibrahim al-Douri  and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi be on the president’s Tuesday morning ‘kill list’?

Since the Shia al-Sadr who was a fierce opponent of the US occupation in Iraq and the US are now both opposing ISIS, how will the Administration respond to  al-Sadr’s recent announcement that he will “shake the ground’ in fighting the Sunni extremists in Iraq?

Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth.  in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor.  Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.





Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31

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