Calming the Waters
The great progressive writer Randolph Bourne once said, “Diplomacy is a disguised war, in which states seek to gain by barter and intrigue, by the cleverness of arts, the objectives which they would have to gain more clumsily by means of war.” The foundations for the Obama foreign policy are beginning to take shape. President Obama’s speech in Cairo last month had an amazing ripple effect. There is little doubt the internal strife in Iran that ensued was impacted by the speech indirectly. The conservative government in Iran could not successfully paint the uprising as the implicit work of the US following the sham election of Ahmedinejad. If you recall, the Iranian government tried to point the finger at Britain in a throwback move of a long dead age. With no true “Satan” nation to blame, the fire of the opposition continues to smolder.
Last week, George Mitchell visited Damascus in a bid to revive the Mideast peace process by greasing the wheels of the stubborn. Though no ground breaking discussions were involved, a new dialogue has begun with the Arab state. The US has imposed sanctions on Syria for their continued support of terrorists groups, primarily those residing in Lebanon. Syria has long been seen as a pariah in the region but will be a significant player if there is ever to be peace in the region. Mitchell’s visit is the Obama administration’s effort to reach out to nations that previously were seen as rogues in an effort to move them toward dialogue and moderation.
Israel is also being forced to react. The Obama position on stopping settlements in the occupied territories is causing tensions within the Jewish state. 1,500 right wing protestors marched in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to show their opposition to any proposed halt to settlements. Contact and pressure from Washington, being applied at the same time, is starting to move the rusted gears of Mideast peace. The new game of diplomacy is being played out with tact and resolve. Don’t expect grandiose results, however. The region has never evolved that way.
In the meantime Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently finished her tour of South Asia. Though not covered in great detail by the US media, the Clinton visit was seen as extremely constructive. The US would very much like India to be a strong ally in combating terrorism and preventing nuclear proliferation. Throughout the post WW II period India had carried out a cautious relationship with the US. Only in the last two decades has the relationship between the US and India turned a corner. To cement the strong ties that now bind the two countries, Obama has invited Prime Minister Singh to be the first leader to be his state guest later in 2009. The US is also selling space technology and fighter jets to India as well as allowing US companies to assist in the construction of two nuclear power plants. There is a peace process that needs to be resolved in South Asia as well. India and Pakistan have drifted farther apart in recent months after the Mumbai terror attacks were proven to have their roots in Pakistan.
Though the US is currently engaged in two wars, on the periphery the American government is initiating a sweeping diplomatic blanket that is changing not only how the US operates but also the image that is projected in much of Asia. These calculated maneuvers are allowing the momentum in the region to move away from extremism and calming the waters for the advances we all hope will blossom in the coming years.