These past years, United States foreign policy has become a long procession of “are you kidding me?” moments for our allies. An enigma to even the most sophisticated, U.S. foreign policy has morphed into an all-you-can-eat diplomatic buffet, complete with an Obama administration graze-and-go approach.
During World War II, the U.S. settled into the role of a big brother to the world. Direct from central casting, Americans were the cowboys wearing white hats and boasting gleaming six guns with white pearl handles, ready to hop on a white horse at a moment’s notice to save the day. It remains a proud moment in our history.
However, today, the U.S. administration meanders about a foreign relations smorgasbord of its own making, often changing teams and switching alliances, rather inexplicably, to cozy up to nations and leaders — many incredibly suspect in their actions and ideologies — while ignoring pleas from friends and allies.
One would be hard pressed to find anyone unaware of the complete distain President Obama shows for the state of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Once, support for Israel came as natural to American policy as sun in California, yet no longer is it the case.
The U.S. administration has puzzlingly ignored Israel’s outspoken warnings about the consequences inherent in a dangerous deal with Iran. In addition, despite U.S. insistence to the contrary, talks with the Palestinian Authority have spotlighted the impossibility of any peace process with an entity that refuses to acknowledge Israel’s basic right to exist. More recently, America’s blatant interference in the Israeli elections in a bid to eliminate Mr. Netanyahu betrays a total disregard for Israel’s sovereignty.
Another reliable and staunch ally of the United States, Azerbaijan, is in an equally unenviable position. Azerbaijan receives a deaf ear to pleas that the United States intercede to force its neighbor, Armenia, to adhere to multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for the return of Azeri lands and the cessation of its illegal occupation and ongoing aggression.
As it stands, Armenia occupies roughly 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia occupied these lands in what was termed an unjust war, with the help of U.S. enemies Russia and Iran. They have refused to relinquish Azerbaijan’s territory despite repeated calls from the international community and four U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Today, the United States calls for Russia to respect the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine, but conveniently omits even a nod to Azerbaijan. There is not even condemnation of repeated acts of aggression by Armenia.
In fact, these past years, Azerbaijan has been repeatedly attacked for how its young and emerging democracy functions. And omnipresent on the U.S. radar screen are perceived human rights abuses such as closing mosques when there are unsavory clerics calling for Shariah law and the overthrow of the rightful and elected government.
There seems to be painfully sparse recognition of Azerbaijan’s momentous gains in the building of a civil society, a foundation for a sustainable and long-lasting government dedicated to the betterment of the nation’s people, not to mention the support it gives to the United States. Think of the cost to Azerbaijan of continually fend off Iranian and Russian efforts at aggression and power plays due to its support for America.
There are more “are you kidding me?” moments:
• Following the U.S.-supported ouster of longtime Egyptian ally President Hosni Mubarak, the father of terrorist doctrine Muslim Brotherhood, rose to power. The United States embraced and funded the new government but stopped with the election of the terror-fighting, Israel-friendly and reformist President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
• The United States ousted Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and paved the way for al Qaeda.
• The United States pushed the reset button with Russia and now Vladimir Putin is pushing his way through Eastern Europe.
• Japan, an ally facing aggression from China and with whom we have a treaty that guarantees our support, is unsure of a U.S. commitment.
Unfortunately, the “are you kidding me?” list grows as the United States gorges itself on its foreign policy table of wonders. The leaders of the Arab world recently opted against Mr. Obama’s invitation to a “summit.” What’s the point, right? Iran is Mr. Obama’s date these days.
Although this distain has been an impetus for Israel and other nations to forge new alliances with one another, which may be a positive outcome, it still speaks to a sense of disloyalty difficult to reconcile. In the wake of new U.S. behavior, Israel now looks to others for close relationships. Once close U.S. allies, now betrayed by the administration, flock together — Israel, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt — the list goes on.
The United States must impose a foreign policy diet on itself, or the world must wait for one more measured and less gluttonous.
• Norma Zager is a professor at California State University.
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