Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Celebrating Obama's Two Foreign Policy Achievements

Yesterday, President Obama became the first sitting President to visit Cuba since 1928. His visit was an effort to solidify his move to normalize relations with Cuba, and by all accounts it appears to have gone reasonably well.

While this remains only the first in a series of steps to fully open up relations and trade with Cuba, it's long overdue. And it's one of two lonely bright spots in President Obama's foreign policy record after seven years in the White House. His other accomplishment is the Iran nuclear deal, which already begun to bear fruit as Iran rapidly implemented their side of the agreement, sanctions have been partially lifted, and the Iranian people showed their approval by electing more conciliatory and open-minded politicians in the most recent elections. (Shortly after the deal was implemented, we discussed Obama's efforts to poison the relationship anew by imposing new, unrelated sanctions on their missile program. Fortunately, the sanctions were not broad-based, and appeared to have little import beyond convincing Iran to trust Europeans more than Americans when selecting business partners--probably a good call.)

The rest of Obama's legacy in the realm of foreign policy is abysmal--including the following:

  • Overthrowing the government of Libya, which is now in abject chaos
  • Supporting, however indecisively, the protracted civil war in Syria, thereby contributing to the rise of ISIS and a flood of millions of refugees from Syria
  • Recognizing the coup government in Egypt
  • Recognizing the coup government in Ukraine
  • Supporting the Saudi-led War in Yemen
  • Prolonging the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in which US troops are still fighting
  • Expanding the use of drone assassinations
Even so, it's important to recognize accomplishments and give credit where it's due. For Obama, that means Cuba and Iran.

Incidentally, the stories of how Iran and Cuba came to be on America's bad side share striking similarities. Both had a brutal US-backed puppet government that was eventually overthrown and replaced by an overtly hostile regime, in 1959 for Cuba and 1979 for Iran. In both cases, relations have been in ill-repair ever since, and the US has tried unsuccessfully to engineer a new coup.

Here, we'll let Dan Sanchez at Antiwar.com pick up the rest of the story. Dan's new piece touches on the history of both of these entanglements, and explains how the sanctions designed to combat them were at once doomed to fail and fantastically vicious in their inception. The following quote in particular stands out (emphasis mine):
Moreover, cold wars make it easy for rogue state governments to shift the blame for domestic troubles away from their own misrule, and onto the foreign bogeyman/scapegoat (“bogeygoat?”) instead. This is especially easy for being to some extent correct, especially with regard to economic blockades and other crippling sanctions, like those Washington has imposed on Cuba, Iran, etc. 
Imperial governments [the US] like to pretend that affairs are quite the reverse, adopting the essentially terrorist rationale that waging war against the civilian populace of a rogue state will pressure them to blame and turn against their governments. In reality, it only tends to bolster public support for the regime.
The rest of the piece is equally good. We'll leave you with a link and a hope that President Obama doesn't feel too uncomfortable doing something good for a change:

A New Dawn for Cuba and Iran?

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