President Barack Obama has been very forward with his desire to use diplomatic mediation to resolve much of the world’s conflict: “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress” he said in his inaugural address.
This suggestion, however, is problematic when the chosen path leads off a cliff.
President Obama has been succeeding brilliantly at losing the respect of many of the most important players in international diplomacy. His controversial “apology tour” last summer was an attempt to seek forgiveness for what he considered to be the sins of the Bush administration — but his own blundering diplomatic efforts are becoming even more damaging.
Take, for example, the situation in Iran. It was recently discovered that Iran may be building more secret nuclear facilities — violating several international agreements forbidding them from doing so and bringing them perilously close to the state of nuclear armament they are so interested in pursuing.
At this time, Israel may need our help more than ever. However, after a poorly-timed announcement on expanding West Bank settlement earned Joe Biden’s disrespect during his visit to the country, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was further disrespected by President Obama during their recent White House meeting. It is unlikely that the U.S. will have a chance to talk Israel down from their recent air force mobilization if Israel no longer feels confident in American support.
In order to avoid an international incident, Washington has sought severe economic sanctions for Iran. French relations aside — French President Nicolas Sarkozy apparently has a cordial relationship with President Obama — there are serious concerns about our relationships with Russia, China, and the United Kingdom, the last three permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
Of those three nations, Russia is the most mixed. Obama’s naive willingness to scrap the installation of missile defense platforms in Poland last September earned little praise from the Kremlin. Though the proposed arms treaty set to reduce the total number of armed warheads possessed by the US and Russian by 30 percent could be arguably considered a victory, there are continued undertones of mistrust.
Further east, the Chinese government is not taking Washington seriously on fiscal and monetary issues. Bloomberg reported on March 16 that “China has been a net seller of Treasuries for three straight months, the longest such stretch since the end of 2007. Chinese officials have questioned the dollar’s role as a reserve currency and recently sought assurances about the safety of U.S. government debt as the budget deficit widens to a projected record $1.6 trillion this year.”
It is not surprising that neither of these nations is willing to act on the growing threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. Tony Karon wrote at Middle East Online that Russia and China have also made clear that they will block any new sanctions that inflict significant pain on the Islamic Republic, aware that the stand-off can only be resolved by dialogue, and that sanctions are unlikely to help. Though intervention may be needed now more than ever, China and Russia refuse to cooperate due to the failures of Obama’s foreign policy.
The third remaining member of the Council, the United Kingdom, is not happy with Washington either. At the moment, President Obama has been entirely insensitive to our oldest ally, even sending back the bust of Winston Churchill that had until recently resided in the White House. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, sparked international controversy last month when she called for the United Kingdom to negotiate with Argentina for possession of the Falkland Islands.
In 1982, the Argentinian junta invaded the Falklands, prompting a full naval response from Margaret Thatcher along with a firm refusal to consider any territorial negotiations with Argentina. Clinton’s reopening of old wounds with our biggest ally was entirely unwarranted, and if such maneuvers continue the state of U.S.-U.K. relations will spiral even further out of control.
Even though President Obama has committed to dialogue with other nations, his actions speak otherwise. President Obama and other administration officials have damaged our influence with other nations — especially the most important, the other members of the U.N. Security Council. Poor respect internationally will doom our ability to handle the threat of Iran, engage the Chinese, and continue operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
President Obama needs to change course; failing to walk down a new path could spell disaster for American leadership on the global stage.
David Giffin is a College senior from Charleston, Ill.