“Even with your adversaries, I do think that you have to have the capacity to put yourself occasionally in their shoes, and if you look at Iranian history, the fact is that we had some involvement with overthrowing a democratically elected regime in Iran,” stated Barack Obama after the US signed a nuclear deal with Iran. Obama has been using the end of his final term to push forward with bold diplomatic moves. Where his predecessors stood firm on outdated positions, he has opened the door to mending relationships. Not only did the US sign a nuclear deal with Iran last week, it also restored diplomatic ties with Cuba. The two countries have reopened their embassies after a span of 54 long years. Time will tell if these two events will signify a permanent change in the way US foreign policy is conducted or if the next administration or opposing political powers will sabotage possible outcomes as some rivals have already threatened to do.
Obama may be acting on his own will or perhaps he’s been inspired by the vocal opinions of American voters. Many welcomed a winding down of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts after more than a decade of foreign wars waged in their name. Reports of CIA designed coups, and private US companies like Black Water and Lockheed Martin raking in record-breaking profits from security services and weapon sales worldwide made the conflicts even less palatable. When the president opened up air strikes in Syria to a vote in Congress, the outpouring of opposition to the idea was deafening. Multiple representatives said that 99 per cent of phone calls to their offices were against military action.
History shows that many US leaders have struggled with the war machine since the Second World War. Dwight Eisenhower, a former general, famously warned of a rising influence as he departed office in 1961 when he said, “… we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” George Bush exemplified what Eisenhower cautioned against by selecting Dick Cheney to be his vice-president (VP). Cheney was an outgoing CEO of Halliburton at the time, but retained stock options worth $18 million and continued to collect nearly $2 million in deferred payments from the military contractor while serving as VP. Those figures may sound like a lot of money, but the compensation represented less than one hundredth of a per cent of the $50 billion in contracts awarded to Halliburton and their subsidiaries during the Iraq war.
Obama won the presidential election on the promise of ending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he has scaled back military action in those regions. US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reduced to the status of ‘advisers’ and private security contractors. However, through an increased reliance on unmanned aircraft to carry out its will in other nations, the US can’t exactly be viewed as a pacifist. With presidential elections looming, the nuclear deal with Iran and the restoration of Cuba-US relations might be viewed as a last effort to create a legacy or it may be a sign of change to come where the US government gives diplomacy preference to military intervention.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2015.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ