Thursday, May 23, 2013

President Obama's Shift in U.S. Foreign Policy

President Obama’s shift towards surreptitious drone strikes during his first term exploded into a contentious debate over the past several months, and finally culminated in a marked shift in U.S. foreign policy today during a speech given by President Obama at the National Defense University. It has been nearly twelve years since the World Trade Center attacks, and in that twelve years the United States has seen two different presidents engage in two bloody, drawn-out conflicts in the Middle East accompanied by unprecedented military spending and substantial repercussions across the globe. Former President George Bush coined the term “The Global War on Terror”, and waged it tirelessly during his time as president. Now, as President Obama said in his speech today, it is time that this country rethink its strategy in fighting terrorism – using Mr. Bush’s rhetoric, it is time the war winds down.

While President Obama is curbing the use of drone strikes going forward, there is no question they will continue to be a predominant tactic in the transcendent and pervasive effort to eliminate terrorism from the world. And while many Americans and others worldwide have obstreperously protested the use of drones, it’s hard to think of a viable alternative. As the argument goes, there is no oversight to control the use of drone strikes, and the result has been countless (literally, often an amount that U.S. officials neglect to definitively ascertain) civilian casualties. But do we really want more oversight from the government that is constantly making headlines not for its milestone legislation and progressive agendas, but rather for its inability to reign in agreement from opposing sides on even the most banal and straightforward of issues?

Furthermore, it’s hard to see the logic behind the argument of civilian casualties. Sure, it is tragic that innocent civilians die due to drone strikes and quite often there is little or no apology for it. But surely conventional warfare claims significantly more innocent lives. The issue with these arguments is that there is rarely an alternative presented, and in the event that one is presented, it is insufficient in obtaining to goals that the drone strikes are there to achieve.

“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” President Obama said during his speech today. “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.” In a speech that will be studied in the IR classes of the future, President Obama has effectively changed the course of this nation’s aggressive world-policing policy of the past, steering it towards what I think are greener pastures. Global terrorism is insidious in nature – it will continue to plague not only the United States, but also the rest of the world. Certain measures, such as drone strikes, are unavoidable and must be considered a necessary evil in order to fight for the greater good. I applaud President Obama, however, for taking a step back and signifying that the days of putting tens of thousands of troops on the ground in already volatile regions are, at least for now, over.

No comments:

Post a Comment