Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Syria Diplomacy Helps Shuffle Global Order

The recent U.S. failure to marshal international support for military intervention in Syria—and subsequent reliance on diplomacy—highlights the increasing clout of other world powers and alliances.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

When U.S. President Barack Obama tried to drum up momentum for airstrikes in Syria to punish and deter the use of chemical weapons, he failed to gain much of a following.

At the G20 summit in St. Petersburg – which featured leaders from 20 of the world’s top economies – the U.S. proposed a statement to condemn Syria’s use of chemical weapons. But over half the other participants – from the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the European Union, Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico and Germany – chose not to sign.

Domestically, a range of public opinion polls reflected U.S. citizens’ growing distaste for military interventions. The New York Times and CBS, for example, asked 1,011 people from Sept. 6-8 whether the U.S. should take the leading role in trying to solve international conflicts, and 62 percent of respondents said no.

“You see characteristics of a more gradual change that’s taking place,” said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Since World War II, the U.S. has been a “provider of last resort” in acting alone or with a coalition to address international problems, Kupchan told IPS. But now, the U.S. public is more focused on domestic issues and increasingly wary of intervening abroad.

“The U.S. simply doesn’t have the same sway that it used to,” said Kupchan, who cited a process in which power is slowly diffusing on a global scale. “In some ways, Syria is emblematic of these more long-term trends.”

The recent case over Syria was also interesting at grassroots levels. While Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pushed for intervention, public representatives in Congress and Parliament held them back.

“Not since the Vietnam War era had we seen such decisive influence from the grassroots over international policy,” said James Paul, former executive director of Global Policy Forum (GPF).

“Washington did not command the beliefs or the respect of world public opinion… Governments wanted to go along, but could not without losing their support. Even Gulf monarchs have to think about how the public will receive their policies,” Paul told IPS.

U.S. leadership?

The idea that the U.S. is “failing” to lead unilaterally is a stigmatised one in U.S. society, whereas the U.S.’s main competitors have recently trumpeted ideas of diplomacy and multilateralism.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, for example, has been touting the phrase “win-win cooperation”, in which countries engage each other as partners, and Russian President Vladimir Putin criticised the notion of “American exceptionalism” in his recent New York Times op-ed.

“There are big countries and small countries… (but) we must not forget that God created us equal,” wrote Putin.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took the initiative in brokering a diplomatic deal between the U.S. and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – which forces Assad to turn over his chemical weapons arsenal to the international community at the expense of a U.S. military attack. But Obama took criticism at home for backing into such an agreement.

“Today, the U.S. has less leverage, less respect and less flexibility than it once had,” said Paul. “But we must see the Syria outcome not as a U.S. failure, but rather as a kind of success, in that the Obama administration recognised its limits and was ready to change course rather than head into a very risky option of war.”

Nonetheless, many U.S. officials are wary of Russia’s Putin, who granted the U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum in his country. Putin’s recently established anti-gay laws also cast him under a negative light in the West.

“There is a certain predisposition in the United States to look askance at partnerships with non-democracies,” said Kupchan of CFR. “That’s simply part of America’s ideological equipment.”

However, engaging diplomatically with Russia over Syria may improve bilateral relations and give new momentum for the U.S.-Russia “reset”. It may, for example, allow U.S. and Russia to renew negotiations for nuclear disarmament.

“But if this agreement stumbles, and it appears that Russia acted in bad faith, it will do more harm than good,” warned Kupchan.

Paul said that the U.S.-Russia deal finally puts the spotlight back on diplomacy at the U.N., paving a way for U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to have another try in negotiating a political settlement to end Syria’s deadly civil war.

“When the great powers use the U.N., we can breathe a sigh of relief,” argued Paul. “Hopefully, the Syrian people can anticipate peace and political renewal. Western publics, by opposing war, have made this (opportunity) possible.“

The multipolar world

On the heels of the G20 summit in Russia was another meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, which gathered heads of state from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) – an assembly of former Soviet nations and China. SCO leaders have also pioneered new ideas for development and trade across Eastern Europe and Asia. When the U.S. applied for observer status to the SCO in 2006, its application was rejected.

The SCO reflects the increasing role of regional organisations and alliances to deal with international issues in a “multipolar” world. Such organisations include the European Union, the African Union, UNASUR, ASEAN and the Gulf Cooperation Council, among others

Asked if diplomacy or coercion will be the norm in a “multipolar” world, Kupchan said, “I think it could go either way. You could say that in a world in which there are multiple centres of power, those centres of power can address global challenges only through multilateral cooperation. As a consequence, you can expect more of it.

“An alternative view would be: in a world in which there is a diffusion of power, there will be more competition for primacy and status, and as a consequence, you will see less multilateralism and more geopolitical rivalry.

“But I’m enough of a realist to say that the default position will be growing rivalry, and only through really good policy and steady efforts will we tame that rivalry through multilateral cooperation,” argued Kupchan.

George Gao is a contributor to Inter Press Service.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), former chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is a leading ”pro-Israel” hawk in Congress.


Brigette Gabriel, an anti-Islamic author and activist, is the founder of the right-wing group ACT! for America.


The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Frank Gaffney, director of the hardline neoconservative Center for Security Policy, is a longtime advocate of aggressive U.S. foreign policies, bloated military budgets, and confrontation with the Islamic world.


Shmuley Boteach is a “celebrity rabbi” known for his controversial “pro-Israel” advocacy.


United against Nuclear Iran is a pressure group that attacks companies doing business in Iran and disseminates alarmist reports about the country’s nuclear program.


Huntsman, the millionaire scion of the Huntsman chemical empire, is a former Utah governor who served as President Obama’s first ambassador to China and was a candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

AIPAC has done more than just tolerate the U.S. tilt toward extreme and often xenophobic views. Newly released tax filings show that the country’s biggest pro-Israel group financially contributed to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that played a pivotal role in engineering the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a ban on Muslim immigration.


Print Friendly

It would have been hard for Trump to find someone with more extreme positions than David Friedman for U.S. ambassador to Israel.


Print Friendly

Just as the “bogeyman” of the Mexican rapist and drug dealer is used to justify the Wall and mass immigration detention, the specter of Muslim terrorists is being used to validate gutting the refugee program and limiting admission from North Africa, and Southwest and South Asia.


Print Friendly

Although the mainstream media narrative about Trump’s Russia ties has been fairly linear, in reality the situation appears to be anything but.


Print Friendly

Reagan’s military buildup had little justification, though the military was rebuilding after the Vietnam disaster. Today, there is almost no case at all for a defense budget increase as big as the $54 billion that the Trump administration wants.


Print Friendly

The very idea of any U.S. president putting his personal financial interests ahead of the U.S. national interest is sufficient reason for the public to be outraged. That such a conflict of interest may affect real U.S. foreign policy decisions is an outrage.


Print Friendly

The new US administration is continuing a state of war that has existed for 16 years.


RightWeb
share