In 2008 we elected Barack Obama to four years in office as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. By so doing, we deferred to him the mandate to make decisions on our behalf as a nation, both in domestic and in foreign policies. Good or bad, we live the consequences of his decisions. The buck stops with him.
Because we were satisfied with the choices and decisions he made on our behalf in his first term, such as killing Osama bin Laden and passing the Affordable Care Act – which has now become law, when in 2012 he sought re-election, we voted him back to the Oval Office to continue to make decisions on our behalf as a nation.
Presidents are mere men who are susceptible to making error of judgments just as we all do. Barack told us while he was running for the Office of the President that there will be false starts and that he will make mistakes. He never promised to get it right at all times. Presidents make mistakes, but what is never questionable is the motive behind every decision a president make, whether good or bad. Which are always in service to country and in service to humanity. Meanwhile, in their hallowed position, presidents some of the times make decisions which may be unpopular with the masses as at the time the decisions were made, but which in the long turns out to be wonderful decisions because they had privileged information and intelligence that informed their decision. Information which are classified and therefore not available to the average joe, the paid political analyst on television who knows nothing more than the average joe, the radio talk show host, and of course, the political strategists from the opposition party.
When President Obama came to office in 2009, the economy was both hemorrhaging jobs and bottoming out. It was like a bank account in overdraft. Negative. Red. Through smart fiscal choices, he and his economic team rebuilt the economy. In over four years of the Obama Administration, all of the millions of jobs lost during the recession have been recovered, new jobs are added recurrently, and the economy has long rebounded. Rather than an overdraft, the economy is now in green. And that is a good thing for both the country and for the Obama Administration.
Now regarding international relations, what informs the choices a president make when dealing with foreign policy issues is determined solely by national interests. What does my country stand to ‘benefit’ if I am to take certain action or inaction about a humanitarian situation or otherwise in a foreign country? And not whether there are moral grounds to take such actions. Realism, as every student of political science know it, is the governing principles of international relations.
Again, in political science, which is behavioral science rather than pure science, all acids does not turn blue litmus paper red and all bases does not turn red litmus paper blue. It is only in pure science that acids turn every blue litmus paper red and bases turn every red litmus paper blue. Suffice it to say that in the science of politics, there are no constant variables. The only thing that is constant is still national interest.
For instance we may have in ‘Country A’ a situation where the leader is a tyrant who kills everyone in the country who opposes his style of rule. And by a happy combination of the fact that the tyrant leader is not liked by the United States and that the country is rich in some natural resources which we crave for, or because its location on the map presents a good strategic host to our military base, the U.S. may intervene militarily in the country under the cloak of ridding the country of a despot but with its eyes on their resources. We will rid the country of the tyrant, install our puppet who will be nice to the people and who will also give us access to the natural resources we long craved for or the desired clearance to site our military base in his country. Both sides benefitted from the intervention.
Conversely, we may have another situation which are similar to ‘Country A’ happening in ‘Country B.’ Tyrant leader killing everyone in the country who opposes his style of rule. But because ‘Country B’ has neither natural resources nor has any military geostrategic significance to the U.S., irrespective of how much the people suffer under the tyrant leader, any president of the U.S. may not intervene militarily in ‘Country B.’ They (presidents) will settle with rhetoric such as President Obama’s ‘Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.’ Simply because there are no benefit to the U.S. worth spending our money for or worth sending in our troops to go fight for. That is the way it works. Realism.
Benefits as enunciated under national interest do not necessarily mean natural resources like crude oil, natural gas, diamonds, and gold. No. National interests are broader than that. Yes, it can be the presence of oil, but it can also be that the country for which there is a clamor for intervention may offer a good geostrategic host to U.S. military base(s) to combat terrorists and pirates, who if left unchecked will present credible threat to our national security. And it can also mean an intervention in a country to transform it from an authoritarian regime to a democracy where rule of law and capitalist system of economy are practiced, thereby opening up new and fertile market for American businesses.
Therefore, that President Obama sent in military assistance to help the Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gadhafi does not necessarily mean he has to do so with the Syrian Question. For one, the variables are not even similar. In Libya, there are identifiable individuals who are qualified statesmen, ready, and unradicalized to take the helm of leadership in Libya. In Syria, there are many splinter groups, radical I have to point out, that are pursuing sectarian interests, shy of national cohesion.
Furthermore, Libya has oil in commercial quantity and accounts for 5% of OPEC’s oil export for which the U.S. is a major importer. Somehow they will pay for every cent the U.S. spent in military hardware helping them get rid of Gadhafi. Syria has no oil in commercial quantity compared to Libya. So the argument that since President Obama intervened in Libya that he should also intervene in Syria since it is the same Arab Spring that swept through both countries does not stand up to the parameters set by realism. There isn’t much in terms of U.S. interests worth military intervention in Syria.
And President Obama’s actions and inactions are not without precedent.
Weeks after President Clinton took over from George H. Bush in 1993; he inherited the military intervention in Somalia to help quell famine ravishing the country. And he continued with it. Somalia borders the Gulf of Aden, a channel for tanks shipping oil from the Middle East to the United States and the rest of the West. So it was in the interest of the U.S. to intervene in Somalia because of its geostrategic significance to the U.S. Else hunger will lead to desperation and desperation will lead to desperate measures such as piracy. And piracy will distort American business in that region. Watch the 2013 movie Captain Phillips, by Tom Hanks, and you will understand this point. However, a year later, genocide broke out in Rwanda in, a landlocked tiny country with no significant natural resources and no geostrategic significance to the U.S., and despite the fact that under Ethics in World Politics, there is a general agreement that genocides are ‘acts that violates the morality of mankind, ‘and warrants unilateral military action by the superpower to mitigate, there was no action on the part of the Clinton Administration to stop it. Realism and presidential decisions.
George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States intervened in the oil-rich Iraq “to rid the world of Saddam Hussein’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.” But even though he was the first world leader to recognize the ‘genocide’ going on in old Sudan, he did not intervene in Sudan. And there is no condemnation to him for his inactions in Sudan. He made his decisions based on the information he had and based on what he thought serves the national interest of the United States, genocide or no genocide. Every student of political science also know that realism is amoral. It does not give coherence to morality. It is all about expediency.
Whoever occupies the Oval Office has two jobs. To be President and to be the Commander-in-Chief. As the president, he/she builds the economy, and through his/her policies and programs brings about infrastructural developments, grow jobs, fund research and development, bring about education reform that will put America back to the top, work with Congress to bring about both immigration and tax reform, seek equality before the law for all citizenry, and when necessary use our wealth to do good for the needy abroad. As the Commander-in-Chief, he/she secures the borders, maintains unrivaled military, defend and protect the United States from external aggression and projects our military power as a global force of good. For a president to intervene in any country for whatever reason, he/she always make sure spending both our treasure and the blood of our sons and daughters in uniform to a great extent serves the interest of this great country.
However he/she arrives at the decision to do so or otherwise, or how wise or idiotic that decision might seem at the time it was made, posterity should be left to judge him/her. But once that decision is made, let us give him/her the benefit of doubt and as Americans, irrespective of our political party affiliation, wish him/her well. By the way, it was we the people who gave him/her the mandate to make such decisions on our behalf for a more perfect union, for justice, for general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.