Obama’s Speech and the Role of the US in the Middle East
Today’s foreign policy speech by President Obama is going to redefine the role and position of the US in current international affair. After the death of Osama Bin Laden and the rush of the Arab Spring, Obama will be catering to both Domestic and International Audiences tonight. EVERYBODY will be watching and taking critical note of every word said and every point made. Everyone expects a lot out of this speech. Some seek more information about US counter-terrorist efforts, and many, specifically in the Middle-East, will be seeking more firm and pro-active statements made about autocratic rulers in the face of the Arab Spring. International humanitarian organizations will seek dynamic efforts to help tackle the rush of human rights abuses coming in from insurrecting states (i.e. against mass graves and killings of peaceful demonstrators). As a world super-power and ally of many of these nations undergoing radical change, the US is expected to take more solidified efforts in foreign policy when approaching these issues.
This speech has come at a pivotal time in history. Yet, I think we are placing too much dependability and culpability on a government that in itself has its own political interests at hand. Diplomacy in the 21st century is definitely overrated. We assume that the US should take bold and extreme action in the face of international hurdles and instability. We need to be less naïve and more realistic. We need to find a middle ground. Although Obama launched a campaign of “change”, it is clear that this change is quite limited. The US government is comprised of multiple voices with varying political interests. Even if Obama wants change, there is a system in place that will prevent such a thing from happening.
Realistically, the US will not interfere in political unrest in any international state unless it includes its interests. This is why in the case of Yemen, human rights violations are less appealing and inspiring than topics like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It isn’t the role of the US to directly and explicitly intervene in Yemen’s political unrest. It isn’t in their best interest. I’ve heard a lot of discussion about US military intervention. For instance unlike Iraq, Yemen cannot substitute in rich resources to surrogate a military intervention. Military intervention in Yemen will also be unwelcomed, disastrous and counter-productive. It would sink Yemen further into political and social instability.
Yemen’s instability has definitely caused more concern for the US. This does not necessarily suggest that there should be any military action taken on the part of the US. Although Yemenis are not anti-America, they certainly are anti-occupation or invasion; therefore, the Yemeni people would misinterpret any implication of US military support and presence as a sign of incursion and invasion. Those inflicting the unjust killings and attacks on innocent people can also use the US military as ammunition. They are likely to claim that they are now not only fighting for Yemen’s unity but against an external force and threat of imperialism. In this case, military intervention is more likely to incite more violence and further instability.
The only form of support coming from the US should take more vocal form rather than force. It should start with a statement by President Obama articulating his support for the will of the Yemeni people rather than seeking to maintain his alliance with President Saleh. Obama should come out with a statement and appeal for the immediate resignation for President Saleh. This would be in the best interest of the US in terms of international relations and keeping alliance with Yemen’s subsequent government.
This should also include US efforts with international intervention (UN). This support again should not come in the form of American flag and military, but through UN peacekeeping efforts like the Blue Helmets. Support needs to appear in a more impartial and implicit form. It should appear that the intention of the US is its humanitarian concern for the people and their demands.
What Obama will say in his speech in the coming hours is uncertain. I am sure many of us will be disappointed. But it is also up to our communities in the US to continue to lobby for our nations in Washington. This involves more of a circular effort involving all, including the media, some who have failed in their obligations to fully report the situation on ground.