A Disappointing Year With Obama
By William Pfaff
Posted on Nov 10, 2009
Who would have thought a year ago that most of the issues of conflict in America’s foreign relations would be made worse during the first year following Barack Obama’s election as U.S. president?
Even those disputes or differences that were appeased or quiet a year ago are now worse. On Iraq, the new president has faithfully followed the policy of George W. Bush, and now Iraq threatens breakdown. . . . . . . .
Put aside, for a moment, the military disaster that is now in the course of manufacture in the “Af-Pak” theater of unwinnable wars.
Look at the president’s other policy problems. The Korean affair continues, as we have just seen. There are tensions foreseeable in his visit to a new Japanese government at the end of this week. The old security conventions and connivances of past Japanese Liberal Democrat governments will be questioned.
Japan’s new government’s geopolitical view of East Asian security is not the passive and compliant one displayed for nearly 60 years by Liberal Democrat politicians who did as Washington suggested. In question today is the legal status under which 47,000 U.S. troops and a series of bases have quasi-permanently occupied the archipelago since 1945. Japanese naval forces were limited in number and mission, despite China’s rising military power.
China is developing a blue-water navy to support territorial claims in the region, while experiencing serious trade tensions with the U.S. On Nov. 5, the U.S. imposed 99 percent anti-dumping taxes on certain Chinese steel exports. Then there is the question of the American trade deficit with China, which suits the U.S. but not China, and the troublesome shadowing of the dollar by the Chinese renminbi.
In Latin America, the Obama people have already made trouble, demanding and getting a sizable new air base agreement in Colombia, whose significance, as the U.S. Air Force itself says, will be strategic. (Presumably to counter the “menace” of Russian ships off Venezuela.) Washington’s ambiguous conduct with respect to the Honduras military coup did not contribute to good pan-American relations.