President Obama has certainly had his work cut out for him on the foreign policy front as of late. Between the situation in the Ukraine (especially with the recent downing of the Malayasian passanger jet) and the renewed conflict in Gaza, it has been a tough road the past week or so. Obama needs to be very careful how he handles both situations. Unfortunately, in both instances he is stuck between a rock and hard place. There is no good solution, no right answer, no way to really make anyone happy.
As of right now, regarding both the conflicts in the Ukraine and in Gaza, Secretary of State John Kerry has been calling for a ceasefire. That seems to be what other world leaders are pushing for as well. However, any ceasefire that may come to fruition is not likely to last very long. It would be a temporary fix at best. And unfortunately other attempts to address these conflicts haven’t been very effective. Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem to be very willing to cooperate, and the economic sanctions the U.S. has launched against Russia aren’t doing much. And after months of negotiations, talks between Israeli’s and Palestinian’s fell apart under Secretary Kerry’s mediation.
A critical problem seems to be that the Obama administration has no real strategy for how to deal with these two situations. They are just kind of saying, “Well let’s try this next,” instead of trying to really understand the key players in these conflicts and what it is that they want (or don’t want). Of course, things happen unexpectedly–like the downing of Malayasian Airlines Flight 17–and you have to deal with them as best you can when they occur. But I feel like so far the Obama administration has handled things very slopily. Yes, there are significant issues that Obama is dealing with here at home (a whole plethora of them) that are taking up a lot of his time and attention, but Obama needs to be more involved in these conflicts. Otherwise he risks allowing them to spiral out of control on his watch.
However, it is more important than ever that the United States works with other countries to address these conflicts–and all future conflicts. We have to pressure other world leaders to be more aggressive. The United States remains a superpower and as such is considered the leader on global issues (whether fair or not), but in today’s very complicated world, we simply need more help. And the Obama administration needs to make it very clear to other world leaders that the only way to bring about any kind of effective solutions to these conflicts is if there is rock solid international solidarity behind any actions that are taken.
I don’t see the situation in the Ukraine having huge implications for the future of our world, but I do feel that way about Gaza. Gaza is just one of the many conflicts in this region, but it is the most important one. I think that something really drastic and devasting is going to happen, likely within the next few years. And it will be a total game-changer. But the one good thing that may come out of it (that will hopefully come out of it) is a lasting peace.
The legacy Obama leaves behind will deal largely with how he handled critical foreign policy issues like the conflicts in the Ukraine and Gaza. Right now, he isn’t doing so great. Could it be that he has already started to check out because he has only a year-and-a-half left of his second term? I surely hope not, and I doubt that is the case. I think he is just exhausted and probably feels somewhat defeated, because no matter what he does, nothing ever seems to get better. Plus, he has dealt with a combination of years of fighting the GOP over absolutely EVERYTHING, dealing with very complex and important domestic issues (like healthcare reform, immigration and gun violence, just to name a few), and having to confront the many global issues that have heightened during his presidency. He hasn’t had it easy. No matter who was in office right now, they would struggle under these circumstances. But let’s hope that Obama can persevere, because we need a strong world leader now more than ever.