Paris, December 11, 2013 – Action begets reaction in foreign policy as in physics, and action unconsidered for its possible consequences has been responsible for many results for which statesmen (or their unqualified counterparts) are eventually sorry, as are multitudes (as it may be) who pay the price. That, sententious as it may be, is my holiday message to Barack Obama. I continue:
In 2012, at the start of his second term, President Barack Obama called at the Pentagon to assure its leaders that the American nation would remain the “greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known.” The war in Afghanistan was at that time continuing, and the disorders and sectarian attacks had begun which have continued in Iraq ever since the United States in 2011 had declared that war over – after 8 years, 8 months, 3 weeks, and 4 days.
Mr. Obama endorsed his and his predecessor’s (George W. Bush) achievements, which he enumerated as (I paraphrase): strengthened alliances, new partnerships forged, defense of universal rights and human dignity, defense of the nation, the fight taken to America’s enemies, the number of Americans in harm’s way reduced, and America’s global leadership restored. Seconded by (then) Defense Secretary Robert Gates, he promised a larger military budget and, instead of a downsized force, a more capable one. He said that after the Second World War and Vietnam American forces had been left ill-prepared for the future, but that would not happen “on his watch”.
It was a curious speech because it implied that the Iraq War had been won and finished – sectarian and regional conflict ended, which is not true -- and that the same soon would be true in Afghanistan. In the Afghan war, his administration has already widened the war (without congressional consultation) so as to include frontier regions of Pakistan, employing drone missile attacks and commando raids. This has intensified anti-Americanism and undermined Pakistani political stability to no one’s advantage.
He has bargained with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to keep some American troops in the latter’s country long after the originally scheduled withdrawal of the bulk of U.S. forces at the end of 2014. (The new agreement remains subject to national elections and Mr. Karzai’s whims).