The true global warming in 2014 is not in the climate.
Instead, it is geopolitical, as the heat has been turned up
several notches at national borders all over the planet.
In some of the obvious places, the temperature is sizzling,
including Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Turkey, China, Sudan,
eastern Africa, Argentina and Central America. But the
political thermometer is also going up in other places
as well, including the European Union, urban U.S., Brazil,
Viet Nam, Burma, Cuba and Pakistan.
Historians will argue whether or not the foreign policy
ineptness and retreat of the Obama administration in 2014
is a major or minor cause of this global political heat.
Mr. Obama entered his presidency with the U.S. weary of its
military actions, and its casualties, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It would be unfair to accuse his disengagement policies of
being contrary to American public opinion. ANY new president
in 2009, either Democrat or Republican, would have had to
fashion a reduction of active U.S. military engagements in the
The real test of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is HOW he
constructed his lowering the military temperature of the
U.S. armed forces. His critics are contending that his
inexperience and lack of skill in foreign policy have not only
weakened the nation’s defenses, but encouraged rogue and
hostile forces in the world to increase their aggression and
violence in the world’s hotspots.
Unfortunately (for ALL Americans), a good case for this can
be made by citing the precipitous reduction of the U.S. military
personnel and presence, the dysfunction of relations with
traditional American allies, the public ambiguity in reaction
to localized military aggression. and the consistent message of
U.S. withdrawal from the problems in the world.
The challenge, also to be fair to Mr. Obama, was not entirely of
his own making. Whether or not the American public is weary of
foreign involvements and affairs, the international community is
a volatile phenomenon, and constantly in conflict as malign and
totalitarian forces rise and fall while attempting to exploit some
dispute or another into increased advantage and power.
In a phrase, the world is always in play with aggression and
violence. And this man-made conflict is seemingly always
compounded with unpredictable forces of nature which human
beings cannot control, but which periodically inflict hardship
and disaster, including violent weather, earthquakes and floods,
volcanic eruptions, epidemics and the impact on the earth of the
President Eisenhower was for many years denigrated as a U.S.
chief executive, but history is now making clear how useful was
his great knowledge of world affairs (gained from his years as
as a military commander during World War II) in dealing with
a similar political heatwave that occurred during his presidency.
The Cold War, ending hostilities in Korea, the Soviet invasion of
Hungary, the closing of the Suez Canal and the incipient
revolutionary activity in southeast Asia all confronted him, and
for the most part, he made good decisions, showed restraint and
tactical lowering of political temperatures while at the same
time preserving American power and self-defense. Mr. Eisenhower
came into the presidency better prepared for foreign policy
perhaps than any other commander-in-chief in his time.
Much is made by political scholars and pundits about how
unimportant foreign policy is to American voters. Certainly
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not elected in 1932 for his prowess
and experience in world affairs (something the man he defeated,
Herbert Hoover, had much of even before his own election in 1928),
but as the clouds of war gathered in the late 1930’s in Europe and
Asia, President Roosevelt had acquired the experience to lead the
nation at a critical time.
The next president of the United States needs not only foreign
policy experience or knowledge, but more importantly, good
judgment in foreign affairs. President Roosevelt was the right
person for the job in 1939-41, but by 1944-45, his lack of
knowledge about Asia and his ill health made him the wrong
person for the job. Harry Truman had no visible foreign affairs
background, but his generally good sense enabled him to act
in U.S. interests during most of his presidency. Richard Nixon,
for all his many shortcomings, understood foreign policy.
The economy and domestic matters will understandably fill
most of the space of the 2016 presidential campaign, as they
have done so throughout most of our history. But the world is
truly and rapidly changing under all of our feet, and it will be
necessary for voters to take the rising global political
temperatures into account when they select the next president.
If the do not, they risk a disastrous global political cold
shoulder to America in the years ahead.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.