Will the 2012 US presidential election affect US foreign policy?

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Jacque Gao's picture

When asking the question whether US foreign policy will change after the 2012 presidential election, the very first question one should ask is: who is the driving force in determining US foreign policy? Is it the oil industry lobby? Is it the neo-conservatives? Etc. In my view however, the driving force behind most of US foreign policy is the Israel lobby, since not only does it have bipartisan support in the Congress, but also there does not exist a counterforce to balance the power of this particular interest group.

Indeed, since the early 80s, the Israel lobby gradually gains its influence over the media, the public and the policymakers, and it reached its peak during the Bush administration, when several prominent neo-conservatives and pro-Israel members held key positions of the administration. During these years, we’ve also witnessed an increasing of unconditional US aid to Israel, which is not justified on either the strategic ground, of which we see the continuing effort of the Likud party to block the effort of a two-state solution to the Palestinian problems, nor moral ground, of which we see the devastating impact of the 2006 Lebanon war on the civilians by the use of indiscriminating shelling and cluster bombs. In fact, the days when President Reagan threatened to withdraw the aid to Israel when they used cluster bomb in the 80s are long gone. The argument that Israel is just a junior member of the coalition and acts on US behalf is obviously mistaken given the fact that Israel successfully resisted the pressure from not only President Bush, but also President Obama to halt the construction of settlement in the occupied territory and to start a genuine talk with the Palestinians. And the current US policy on Iran, promoting confrontation and hostility, which derives mainly from the lobby and the Israel government, is actually contradictory not only to US interest, but also to Israel’s national interest. It will not only stimulate anti-Americanism in the middle-east and strengthen Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapon, but also harm the interest of the US oil companies and kill hundreds of jobs, if of not thousands. It also contradicts to the Israel’s national interest as well. It will give ever more incentives for Iran to support resistant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, threatening Israel’s safety.

Given the fact that the current US and Israel policy is harmful to both countries, it is no wonder that Titra Parsi lamented that Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran came too late and too short when interviewed with France24. However, given the lack of a counter lobby in US against the Israel lobby and the lack of public debate about the policy towards toward Israel, mainly due to the fact that anyone who raises any doubt about the policy will be attacked and labelled as “anti-Semitism” by the lobby, I do not see any possibility of change of the current US foreign policy, especially policies in the Middle-East, unless there’s someone who’s bold and unconventional enough to challenge the status-quo.

Given the hawkish tones from most of the conservative Republic candidates, who, in order to please their evangelical political base, are fervently supportive of Israel, it is only possible that their middle-east policy will be even more pro-Israel and more confrontational towards Iran, which will possibly create another debacle like the one in Iraq. The only candidate that can possibly make a change is Congressman Ron Paul, who argues to withdraw all the foreign aid, given the current deficit problems facing the US. This is rather a radical step in a global perspective, because withdrawing aids from countries like Latin America or Africa will have catastrophic effect on the local economy, since US is the largest donor in the world. With a devastating economy in those developing countries, US and other developed countries will find themselves flooded with illegal immigrants from those third world countries. However, the policy of withdrawing funding from countries including Israel is unprecedented and will completely change the US middle-east policy and the handling of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. If Mr.Paul is elected and successfully resists the pressure from the lobby, it might be the beginning of an even-handed approach from US to deal with the two parties. But given the radical nature of his proposal, it is unlikely that he will be elected as the Republican nominee to fight against Obama later this year.

If Obama is re-elected and takes back the control of the House, it is possible that he can continue his middle-east policy and pressure Israel to haut the construction of settlement and come back to the negotiating table. And I believe that the current rhetoric about Iran from the White House is largely a campaign tactic trying to projecting Obama as a tough president. Once the election is over, the president will probably come back to the negotiation table with Iran and deploy diplomacy rather than confrontation to deal with Iran, as he previously did, hopefully.