Three contradictions in Obama's foreign policy

by Mario T. García

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It's been a very discouraging summer, watching President Barack Obama be placed more and more in contradictory positions in foreign policy. These are not just his contradictions, but the historic contradiction of U.S. foreign policy in general. The U.S. has often enunciated idealistic policies toward the rest of the world but in reality has pursed more self-interests and oppositional policies. We have often spoken of supporting democracy and representative governments but in truth have supported our share of anti-democratic and repressive regimes. Obama came into office with idealistic hopes for a different U.S. approach to world affairs that would prioritize diplomacy and downplay military force, but like too many other presidents, he has, unfortunately, backtracked on these hopes. Let me point out three recent contradictions in Obama's policies.

First, we have paid much attention this summer to the thousands of Central American children who have made the dangerous trip out of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to escape the gang and drug violence rampant in those countries. Many in the United States have called for the quick deportation of these children. The president has tried to nuance the issue by speeding up the process of the required legal hearings that these children are entitled to based on U.S. laws while also observing that this is not just an immigration crisis, but a humanitarian one.

I agree with the president and others who see this first and foremost as a humanitarian issue, but I am also concerned that the historical contradictions of American foreign policy in Central America is completely overlooked. If paid attention to, the foreign policy would suggest that this country has helped create the horrible conditions that has led not only to this recent exodus of Central Americans, but an exodus that has longer historical roots.

For years, both Democratic and Republican administrations have supported military regimes and anti-democratic governments in Central America that have repressed their people and kept them impoverished while supporting American corporate interests in exploiting the economies of these countries, initially through U.S. banana corporations and other agribusiness interests, then, more recently, to sweatshops producing cheap apparel for the U.S. market while exploiting cheap labor in Central America.

The U.S.-influenced underdevelopment of Central America and the support of governments that exist to support American economic interest are once again coming back to bite us. We have helped create this recent humanitarian crisis with these children crossing the border, and we need to acknowledge culpability in this and structure a response built on making amends for it. This means addressing the contradictions of previous U.S. policies in Central America that have led to the dislocations of their people. This is partly our doing, and the way to overcome this contradiction is to welcome and embrace these children as our children and as children of God who need support and nurturing and should not be deported back to possibly be killed or to a future of despair. At the same time, we should only support governments that aid their people rather than stand by while they are killed by gangs and drug lords. The U.S. should also not support American or other international economic interests that exploit the cheap labor of these countries that leads to migration out of those areas.

The second contradiction Obama displayed recently has to do with the renewed violence unleashed by Israel toward the people of Gaza that has left almost 2,000 Palestinians dead and thousands homeless. To his credit, the president has acknowledged that one of the keys to some settlement of this crisis is for Israel to end its embargo and blockade of Gaza, which has deprived the people there of badly needed food supplies and other forms of economic trade that would lessen the high unemployment in Gaza that leads to frustration and despair. I agree with the ending of the embargo. But I would also point out the contradiction about the U.S. embargo toward Cuba that has been in existence for over 50 years and that has also created much suffering in that country, which poses no danger to American national interests. How can the president of the United States call for the ending of the Israeli embargo toward Gaza but continue the U.S. embargo toward Cuba? It doesn't make sense, and both embargos should be lifted.

The third contradiction has to do with the airstrikes that Obama authorized against Islamic State forces in Iraq primarily, as he says, to protect some of the people in the Kurd region against possible genocide. This is well and good, but I would also point out the contradiction that the president did not suggest the use of U.S. military force against Israel in its violence against innocent civilians in Gaza. At a minimum, we should stop supplying Israel with U.S.-made planes and artillery that are causing such damage that some have been called war crimes.

I hate to see such contradictions from Obama and to see him become mired in these contradictions that in both the short and long run do damage to our democratic and humanitarian ideals. Only the American people can raise their voices and say no more contradictions. Either we believe in what we say that we represent as a country or we don't, but let's not be hypocrites.

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