Belmont Club

Inaudible Thunder

George Friedman at Stratfor believes the President will gloss over foreign policy issues and focus on domestic affairs. While this makes good electoral sense, he argues it conceals the fact that the US is facing a number of crises abroad. The first is Afghanistan, in which the Taliban “has only to not lose in order to win”. The second is Iran. He believes that the Saudis are on the verge of admitting defeat in their bit to oppose Teheran and will seek an accommodation with that regime before continuing a confrontation they believe they cannot win.

That means that not only is there a danger of the loss of Lebanon, but the gradual conversion of Iraq into an Iranian satellite. “If the United States is prepared to complete the withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011, it must deal with Iran prior to the withdrawal.”

Friendman’s analysis is remarkable because it is obvious. And yet nothing about the crisis seems to register in an administration that is, like the Taliban, concerned with not losing in order to keep its “historic” domestic agenda in place. That said, it is perhaps inevitable that both sides of the aisle will ignore foreign policy unless a full-blown crisis is forced on them. What the Obama victory of 2008 suggests — in response to what the Bush victory of 2004 “proved” — is that no bipartisan consensus on foreign policy exists any more.

Under those circumstances, foreign policy now depends on who has control of Washington. In that view, Iran is destined to triumph unless the current policy is changed. Democrats probably hold a similar view, but going the other way.

This kind of oscillation may be a structural feature of US foreign policy from now on, until a stable consensus can re-emerge. Foreign policy may now be on hold until the futue of America itself can be politically decided.

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