Sunday, November 07, 2010


"Mr. Robbins is an Imperialist. The British proletariat is not. It is interested in the Beveridge Report [id est. 'the welfare state'], not in international planning. We must fashion our foreign policy accordingly."

Sir Orme Sargent [Deputy under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office], circa 1943, quoted in The Memoirs of Lord Gladwyn, 1972, p. 124.

The recent American elections, as were widely predicted were rather disastrous for the American President's party. Both in Washington and in the various local elections. No doubt the main reasons are an intermingling of: i) the horrendous unemployment rate (above nine percent for longer than at anytime in the last seventy years); ii) and a widespread revulsion at the American President's policies by a good portion of the electorate. The latter factor having been whipped up by (to use Dean Acheson's formulation in his memoirs, 'Present at the Creation', pp. 354-361) 'the primitives'. Meaning the assorted groupings known as the 'Tea Party' movement. As per the first variable: this is a problem which may or may not solve itself in the next eighteen months. If the past is any clue it should do so. Whether economic history will follow the patterns of prior recessions in this rather extraordinary one, is at this point any one's guess. Obviously, if the 'Japanese' scenario of a decade of stagnation is indeed upon us, then this will not be the case. And, come the elections of 2012, the unemployment rate will probably remain above nine percent and most likely the current American President will go down in his own sort of electoral Titanic. As per the second variable: the charges made by these political primitives seem too fantastic to take any real notice. Of course one must say at the outset that in many ways the upsurge of popular discontent with our rulers is to some degree understandable. With a President, whose name and appearance betray an essential 'foreignness' to the American heartland, it is not surprising that we have had the type of political childishness & hysterics that we have had in these past eighteen months. Especially, since by definition the current American President is a parfait symbol of all the cultural and societal changes of the past forty-five years, which many Americans, nay indeed many in the Western monde, have difficulty accepting. That is au fond the secondary causation of this rather macabre type of political foolery that we have been seeing and hearing. Again, if the economic situation were to turn around in the near term, then and perhaps only then will the animal force of the primitives subdue itself.

With all of the above being said, what will be the foreign policy implications of the recent American elections? In essence my own surmise is that the American administration's policy will not change very much. At least in overall form. In many areas, such as say the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, or the Persian problem, the parameters of American policy will become narrower & and more constrained due to a fear of incurring a political firestorm back home. Indeed, in the case of the former, it is now scarcely possible that the American Administration will have the strength of will to serious pressure the Israeli government to offer up concessions to the Palestinian Authority. Something which as we have commented recently, the policy programme of Mr. Dennis Ross of the National Security Council Staff, does not see the need for in any case. Similarly, in the case of Persia, it is hardly possible to imagine that the American Administration will be willing to make any more concessions in order that Tehran climb down, over its insistence upon retaining its current nuclear programme. Indeed, it would appear that to the contrary there will be increasing pressure as time goes by, for the State Department and the White House to increase pressure on the regime of Mullahs in Persia. In the case of Russia, it is possible that if the American Senate fails to ratify the recent accords signed by the American President and his Russian counterpart, Mr. Medvedev, in the next two months, that they shall never be so. With all of the negative after effects that this will imply upon the American Administration's 'reset' of policy vis-`a-vis Moskva. The same likely paralysis can be said for any policy towards the Castro brothers regime in Cuba. Lastly, given the state of the American economy, it is scarcely possible that there will be any serious attempts to negotiate a new, multilateral trade regime. Certainly, not while the economy does not show signs of a complete recovery.

Oddly enough the only area where the American administration will have more room for maneuver in policy terms will be in Afghanistan-Pakistan. With the incoming Congress much more likely to support the war effort in the one, and military and economic assistance in the other. Indeed, if nothing else, the recent elections tend to show that for the vast majority of the American pays reel, the war in Afghanistan is pretty much a non-event. If and only if, the American administration endeavors to stage a hurried and premature withdrawal prior to the next general elections in 2012, will there be any political fireworks associated with American policy in this area of the world. Especially, if the military where to make it clear that they are not convinced of the correctness of the policy in question. Whether & how the Administration will look upon matters in this crucial area is difficult to tell at this juncture in time. With for example the Woodward book on the decisions made by the American President and his advisers in 2009-2010 concerning Afghanistan painting a not very attractive picture of half-hearted commitment to the conflict. A commitment that it would appear from the same source, the current regime in Washington would much rather be rid of. How things will turn out, only time will tell.


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