There is More at Stake in Syria for the U.S. than the Obama Presidency
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The past few weeks continuing now as well and for the those forthcoming ones could very well be the worst and most difficult period of the Obama Presidency. Rarely has a President been so overwhelmed with such a dynamic and critical situation into which he never should have fallen and for which no solution—even the newly minted Russian proposal—will truly resolve. His mishandling of the civil war in Syria and the human tragedy being perpetrated there someday will be grist for scholars. Suffice to say that the fact that the President has successfully escaped making a decision with respect to Syria—so far—is only another manifestation of Obama’s consistently overly cautious, almost timid, entire modus operandi.
Much more important in the long run for the nation, however, than the President obtaining some breathing room is the debate and discussions as well as the polling that has pointed to a very serious and alarming shift evolving in U.S. foreign policy; a reversion to the isolationist mindset which has always been part of the thinking since the founding of the Republic. The American people may well be weary of war and wary of getting into another war, but withdrawal from the world stage—which is implicit in many of these libertarian or Tea Party advocates is a very dangerous position for the country in the 21st Century. Perhaps what is even of more concern is that it is a view that is catching on now among many mainstream citizens.
The Tea Partyers have always appeared to articulate an inward drift in their views about America’s actions on the world stage, but one should have assumed that geopolitical considerations—security as well as economic ones—would demand that the U.S. maintain an active posture abroad. There is a great difference between Colossus America and a declining posture on the world stage; however this appears to be the direction to which many in America may well lead the country.
While this is occurring, the Arab world—while clearly in a state of flux—is very much part of the growth of Islam throughout the world, and has been gaining a dramatic following in the West, despite its obvious disconnect with modern liberal values and behavior. China is clearly racing ahead to its place of dominance while India is struggling to continue its economic growth while addressing a huge range of socio-economic problems; but doing so as a liberal democracy. Russia is struggling to grow economically and permit a modicum of democratic changes, while it seeks to maintain a place as a major world player, albeit at a lower level than it held before the political upheaval that brought about the demise of Communism.
It is in juxtaposition to this world that in the U.S. today there is this reemergence of an isolationist tendency that is advocating that the U.S. turn inward. Unless the U.S. is directly affected, it is argued, the U.S. should permit the various actors to fight things out about among themselves. This position is totally unviable economically in a world of intertwined and intermingled global economies. Politically, this position will insure an even faster U.S. decline than we are already experiencing. Syria may well become the wake-up call for American internationalists or the point of no-return in the decline of the United States.