Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Watching and waiting

AS the lone superpower, which along with its allies has the responsibility to maintain global peace, the United States has its hands full with many hot spots demanding urgent attention. The Ukraine crisis is getting out of hand with reports of an ongoing assault on the Government in that European country. In the South China sea tensions are mounting over territorial claims between China, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and a few others. To add fuel to fire, parts of Iraq are now under the control of militants said to be linked to Al Qaeda. The civil war in Syria is still raging and the Iranian issue over sanctions relating to that country’s supposedly nuclear programme, is still very much in the limelight.

Many have for years looked to the United States as something of a global policeman although of late policymakers in that country believed that should no longer be the case; instead they have been pushing for an isolationist foreign policy. To stay out of these hotspots would send a signal that the United States is becoming weak, although this does not hold water since the Americans have until recently been involved in two lengthy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those two were enough to sap any nation especially when it is considered the loss of personnel and concerns raised by nationals for their country to stop the wars and to bring the troops home. Indeed, that was a campaign plank for President Barack Obama. It can also be viewed from the angle that perhaps the emergence of the new hot spots while there may be other reasons for them to surface, could have something to do with a war wary US and the attitudes of its nationals towards conflict. Add to that the view that the United States’ economy is gradually settling down to lasting economic growth and stability, and it would be seen that nothing will be done to abort whatever gains have already been secured from the growing economy. Wars are costly and while most commentators will suggest that wars usually redound to the benefit of the American economy, that view seems not to be a consideration at this time.

But these are developments that the United States cannot ignore. President Obama has said repeatedly that American troops will not be stationed in the Ukraine. However, the show of force by way of sending Aircraft carriers and destroyers to Europe and having American soldiers participate in military exercises on the continent, seemed not to be enough.

Certainly and with its allies in Western Europe, the US has been using sanctions to “punish” Russia for its reported involvement in the Ukraine. At this point they seemed not to be having the desired impact in deterring the actions of Russia if it is accepted that the latter country is directly stoking the flames of unrest in the Ukraine. If they are, the Russian Government seems not to care too much about them.

As for the instability in the South China Sea, this calls for diplomacy rather than military involvement even though some US military presence remains in proximity. Recent reports have indicated that an American air assault on the positions being held by militants in Iraq is not far away. As these situations unfold, those of us with an interest in seeing positive outcomes to them will continue to follow the events.

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