US needs to think foreign policy ABC – Aftermath, Blowback, Consequences

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 28, 2013

As French forces take “access points to Timbuktu” and the French foreign minister says “little by little Mali is liberated”, it’s worthwhile to ponder how we came to this pass. Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, my former colleague in The Times of India, has arguedwith his customary lucid force and logic that President Obama’s alleged foreign policy triumphs are not all that they’re made out to be. The tragedy that has come to Mali, he correctly points out, is of the making of Obama’s America.

A Tuareg mercenary

By overthrowing Gaddafi (to no good effect, considering the ensuing chaos in Libya), the heavily armed Tuareg mercenaries returned to Mali, joined hands with local secessionists and an Islamist group Ansar Dine. And the rest is sadly documented in every newspaper anywhere in the world.

True, US foreign policy remains woefully short-sighted – focussed on the immediate, short-term objective, the US seems disinclined to stop and think about the ABC of its actions – Aftermath, Blowback, Consequences.

I’m not so sure though why sections of the punditocracy seem so cross about the praise being heaped on Hillary Clinton as she leaves office. Swami complains: “The US media hail Hilary Clinton as a great Secretary of State. Why? For exiting from Iraq leaving behind a Shia sectarian government, not an inclusive democracy? For exiting from Afghanistan after failing in all strategic goals? For promising to close down Guantanamo and not doing so?”

Shouldn’t we just accept that the kudos for Clinton is merely a sentimental “long goodbye”, a mushy media farewell to someone who’s been around – and constantly reviled – for a while?