c Gerald Rich

USA: Liberals lax on Obama’s foreign policies [op-ed]

Nobel Peace Prize winning President Barack Obama has recently reiterated his desire to close Guantanamo Bay. The news was warmly welcomed by US liberals keen to show their conservative counterparts that their man in the White House is a force for good in the world.

Despite all the good intentions and kind words, Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been almost indistinguishable from any Republicans. Guantanamo Bay remains open and drones are the president’s weapon of choice.

In August 2007 the then Senator Barack Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay, vowing “As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions.” After his inauguration in 2009, he signed an executive order to close Guantanamo within a year.

But it is now 2013 and this promise has still not been made good upon and the grievous human rights violations continue to occur under Barack Obama’s watch. Where is the outcry from Barack Obama’s supporters? The bleeding heart liberals have obviously fixed the leak when it comes to caring for the detainees being force-fed in Guantanamo Bay.

There is also a lack of outrage over the Obama administration’s loosely targeted killings using drones to eliminate potential enemies to the United States along with anyone – man, woman or child – that happens to be in the way. If enemies of the state aren’t being illegally detained and “forcefully interrogated” they are being killed outright with America’s new favourite toy.

In February of this year Republican Senator Lindsey Graham estimated that “we’ve killed 4,700” people with drones. He did not say how many of those were civilians but he did provide the excuse that “we’re at war”. In the same month President Obama called for more transparency of the drone policy. Empty rhetoric is seemingly more than enough to calm the conscious of many US liberals.

It was George W. Bush, who began the drone strikes in Pakistan, but under the Obama administration, we have seen rapid expansion of their use. It is fair to say that Mitt Romney or another Republican would be doing the same thing, maybe to a worse extent, and would certainly be a cause of outrage for US liberals. Where then is the outrage directed at Barack Obama’s foreign policy from US liberals? It seems that US liberals are willing to make a moral trade-off to have someone with your domestic politics in the Oval Office.

“He’s the lesser of two evils,” is a commonly used phrase in relation to Barack Obama; whilst this may be true, it acknowledges that he doing some things wrong none the less. Liberals can admit that the continued use of Guantanamo Bay is wrong, or the relatively indiscriminate use of drones is wrong but there is no indignation in their statements and they are more likely to offer excuses rather than condemn the actions of Barack Obama. Liberals in the United States are being bought off with rhetoric and are willing to ignore the reality of their hero’s dubious foreign policy for an improved domestic policy.

The Guantanamo and drone issues demonstrate the prominent problem of hypocrisy on the part of US liberals. By enabling Barack Obama’s foreign policy they discredit their domestic politics as it shows they value the lives of Americans more than foreigners. Such hypocrisy hands credibility to US conservatives and their numerous hypocrisies, such as being pro-life whilst supporting the death penalty. It becomes incredibly hard to criticise someone for moral inconsistencies when you are guilty of the same crime, especially when those moral inconsistencies enable the incarceration, torture, and killing of non-Americans.

US liberals need louder and more frequent criticisms of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Without this they severely restrict their credibility and demonstrate their selective system of morals.

You cannot call yourself an empathetic person whilst you are willing to turn a blind eye as people on US soil are being tortured with the use of sleep deprivation and stress positions. The fact that Barack Obama can buy people off with nothing more than lip service to human rights reveals an ugly truth: US liberals don’t seem to care about the people in Guantanamo Bay or the innocent men, women, and children dying in drone strikes. I am sure they would disagree with this, and I implore them to show that by criticising Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

This is the institutionalised racism of the war on terror working to shape public opinion. It’s all well and good that Obama is pro same-sex marriage and is attempting to reform the US healthcare system but the moral trade-off for these policies should be too great for anyone who cares to claim about people when you know about the targeted killings and routine and unjust torture of individuals. Accepting Obama’s foreign policy makes you no better than the most viscerally driven flag waving patriot that most US liberals claim to despise.

Christopher McMahon


Christopher McMahon. Currently studying for an MA in International Relations & Security at the University of Liverpool after graduating with a BA Hons in Politics and Modern History from the University of Manchester. Former head of layout and writer for The Manchester Historian. Work focuses on foreign policy, cyber warfare, and globalisation.

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