Swoop: US Foreign Policy Drivers in 2014

Swoop: US Foreign Policy Drivers in 2014
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Swoop: “In 2014 US foreign policy will offer its familiar pattern of vigorous competition for the attention of a President whose interests and priorities are principally domestic. Much decision-making will be opportunistic and event-driven. In parallel, some longer-term calculations will be in play. To help anticipate and explain American actions we offer for the second week our annual analysis of the “drivers” which, in our judgment, will shape the contours of decision-making for the problems that are reasonably foreseeable at this time.

1.     The continuing economic recovery will provide a degree of positive background for President Obama in what will otherwise likely be a very challenging year.

2.     The mid-term elections scheduled for November will overhang the entire year. No political quarter will be given or asked. With the Republicans sensing the opportunity to win control of the Senate – and thus deliver a debilitating blow to Obama’s remaining term – the Administration will face constant headwinds in advancing its goals. The implications for any issue on which cooperation with Congress is essential – most notably Iran – are severe.

3.     As compared to former Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of State Kerry will enjoy more autonomy from the White House to pursue foreign policy initiatives, for example over the Middle East Peace Process. As a decade of expeditionary wars comes to an end, Kerry also will be able to wrest back some degree of foreign policy leadership from the Pentagon and Intelligence Community, though he will still have to contend with powerful foreign affairs committee chairs in both the Senate and House

4.     US public opinion will put a low priority on foreign policy. Skepticism about the value of the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan is growing steadily. This will constrain pressures from certain parts of the Administration and Congress to undertake humanitarian interventions – for example in Syria, Lebanon or Africa – or counter-terrorist missions – for example in the Sahel. Drones will remain the power projection instrument of choice.

5.     The Administration will maintain its rhetorical commitment to rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific, but will find it difficult to shed its lasting interests in the Middle East and Afghanistan. We see the likely agreement of a Status of Forces agreement with Kabul which will result in a continued, albeit limited US military presence on the ground.

6.     Iran will be a major agenda item – and will be politically red-hot. While Administration officials have no illusions about the difficulties involved in reaching a final agreement with Tehran, they are motivated to do so. If negotiations fail – still the most probable scenario – we see the emergence of a containment approach rather than military action. This will further strain relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

7.     In Asia, there is rising concern in Washington that the US is losing mastery of he dynamics there. We see the complex relationships between China, Japan and South Korea – with occasional eruptions from North Korea – as shaping events there, not always under US control or to the US advantage. The US does not wish to choose sides in these issues but increasingly we see the emergence of more tension and greater disequilibrium with Beijing.

8.     Russia will also represent a source of increasing unease. US officials find President Putin’s bluntly assertive style uncomfortable and will continue to place the least favorable interpretation on Russian actions. We foresee a continued consolidation of power by Moscow over its neighbors and a creeping expansion of its influence in the Middle East and South Asia.

9.     Europe will represent a rare comfort zone for Obama. The Transatlantic Trade and Partnership negotiations aside, on which we see only tentative progress, relations with Europe will be mostly crisis free – the occasional dispute about US cyber surveillance excepted.”

Source: Swoop
Photo Credits: President Barack Obama reads a document in the Oval Office, Jan. 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)