Harvard's Niall Ferguson: US in Global Retreat
Saturday, February 22, 2014 11:00 AM
By: Sandy Fitzgerald
The United States' "geopolitical taper" is having long-lasting, significant effects on the country's national security strategy, as world powers stop taking President Barack Obama's warnings seriously, says Niall Ferguson, Harvard history professor and Stanford University Hoover Institution senior fellow.
"The world remembers the red line that Mr. Obama once drew over the use of chemical weapons in Syria...and then ignored once the line had been crossed," Ferguson writes in an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal.
Ferguson's use of the phrase "geopolitical taper" is a play off Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's use of "taper" last June, when he announced modest reductions in the Fed's large-scale asset-purchase program, creating repercussions worldwide..
But Obama's tapering, or promising consequences only when other nations step "over the line" is far more significant, said Ferguson.
On Wednesday, when the president commented that "there will be consequences if people step over the line" in the raging battles between Ukrainian protesters in Kiev and government forces, nobody took the warning seriously, Ferguson said.
"Ukrainian government snipers kept on killing people in Independence Square regardless," he commented. "The compromise deal reached on Friday in Ukraine calling for early elections and a coalition government may or may not spell the end of the crisis. In any case, the negotiations were conducted without concern for Mr. Obama."
The geopolitical taper can be traced to Obama's first term, when he wanted troops out of Iraq and to have a minimum of U.S. overseas commitments, said Ferguson.
"Less easy to understand was his policy in Afghanistan," said Ferguson, and the result was a compromise and a surge of additional troops, followed by a commitment to begin withdrawing.
Ferguson said Obama passively watched as the Iranian people arose against their rulers starting in 2009 and was caught off balance by the Arab Spring.
Obama's other policies have been confused as well, said Ferguson.
"Mr. Obama backed the government led by Mohammed Morsi, after the Muslim Brotherhood won the 2012 elections. Then the president backed the military coup against Mr. Morsi last year," said Ferguson.
"On Libya, Mr. Obama took a back seat in an international effort to oust Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, but was apparently not in the vehicle at all when the American mission at Benghazi came under fatal attack in 2012."
And Ferguson said, "Syria has been one of the great fiascos of post-World War II American foreign policy" because of Obama's "ineffectual" intervention.
The inaction has resulted in disaster, Ferguson said, with at least 130,000 Syrian civilians being killed and another 9 million driven from their homes. Further, the civil war has escalated into a proxy war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that involves jihadist groups.
"Obama's supporters like nothing better than to portray him as the peacemaker to [former president] George W. Bush's warmonger," said Ferguson. "But it is now almost certain that more people have died violent deaths in the Greater Middle East during this presidency than during the last one."