Cementing the notion that Benjamin Netanyahu’s early March speech to a joint-session of Congress was thoroughly political in nature, 47 Senate Republicans circumvented the Executive Branch by directly penning an open letter to Iran’s leaders. At the same time, the Obama Administration has escalated its use of targeted sanctions and declared Venezuela a threat to American national security over human rights violations. Unfortunately, these kinds of developments demonstrate the self-destructive dysfunction in Washington, which is hurting the Country, is also infecting the area of government where politics has had the least impact, i.e. diplomacy.
As for the Republican letter to Iran, the GOP essential said to the International Community the American government is so broken that it cannot even manage to voice a coherent message to the world, which undermines US global leadership, the credibility of democracy in a era when dictators need convinced democracy is in their interests, and the American President cannot be trusted to deliver on the simplest of promises. What makes the letter to Iran particularly damaging is that Republicans are not opposing a particular agreement that has been presented to them.
Republicans are essential condemning the negotiations for a potential nuclear deal with Iran directly to one of America’s long-time adversaries instead of writing the letter to the President, the American People, and, perhaps, our allies involved in the process. Where Republicans could have lobbied for negotiations that were more honest in terms of what kind of a deal Republicans would allow, they chose to disrespect President Obama and embarrass our Country in front of the entire world. Given diplomacy is fairly bipartisan in nature and largely isolated from the partisan politics of the campaign trail, the continued abuse of the diplomatic process by Republicans demonstrates a new level of toxicity in our political system.
As for the Obama Administration’s classification of Venezuela as a “national security threat” over the abuse of protesters, human rights abuses do not necessarily constitute a national security threat to the United States, especially when abuses of this nature are fairly routine in a number of countries, which includes US allies. All human rights violations are wrong and run counter to the interests of the International Community; however, the wrongs the Venezuelan government is doing against its own citizens do not create a “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
By distorting the threat posed by a country like Venezuela, the President is creating a situation where dishonesty fuels anti-American sentiments, drives anti-American propaganda, and undermines more pressing situations where the US needs support in the use of sanctions. At the same time, this broad misuse of the “national security threat” classification leaves national security and foreign policy susceptible to the personal agendas of political leaders. Because nations do copy the behavior of the United States as the world’s most influential country, others are likely to follow suit.
Where the President’s targeting of individuals is done to punish those in power who are doing harmful things and spare the rest of a population form the costs of sanctions, the practice can be a dangerous one. The global economy depends on openness, i.e. the ability of individuals to move money and assets around the world with minimal restriction built on America’s traditional respect for individual property. The more and more targeted sanctions are used by the US as well as America’s allies and adversaries, the more the global markets will be affected. In fact, it will help polarize the global economy. Wealth will eventually be concentrated into “trusted” national economies where alliances are stable while global investment will be impeded to the detriment of poor countries and global sourcing of natural resources will impeded to the detriment of wealthy countries.
When considering the combined impact of the Republican-driven impulse to turn foreign policy into a battleground for political grudges and the Obama Administration-driven trend of targeting individual leaders in order to affect the public policy of foreign nations, it is clear that foreign policy is increasingly going to be used to push political agendas. Diplomacy is needed to help foster healthy relationships with others and address national security interests, yet the use of diplomatic institutions to push political agendas is increasingly going to undermine the process. Instead of building constructive national and foreign policies that make the world a better place, the political agendas of those in power are being given new opportunities to distort foreign policy matters to their benefit instead of the benefits of all People.
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