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28 Jan, 2009 07:51

New U.S. foreign policy: been there, done that

Many believe Barack Obama's entry into the White House will bring about a marked departure in U.S. foreign policy.

However, some remain less optimistic, and anticipate no sharp break from the Bush doctrine under the new administration.

John Sayen, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, is one of them. He is the author of the introduction – ‘The Overburden of America's Outdated Defenses’ – to a new anthology, ‘America's Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress’.

“Based on the people who have been appointed to the key foreign policy positions, I foresee essentially no change at all. And as far as the military is concerned, I don't see any change there either,” Sayen says.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirms this conclusion:

“There is little doubt that our greatest military challenge right now is Afghanistan.”

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen echoes his remarks:

“The top priority for us right now is Afghanistan and Pakistan, I think Obama has made that clear.”

John McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Arms Services Committee, has also made things clear for the American people:

“American people must understand this is a long, hard slog we're in Afghanistan. It is complex, it is difficult, it is challenging,” the Republican Senator said recently.

However, military experts are skeptical about success.

Sayen says the United States has a very poor record of fighting irregular wars:

“We haven't won one in over a hundred years. Iraq, not being an exception, since we are leaving that country without any of our objectives having been accomplished. So our chances in Afghanistan don't seem too good.”

The American military says they rely on Russia and hope for co-operation in Afghanistan.

“I've talked to my Russian counterpart very frequently, very recently again and I'm encouraged by those discussions. I think there are opportunities for all of us to work with Russia on areas of mutual interest. Afghanistan is an area of mutual interest; Iran is an area of mutual interest and stability in the Middle East. I think there is common ground but it takes two to tango here,” Mullen said.

The ‘new’ foreign policy advisors dancing around in the Obama administration look all too familiar. So as the U.S. moves forward in its dealings with other nations, the past is never too far behind.