Challenges at Hand - A Time to Pray
President Obama is now in office and the challenges of governing have begun. On the domestic side, the knotty issues relate mainly to the economy. In foreign policy, there are several unavoidable challenges; the largest is Afghanistan, not Iraq and not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That unruly conflict can be, and usually is, avoided by Presidents, except those who want to get symbolic points for trying.
The President faces hard choices in Afghanistan. He will need good fortune as well as good judgment and wisdom. His plans call for disengagement from Iraq, and with relative stability there the way forward seems manageable. He has called for an increase in our commitment of troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.
The challenge therein is maintaining supply lines. At present those lines go from ships docked at Karachi, Pakistan by truck through Pakistan and then north across the border into Afghanistan at either of two crossings. We depend entirely on the government of Pakistan to maintain the integrity of those supply lines.
Rising tensions between India and Pakistan complicate the situation. Pakistan has already pulled some troops from the Afghan border area to its border with India following the Mumbai attacks. Increased tensions could come from the government on either side or from more terrorist attacks. All three of these factors are beyond Washington’s control.
An alternative supply route is critical and can only come through Iran (not possible at present) or from the north through some combination of former Soviet Republics and Russia itself or at least with Russian cooperation. This will mean making concessions to Russia. We will get no help in pressing the Russians for cooperation from any coalition of European states because too many of them are too dependent on Russian natural gas for industry and for home heating. Moscow is already flexing that muscle to make it clear to European states that they must bow to Russian wishes.
It is likely that Russian cooperation will come at a high price. It will probably mean lessening our support for Georgia and Ukraine, abandoning talk of them joining NATO, and possibly withdrawing from our military bases in Central Asia. At worst, it could mean recognition of the Russian sphere of influence throughout the former Soviet Union, not unlike the Monroe Doctrine which charges European nations not to interfere in the Americas.
Dealing with hard and unavoidable challenges is what makes being the President so tough. Foreign policy is certainly an area in which to pray for wisdom for our President and for the Lord’s favor on our country in a dangerous world.