Foreign Policy Blogs

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming American Foreign Policy

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming American Foreign Policy

Has America exhibited moral courage by addressing change, or the lack there of, in the world? Or has it squandered our hope for a principled effort to rid American foreign policy of its realist inclinations and desire to cling to paradigms?

Many of us have placed our trust in America (i.e., President Obama) to challenge these paradigms by critically examining American foreign policy. Looking back to October 2009, the Nobel Committee’s controversial awarding of the Peace Prize to Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” is questionable, especially when we contrast it with activity at the UN General Assembly.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speeches stirred many emotions – positive and negative – and resultant rancor will likely flow from pundits’ mouths for months to come. Abbas’ speech voiced the PLO narrative of oppression, occupation, and humiliation, while Netanyahu’s voiced his government’s narrative of the indefensibility of returning to Israel’s 1967 borders and Israel’s moral supremacy. Reason tells us that both Israel and Palestine are to blame for the lack of progress towards peace, but Obama’s threat of a UN Security Council veto and backsliding on the need for a cessation of hostilities, including that of settlement expansion, is devastating. I ardently agree with Robert Grenier’s recent, disheartening op-ed that Obama surely must be compromising his ideals to survive America’s realpolitik.

Countless other world leaders visiting the UN also raised issues concerning states that are throwing the international community into conflict or indecision: Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, and Bahrain. The issue in all of these states is that of change. The absence of change concerning Iran and Afghanistan, for example, remains unaddressed, while change in Egypt, Bahrain, Somalia, Syria, Cuba, and Yemen, for example, is ignored or stymied. The US has not moved past typical brinkmanship with Iran under the belief that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons that would be an immense threat to the US. A similar case exists in Afghanistan, where Obama sided with the status quo instead of demonstrating the courage to seek an alternative, counter-terrorism strategy that would have met the US’ actual goals. Squandered opportunity to break free from our intransigent reliance on the status quo of the Sunni-Shi’i divide (to isolate Iran and appease Saudi Arabia) is similarly backwards, requiring us to abstain from support to Bahraini self-determination. The US could be positive and explore improved ties through Egypt’s now normalized ties with Iran, furthermore. Take the case of Cuba, additionally, and we see that Obama is not willing to normalize relations and drop sanctions, which would allow for enormous change. Also in Cuba, Obama has continually backslid on his commitment to close Guantanamo Bay, a point he ran on during his 2008 election.

All of the above policy issues require momentous courage on Obama’s part to bring about positive change; yet, didn’t he promise us, and the world, this?



Ali A. Riazi

Ali is an independent advisor on conflict and foreign affairs and an advocate for civilian protection. He has advised the Office of the Secretary of Defense, US military, NGOs, and intelligence oversight staff on topics, such as Afghanistan, civilian protection, irregular warfare, and civil-military affairs. His 13+ years of career experience have spanned humanitarian and national security circles and involved extensive experience throughout the Near East and Central Asia.

Ali earned a BA in Government & Politics (summa cum laude) and a Minor in International Development & Conflict Management from the University of Maryland, College Park. Additionally, he served as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in International Political Economy. He is currently pursuing an MLitt in Terrorism Studies through the University of St. Andrews.

Ali's other blog interests can be followed at, and he can be found on Twitter at!/ali_riazi.