Argo, Obama and Romney
The world has changed since Argo happened. I’m referring to the movie by Ben Affleck, this breathless, unforgettable thriller based on a true story: the rescue of 6 US diplomats in Iran in 1979 at the height of anti-everything-American under Ayatollah Khomeini, the Muslim leader who led the revolution that toppled the plundering Shah.
The US, then under President Jimmy Carter, provided refuge to the Shah of Iran, its ally. A storm of angry protests swept through Tehran which peaked in the takeover of the US embassy by a mob of Islamic revolutionaries who took more than 60 American hostages.
The Canadian ambassador welcomed to his home the 6 who were able to escape; they became his guests for about 3 months—until they were rescued by the CIA. This remarkable escape is the stuff of Argo, Affleck’s best movie.
More than 20 years after Argo, gone is the Cold War. Global power is no longer held by two countries carrying the torches for opposing ideologies. Sources of security threats are no longer confined to nation-states; they include borderless terrorist groups and criminal syndicates.
But what remains the same is the fact that the US continues to be a superpower engaged with allies in various parts of the world. After Argo, the US undertook similar missions, but the targets varied. They were no longer confined to US nationals.
Black Hawk Down
Remember Black Hawk Down? The book that chronicled the 1993 US fiasco in Somalia was made into a haunting movie. The mission of the US soldiers “was a fast daylight raid to kidnap a terrorist…who had been killing UN workers delivering food to starving Somalis. His goal was to control the country by controlling all the food.”
“The U.S. raid went off with clockwork precision, until the unexpected happened. Two of the U.S. Black Hawk helicopters, the soldiers’ airlift out, were shot down. The mission abruptly changed to a rescue operation. Surrounded by Somali militia, a fierce firefight ensued that left American troops trapped and fighting for their lives. The ordeal left 18 American men dead, 70 wounded, with 3,000 Somalis casualties,” according to one account. Bill Clinton was US president at the time.
Fast forward to 2011. The world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, was killed by US elite forces in a lightning raid in Pakistan. It was an operation fraught with potential bad outcomes but, fortunately, it succeeded. This was one of President Barack Obama’s shining moments.
Still, the US continues to be embroiled in that part of the world. Together with NATO, the US military is preparing Afghanistan, faced with serious threats from the Taliban, to manage its own security forces before they pull out in 2014. The country is a wobbly democracy, crippled by warlords and corruption.
Under Obama, the Asia-Pacific region has gained more importance in US foreign policy. An indication is in the deployment of 60% of US naval forces in the Pacific, a change from the previous 50-50 split between the Atlantic and Pacific commands, reports say.
Called the “Asia Pivot,” this sends a signal that the US is re-asserting its power in the region. Others say it’s merely a “rebalancing” of forces.
China and India, rising global powers, are in this part of the world. Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, is in Southeast Asia. Terrorist threats, too, lurk in this huge swath of the globe.
Heated disputes between China and 3 US allies in the Pacific — Japan, South Korea and the Philippines—over contested islands is causing worrisome tension. China is the giant (and bully) that casts its awesome influence in these parts.
If Mitt Romney wins in the elections on November 6, will this policy shift continue?
Ships and bayonets
In the last campaign debate, Asia figured somewhat. This part became famous because of the exchange on military hardware.
Obama said the region is “going to be a massive growth area in the future. And we believe China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power, that we are going to have a presence there.”
The International Herald Tribune reported: “Romney, who favors an expansion of the military budget, said ‘our navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now down to 285.’”
Obama countered, showing Romney’s fragile grasp of the issue, that “we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military’s changed.”
Whoever makes it, and we will know this soon, the US will continue to be the superpower and will inevitably do Argo-like missions. Only the targets and circumstances have changed. - Rappler.com