Tuesday, January 22, 2013

misreading Obama

President Obama's inaugural address barely mentions foreign policy. He has nominated two long-time Senators who gained fame opposing foreign military interventions after military service where they were wounded in battle. The foreign policy punditocracy is now bemoaning expected "retrenchment" despite continued overseas threats.

I think that is a misreading of presidential policy and likely outcomes. Obama has dropped crusading rhetoric but has shown ample willingness to use force. He intervened in Libya but has shown admirable caution regarding Syria ... and Mali. His advisers are understandably reluctant to endorse military action against Iran, but the president's own statements make it much harder for him to backtrack if diplomacy fails.

I welcome Obama's caution and pragmatism. Yet I also believe that "events, dear boy, events" will arise in the next few years and sometimes lead to involvement and actions not now envisioned. In short, neither the hawks nor the doves should feel that their viewpoint has been embraced or ruled out.

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