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Posted at 10:11 PM ET, 01/25/2011

Obama's State of the Union address thin on foreign policy

By Jackson Diehl

The focus of this State of the Union address was domestic rather than foreign -- and perhaps properly so, given Americans' continuing preoccupation with the economy. Even in that context, though, President Obama's portrait of U.S. engagement in the world was thin -- and weak.

By Obama's account, the most important American foreign initiatives in 2011 will be retreats -- the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The president portrayed the two wars not as vital missions but as loose ends to be wrapped up. In Iraq, he said, "we finish the job of bringing our troops out" -- even though Iraq's pro-Western parties, such as the Kurds, would like at least some American soldiers to stay. In Afghanistan, "we will begin to bring our troops home." Never mind defeating the Taliban -- Obama didn't set that goal.

What of Middle East peace, a great focus of Obama's first two years? The president didn't mention it. Nor did he discuss the spreading popular unrest in the Arab Middle East, other than to say that the United States "stands with the people of Tunisia," whatever that might mean. The efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and North Korea from expanding its arsenal, were covered with perfunctory phrases.

So will there be any significant American foreign policy initiative in 2011? To judge from the State of the Union, there will be one: a trip by Obama to South America. For better or worse, Brazil, Chile and El Salvador are the new subjects of American foreign policy. Maybe they can offer advice about teacher training, or high-speed rail.

By Jackson Diehl  | January 25, 2011; 10:11 PM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
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Next: Hard to argue with Obama's State of the Union address

Comments

why does WaPo print this half-wit, neocon, Israeli agent??

Posted by: kurthunt | January 25, 2011 10:31 PM | Report abuse

I,too, wish that he had broken all ties with Israel right on national television. But that will be another speech -- if we are lucky.

Posted by: reaganbluedogs | January 25, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

It's time to focus on our "DOMESTIC" Policies.

Besides... a whole DECADE spent on our Foreign Polices is a Decade too long?

Don't you think????

Posted by: lcarter0311 | January 25, 2011 10:44 PM | Report abuse

In a nutshell...HIaTt and DIEhl are pissed because Obama doesn't want to kill muslims.

Posted by: playa_brotha | January 25, 2011 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Wow. An article that only tangentially touches upon Israel brings out the anti-semitic nut jobs. Obama should trump up support for anyone willing to find a cure for the "I can't get the Jews off my mind" freaks among us. Lord knows they're a colossal waste of human resources.

Posted by: gadlut | January 26, 2011 1:28 AM | Report abuse

Very interesting Obumer didnt yell "America will not be number two". Seems he knows well he cannot stop US from declining any longer.

Posted by: eastman1 | January 26, 2011 2:23 AM | Report abuse


"In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11."

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/48181.html#ixzz1CBK1TZyY

Posted by: richburgk | January 26, 2011 4:07 AM | Report abuse

Historians will trace the decline of this nation to the time that barely educated, using terms like "Obumer," empowereed the GOP.

Posted by: oldabandonedbeachhouse | January 26, 2011 5:01 AM | Report abuse

.
Apparently, to Mr. Diehl the whole of US foreign policy revolves around what a small, radical clique in Israel wants the US military to do to subjugate Muslims.
.

Posted by: BrianX9 | January 26, 2011 6:14 AM | Report abuse

"State of the Union" speech. Not state of the world.

Posted by: rlj611 | January 26, 2011 6:36 AM | Report abuse

What is he supposed to say? That he totally caved to Netanyahu? That he is opposing the long-awaited democratization of Lebanon? That he looks forward to working with Sadr in Iraq? That he has totally bought into the policy of Bush's Petraeus in Afghanistan? That he has caved to China (or big business) on economic questions?) That he never will close Guantanamo or reconcile with Cuba? That he keeps wasting money on making air travel more unpleasant and less free when as Domodedovo shows, the dangers are just shifted to another locale? There are some things better not to discuss.

But some day some President will realize you never can satisfy the Diehls and Israel and you might as well take your lumps for making progress.

Posted by: jhough1 | January 26, 2011 7:16 AM | Report abuse

I find it interesting that at the cusp of a breakthrough in democracy in the Middle East, something that can only be good for the US and the world in the long run, we are backing away from that area. It was long argued by many that the area was "not ready", but the events in Tunisia and Egypt in the last few days tend to say otherwise; that when people get a taste of even the relative freedom of democracy, even with all of its baggage and responsibilities, they develop and overwhelming hunger for it.

They people of the Middle East have (elections in Iraq) spoken and continue to speak (Tunisia and Egypt). Are we listening?

Posted by: Labrador1 | January 26, 2011 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Jackson Deihl says, 'lets kill a bunch of foreigners!!!'

Go to hell, you war mongering, murdering piece of human waste.

Posted by: aartmann112004 | January 26, 2011 8:24 AM | Report abuse

"Wow. An article that only tangentially touches upon Israel brings out the anti-semitic nut jobs. Obama should trump up support for anyone willing to find a cure for the "I can't get the Jews off my mind" freaks among us. Lord knows they're a colossal waste of human resources. "

Go blow yourself.

Posted by: aartmann112004 | January 26, 2011 8:25 AM | Report abuse

"In a nutshell...HIaTt and DIEhl are pissed because Obama doesn't want to kill muslims."

Actually Muslims want to kill us. Just look at what's happening all over the world.

Posted by: shewholives | January 26, 2011 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Richard Millett watched a new two-hour anti-Israel documentary claiming that Israel targeted children in Gaza. The film is now being shown on college campuses. It included this lovely clip:
Allah is the greatest.
He who thanks Allah will be rewarded.
Oh Allah, loosen your power and strength on the Jews. (Amen.)
Please Allah, kill them all...
And don't leave any of them alive. (Amen.)
Oh Allah, with your great power. Allah!
We are asking you with your infinite power, dear Allah. Allah!
Please dear Allah, take revenge for our martyrs' blood. Allah!
Please Allah, get rid of the Jews.
Bring them down.
They are not as powerful as you.
Please Allah, make the earth shake and destroy the pillars of their civilisation.
Please Allah, cast fear and terror into their hearts....
Qur'an 8:60 directs Muslims to "make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah and your enemies..."
Hat tip: Jihad Watch

Islam in all its glory.

Posted by: shewholives | January 26, 2011 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Why worry about foreign policy? Our highly successful SOS, Hillary Clinton has everything under control. Just take a minute to write down all of her successes? Need a few more minutes? Impressive, huh? What,you can't think of any ?!? Neither can anyone else.

Guess she's about ready to run for the Presidency.

Posted by: richard36 | January 26, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

There is only ONE American foreign policy which will aid the USA. Just ONE, and that is
ABANDON ISRAEL NOW!!

Posted by: usnr02 | January 26, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

That he did not focus on foreign policy is not surprising as he wants to avoid another shellacking. Bashing Bush (rightly or wrongly) won't work in '12 since he's no longer the President.

The question becomes how he (or any President) can claim to be the leader of the free world while ignoring the rest of the world. Foreign events cause challenges - Truman didn't expect war in Korea when he campaigned in '48; Johnson was done in by Vietnam; Clinton ran from a challenge in Somalia (we now have to deal w/pirates from there so the consequences continue); neither candidate in 2000 focused on terrorism but 9/11 created a focus on threats outside the US.... Hezbollah just made gains in Lebanon - if either party ever had a strategy for dealing w/Hezbollah other than saying they're terrorists, it wasn't widely published. As a country, we unfortunately have a short term memory about such things and the public/media pay more attention to subject's like Oprah's newly found sister than on events which will affect us. What would we have saved in lives and treasure if the Clinton administration had gone after bin Laden after he bombed our embassies in East Africa? We minimize foreign affairs issues at our own peril.

Posted by: RichardCollins | January 26, 2011 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Diehl,
Yes, our entire foreign policy is designed around the most important state in the world Israel. We can let them bully the Palestinians alone for one night! You can too.

Posted by: BobSanderson | January 26, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Looks like Twitter and Facebook are bringing democracy to the Middle East faster than Shock and Awe.

Let's divert the spending on bombs and drop cell phones instead!

Posted by: MHawke | January 26, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

They don't teach foreign policy in Kenya, the place of obozo's birth. Obama was born a British subject in Kenya and is unfit to be president.

Posted by: carlbatey | January 26, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I am glad Obama did not go into foreign policy and kept his emphasis on the economy and what we need to be doing here. He did talk about new trade agreements that will spur our economy and the status of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a little aside about Pakistan.

While I can understand Diehl's interest in high-speed rail given where he lives, please understand that it is expensive to build, expensive to maintain, and Washington getting high speed rail takes my tax dollars. Take the bus.

As for all those commenting about Israel, better spend your time worrying about Iran and North Korea. Israel may have taken their defense too far sometimes, but the hits keep coming at them and they have a right to exist and to defend themselves. They have been at war since their existence more than 50 years ago.

Posted by: amelia45 | January 26, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

An image explaining it:

http://acartoonaday.blogspot.com/

Posted by: luispastor | January 26, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

A valid critique of Obama's foreign policy would be to compare him to old man Bush's new world order. Obama is far short of him but far better than the 2 previous presidents. Diehl misses the fact that Obama gave the military the resources and free hand to make the Taliban ineffective. Start with the increased drone attacks in Pakistan and this outline of military intervention in Afghanistan. 30,000 ground troops added let the military go after the Taliban logistical hub in Nawzad valley. Next came Marja, the drug distribution center which finances the Taliban, now we are going after the ideological center in Kandahar. I expect the last venture will be the Khost stopover from Pakistan's NWFP. Although gains were made Colin Powell said it best by saying the corrupt Karzai gov't will not be supported by the people making the strategy complete and moot.

Posted by: jameschirico | January 26, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

We can see the Israel Firsters and Zionist racist nutcases here in their tired old full fury. Selected and often fabricated quotations from "Muslims" to conform to their preconceived stereotypes.
The end of the phony "peace process" is a recognition of objective reality. In Israel
peace is spelled P I E C E.
How Diehl can still support two discredited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is beyond human reason.
Here in Oakland we have an actual unemployment rate that is 30%. We
need to close the Empire and take care
of our business.
Please stuff the "anti-semitic" canard too.
Arabs are Semites and the vast majority of real anti-semitic sentiments are aimed at them from Israel's mindless supporters, Jews and Fundie ChristCulters alike.
Does anyone really think Israel's critics would be pro-Israeli policies if that state was run by Gentiles ? Is anyone really that stupid ?

Posted by: mike_hardesty7 | January 26, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Why worry about foreign policy? Our highly successful SOS, Hillary Clinton has everything under control. Just take a minute to write down all of her successes? Need a few more minutes? Impressive, huh? What,you can't think of any ?!? Neither can anyone else.

Guess she's about ready to run for the Presidency.

Posted by: richard36
==========================================
Stupid is as stupid posts. State has worked hand in hand with the military to do the following. Give up a useless against the bear Polish missile defense to new air delivery corridors to Afghanistan used extensively when the land bridge was compromised during Pakistan's flood. Getting IED help in Pakistan allowing Swat Valley and the southwest cleared of Taliban. Coin for Yemen to go after terrorists. When she was expected to be on the carpet in Pakistan about our drone attacks and troops increases, she said they coddle extremists never getting the question, brilliant.

Posted by: jameschirico | January 26, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

We can see the Israel Firsters and Zionist racist nutcases here in their tired old full fury. Selected and often fabricated quotations from "Muslims" to conform to their preconceived stereotypes.
The end of the phony "peace process" is a recognition of objective reality. In Israel
peace is spelled P I E C E.
How Diehl can still support two discredited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is beyond human reason.
Here in Oakland we have an actual unemployment rate that is 30%. We
need to close the Empire and take care
of our business.
Please stuff the "anti-semitic" canard too.
Arabs are Semites and the vast majority of real anti-semitic sentiments are aimed at them from Israel's mindless supporters, Jews and Fundie ChristCulters alike.
Does anyone really think Israel's critics would be pro-Israeli policies if that state was run by Gentiles ? Is anyone really that stupid ?

Posted by: mike_hardesty7 | January 26, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

---------------------
Actually, many of us are not "Israel Firsters" or "Zionists" but we are part of the counter-jihad movement. A growing movement in both the US and Europe as we watch the extreme left wing, the politically correct forces, and fanatical Muslims destroy our right to free speech, right to freedom of religion, protection of women's rights, protection of gay rights, destroyed by the advancement of Shariah law and constant Muslim demands and lawsuits for special consideration.

Posted by: shewholives | January 26, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

and not a word about the war next door supported by our drug money and gun dealers. mentioning that would have given him a perfect opening to touch on the issue of gun magazines like the one used in the Tucson massacre. missed opportunity.

Posted by: eomcmars | January 26, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Anti-semites on the left seem to be breeding like flies.

Why won't anyone link the spontaneous movements in Tunisia and Egypt, not to mention the earlier attempt by Lebanon that was squelched by Obama's Muslim pals in Syria, to our liberation of Iraq.

The reason we went into Iraq was to promote democracy in the region, and after watching the progress of the Iraqis and even to a degree the Afghans, other Muslims in the region want some of that action for themselves.

Yeah W! That's the kind of guts liberals haven't had since Kennedy, and BTW, the neocons were 60s liberals who were hawks, and like Kennedy were anti-communist to a fault. Once liberal hawks, led by the likes of Scoop Jackson (who was mentored by Truman, but never changed party) saw how liberals were flocking leftward, they balked and became conservatives.

And having read Fukuyama's End of History, extolling democracy--something today's liberals find congenitally displeasing but won't admit--as a way toward global peace, they pushed Bush toward their way of thinking. And now, perhaps, it's starting to pay off.

Posted by: tom75 | January 26, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Jackson, it's about the U.S., not Israel. We wanted to hear what he has planned for us. Enough with the Post's Israeli apologists.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 26, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Would another illegal war be in order then to fix our budget woes... and sho says anyone is leaving since we will be leaving non-combatants which is where we were when we escalated Vietnam.... pretty good staging ground for another worthless war agasin Iran like the one we urged on Iraq to begin with to set off the region ever since.. or was it the support for the Shah that started if off and Vienam was just a short diversion...oil and mega corporations and more oil... at our expense..

Posted by: Wildthing1 | January 26, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

You fool!

It was the State of the Union, NOT the state of our foreign policy with half the word still afraid the right-wingers will gain control and go rogue again, invading and destroying another country for no valid reason like 43 and the neo-Reaganites did to Iraq.

Why are all right-wing idiots wanting to rewrite their failures over and over and over. Insanity as a character trait.

Posted by: PoliticalPrisoner2012 | January 26, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Only one thing to do in foreign policy. Destroy Hezbollah.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | January 26, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

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