Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A question for our readers 

We have smart readers, and many of the most longstanding were drawn to this blog when we wrote mostly about foreign policy. Most of you pay a lot of attention to politics and the public pronouncements of the Obama administration, so you are the perfect audience for this question: Without resorting to Google (in other words, just off the top of your educated head), please list in the comments the top 3-5 interests or objectives of American foreign policy according to the current administration. And please do not blow off this assignment! Part of the point is to see whether the Obama administration has articulated its objectives clearly enough that a large group of smart and aware blog readers can repeat them back, more or less.

I'll have more on this in a couple of days, after I have read your comments.


By Blogger K. Pablo, at Wed Jan 27, 12:11:00 AM:

1. Image building and atmospherics ("Restore the U.S. to its rightful place in the world order by reversing the cowboy image of the Bush years")

2. Image building and atmospherics ("Mollify the muslim world by groveling before their leaders, withdrawing as many troops in-theater as possible, and by opposing new settlements in Israel")

3. Hammer out some kind of climate deal.

4. Rely on Obama's magical powers of persuasion to de-fang Medvedev, Kim Jong-Il, and the Iranian mullahs.

Good luck, Hillary.  

By Blogger Thunderheart, at Wed Jan 27, 12:19:00 AM:


I'm just guessing here, but the Obama Administration foreign policy priorities would be:

1) Improved relations with traditional U.S. (ie, NATO) allies.

2) Improved relations with the Muslim nations of the world, both through speechifying and concrete actions such as the intended closing of Gitmo, and the greater emphasis on Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. This is contradicted somewhat by Obama's belated surge in Afghanistan, of course, but I'm sure the President would argue otherwise.

3) Greater coordination with the rising nations of the world, the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations, in addressing such issues as global warming or new financial coordination as a response to the global economic crisis.

4) Being generally non-confrontational with nations from Cuba to Venezuela to Iran, not so much for its own sake as it is to remove the lefty excuse-making that the U.S. is the only party looking for trouble.

I think your point that these goals are not well-articulated is dead on! We'll see what everyone else has to say.  

By Anonymous jimmyk, at Wed Jan 27, 12:23:00 AM:

1. Get out of Iraq, win lose or draw.
2. Be nice to China, no mater what they do.
3. Afghanistan has no solution, it just is.
4. Apologize for all the deeds done by white presidents of the U.S. be they good or bad.
5. We are no more important than any other country in the world.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 12:49:00 AM:

1. Convert "war on Terror" to exercise in criminal jurisprudence, thus converting terrorists to mere criminals, thereby eliminating the need to deal with terrorists.
2. Establish close diplomatic ties with America's enemies, and see to it that America has no real friends.
3. Subjugate America politically and economically to 2nd and 3rd world nations by transferring sovereignty, control over energy production, and judicial authority to the United Nations.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 12:49:00 AM:

1. Apologize and kowtow to all.

2. Get another Nobel peace prize for Barry HO.

That is all.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Wed Jan 27, 12:55:00 AM:

1. We're sorry!

2. Please like us.

3. We love Islamic countries, it's all Israel's fault.

4. We're staying in Afghanistan because we want to look tough but it's like Truman Capote trying to play defensive tackle for the Steelers.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Wed Jan 27, 12:58:00 AM:

1. Re-align the geopolitical role of the U.S. from world leadership to an "equal" partner.

2. Correct the economic and social "errors" that have resulted from our insistence on world dominance.

3. Join with Europe to forge a new world order based on socialist theory.

4. Engage hostiles at the negotiation table rather than the battlefield.

5. Solidify the United Nations as a valid world power.

Such is the danger of this man and his backers.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Wed Jan 27, 01:11:00 AM:

1)Create good will towards the US throughout the world.
2)By being non-threatening, show the jihadists we are not a threat to them.
3)Get the US to align itself with Euro goals such as Copenhagen.
4)Get out of Afghanistan by 2011 no matter what.  

By Blogger Carolyn, at Wed Jan 27, 01:47:00 AM:

1. We will apologize for our past misdeeds and know that you will appreciate our new sense of humility and reasonableness.

2. In return, we expect you -- Russia, Iran, North Korea, etc., to join us in a more mature, sensitive, cooperative approach toward international relations.

3, Europe has the right idea about Climate Change, but they can now take care of themselves as far as self-defense goes. And Britain can forget about any "special relationship".

4. I don't know why the Europeans won't support my efforts to internationalize the Afghanistan situation by committing additional troops when I ask them to. I'm trying to demonstrate that the United States does not consider itself to be "special" any more. I thought that's want they wanted.

5. Not sure how to end our engagement in Iran. I'll have to study it some more.  

By Blogger Carolyn, at Wed Jan 27, 01:48:00 AM:

5. Iraq. Not Iran. above.  

By Anonymous Boxty, at Wed Jan 27, 01:53:00 AM:

1.Agreement on Palestine (statehood?)
2.Global agreement on climate change
3.Nuclear arms reduction
4.End wars in Iraq and Iran  

By Blogger Neil Sinhababu, at Wed Jan 27, 03:15:00 AM:

Good question. My best guesses, without looking at the other kids' answers:

1) Nuclear nonproliferation
2) Turning Iraq over to the Iraqis
3) Whatever we're doing in Afghanistan
4) Generally improving America's image abroad
5) Climate change stuff  

By Anonymous ric, at Wed Jan 27, 03:23:00 AM:

Leave Afghanistan starting in 18 mo. Make Israel a partitioned state and Palastine whole. Destroy our nuclear arsenal. Welcome Iran into the nuclear club. Be the head of the UN instead of another term as president of the US. ric  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 03:54:00 AM:

1) Restore the image of the US as non-aggressive, equal partner to all nations. Part of the image change is closing Gitmo and treating terrorism as a criminal, not military, response
2) Promote social justice through democratic-socialist institutions and policies
3) Defeat al Queda
4) Promote climate change
5) Downplay US national interests as a legimate foreign policy issue. This is not articulated by the administration, but it is signalled by the inaction and lack of clarifying what our national interests are.

Some policies they are not interested in:
- More free trade agreements
- Aggressive promotion of human rights and freedom

An underlying, unarticulated goal is the promotion of Obama as the first citizen of the world, a leader for all people.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 04:11:00 AM:

To be all things to all nations.


By Anonymous Daran, at Wed Jan 27, 04:31:00 AM:

1) Get the olympics?
2) Get a climate deal?
3) Convince the Chinese to keep buying debt?
4) Please love the (Democrat part of) USA?  

By Anonymous Jean, at Wed Jan 27, 05:19:00 AM:

My take on this administration is that they've bought into the 'decline' argument and managing the supposed 'decline' of American power relative to other countries is the overarching meme from which all else flows. They are wrong, of course, but because of their beliefs they seek to enhance multilateralism, appease the islamists, cooperate with the Chinese government and seek cooperation with the Russians. For 'progressives' they really are stuck in a time warp!
In all honesty, I think the administration would just rather focus on domestic issues because international relations require strategic thought and quite frankly, at this stage, I'm not seeing any evidence of intelligence. It's going to be a long, and dangerous, three years.  

By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Wed Jan 27, 06:37:00 AM:

1) stop name-calling, engage in dialogue with all;
2) when above produces status quo, follow prior administration policies;
3) do # three above weighted down by the (inherited) financial/economic disaster we are trying to pull ourselves out of.
4) does anybody remember energy?  

By Blogger Simon Kenton, at Wed Jan 27, 06:55:00 AM:

Peace in Palestine.
Withdraw from Iraq.
Climate agreement.
Fight in, then leave Afghanistan.
Kinder gentler image.
Produce an image of America the dialogee.

TH, is the point of your post that his foreign policy is as content-free as the sonorities of his speeches? Under the aural caress of that baritone, we bask under his greatness, and afterward, none of us (despite normally having memory approaching the phonographic) can quote a line.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Wed Jan 27, 07:55:00 AM:

1) apologize for our exceptionalism
2) make friends with our enemies
3) antagonize our friends  

By Anonymous JP, at Wed Jan 27, 08:09:00 AM:

1) Apologize to all

2) Cede power to any

3) Out-Chamberlain Neville Chamberlain  

By Blogger Diane Wilson, at Wed Jan 27, 08:15:00 AM:

1. Disarmament, unilaterally if necessary.

2. Minimize expenditures overseas so that money and attention flow to domestic policies.

3. Take America off its self-perceived pedestal.

4. Take personal credit for all of the above.

5. Piss off the British.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 08:43:00 AM:

1. Improve the perception of the USA internationally in general.
2. Improve the perception of the USA in, and its relationship with, Europe, specifically.
3. Build a functional, pro-US government in Afghanistan.
4. Leave Iraq.
5. Reduce or eliminate nuclear arms.  

By Anonymous E Hines, at Wed Jan 27, 09:13:00 AM:

From his words:
1) re-engage with our allies and give them more say about our interactions with them vis-a-vis our actions around the world.

2) re-engage with our enemies diplomatically and with less belligerency

3) reduce our self-perception of our place in the global political hierarchy.

From his actions, he's a far-left liberal democrat's wet dream:
1) spend without regard to the consequences. After all, it's other people's money, not his own.
2) surrender US' leadership in the world--indeed, our freedom of action--to foreign bodies.
3) surrender in the war on terror by beginning the transfer of the effort from the military to the Justice Department.

Eric Hines  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 09:22:00 AM:

Goals, in no particular order:
--International climate change agreements
--Broker Israel-Palestine two-state settlement
--Stabilize (not win in) central Asia (Afghanistan,Pakistan, India)
--Find some sort of accommodation with Iran as another nuclear power
--Nuclear arms reduction

General tactics to accomplish above:
--Act as an equal rather than a leader
--Be non-confrontational or critical, even of odious regimes
--Apologize for what others have criticized the US
--Emphasize how the US has changed by having Obama rather than Bush as president.
--Continue effort to separate Islamists from rest of Muslims by talking about Islam as a religion of peace  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 10:53:00 AM:

Well, I was just going to say that the Obama Administration wants to buy the World a Coke and teach it to sing, but that is pretty unserious sarcasm.

Mr. Nicholas above seems to grasp the implied difference in the goals and the "illusion" of the tactics being used.

For instance, closing Gitmo is not really a goal, it's a tactic to improve our image and be "non-confrontational".

Regardless of the fact that (strategically) Obama is still doing some of the same things as Bush, the tactic is to illuminate the difference.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 11:18:00 AM:

1. Establish an "image" based foreign policy, with "messaging" focused upon "our values"; abandon power as a bilateral tool in favor of the persuasiveness of "what is right".

2. "Reset" several foreign relationships. Overtly, this would apply to Russia and Iran. Implicitly, it would apply generally to the Carribean basin. Unsaid, but clearly understood, is that Obama dislikes England and likes France, so our European relationships would change subtly as well. Initally, numerous countries might experience some "dislocation", like Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, Lithuania, Columbia, Ecuador and others, as tyrannical goverements test our dedication to "resetting" foreign relationships, but ultimately, those governments will lose interest in subjugation of others and will want to become good partners of American leadership. Paraphrasing the president, "this time is different, because now we have Obama."

3. Reduce subastantially the need to deploy American military forces around the world. Pursuit of goals #1&2 will allow us to withdraw from a number of countries, allowing us to substantially change our international role and free up money for domestic "needs", like ACORN.

4. Increase reliance on international bodies, like the UN and the International Court. As goals 1 through 3 are met, these key international bodies will increasingly play a critical role as wise guardians of international peace and justice. Tyrants will be impressed by the awful majesty of it all. Peace will break out all over.

5. Ultimately, nuclear arms will become redundant. MAD can finally be fully abandoned, even as it relates to international terrorists, and we can dismantle our stockpiles of WMD. This will free up more money for ACORN and lead to more worldwide peace.

6. US courts can ultimately become interconnected with the International Court for criminal matters, as well as many foreign affairs issues, and the UN can become a sort of international legislature. Peace and justice will reign. More money for ACORN.

7. Al Qaeda is not mentioned among these initiatives because al Qaeda, and jihadist Islam generally, doesn't really exist. Once the sybolic appertenances of American imperialism are fully abandoned, international terrorists will leave us alone. Some domestic "dislocation" may initially be a slight problem, but the terrorists will eventually lose interest and NYC can be resettled in 500,000 years or so. Only bankers live there anyway, and they are evil.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Jan 27, 11:23:00 AM:

I'd like to preface this with the observation that this is the most pathetic collection of foreign policy amateurs to ever steer a great power, (from a mis-translated 'reset button' [seriously, what kind of inept, tacky piece of shit gift is that? Almost as bad as giving the British sovereign an ipod full of your own speeches]) and they don't know what they're doing.

1. End the unipolar international system.
2. Make enough of a half assed effort in Afghanistan to plead a draw, then leave.
3. Fight terrorism, but only an an antiseptic, hands off, politically safe way.
4. Destroy the special relationship with Britain. No, I don't know why, but they've done a pretty bitching job of it so far.

The foreign policy of this administration has been muddled and foolish. Concern #1 is their domestic political position, concern #2 is their ideological preference. International interests are #3, and US national interests seem to be #4. The only times they've had any foreign policy success is when they emulated Bush!  

By Anonymous Jim Clay, at Wed Jan 27, 11:57:00 AM:

1) Restart the Israel/Palestinian peace effort
2) Get out of Iraq
3) Campaign- win Afghanistan, now- vacillate between "get out of Afghanistan" and "win Afghanistan"
4) Close Gitmo
5) "Multilateralism" vs. evil Bush "unilateralism"  

By Blogger John, at Wed Jan 27, 12:08:00 PM:

1. Avoid foreign entanglements that could distract the body politic from the domestic agenda.

2. Be better liked in the world.

Well, that's only two. But I think that these are the two real priorities.  

By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Wed Jan 27, 12:25:00 PM:

A problem I have with the Obama Administration is that their actions speak of an agenda which does not match the apparent agenda of their words. To paraphrase someone, (Henry Kissinger?), you have to watch what they do, not what they say. So my take on their foreign policy agenda Is what I *think* their foreign policy agenda is. My position is truly cynical.

1. Keep a lid on international conflict to avoid a distraction from domestic priorities.

2. Redefine our international responsibilities from unique to shared communal.

3. End the dominant status of our military.

4. Push the world away from capitalism toward socialism, away from individualism toward collectivism.

5. Change the perception of America such that it is less of a special place, driven by individual initiative and individual liberties, to a reasonably good place, no better than others, whose people are good but no better than others.

If that's not depressing enough, reflect on the underlying values that lead to such policies. Reflect on the fact that the reason these are unstated is that they know only a minority segment (no pun intended), an elite segment, shares those values which is why the agenda is all under the table.

If you really want to sink in the stink, consider the difficulty of having your equality to others be the defining issue of your being and your heritage. On the one hand you would want to show that you are as good as or better than those who say you are not good enough, and on the other hand you might yearn for a world is which no one is better than anyone else.

Those of us who did not spend time in that crucible might find it not so difficult to accept the idea that we can be equal before God, if you will, equal before the law, but not equal as individuals. That inequality of individuals is as natural as any form of life I can think of.

It is a crushing irony that true diversity is rejected by the left and by the Obama Administration.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 01:04:00 PM:

All of you mentioning Israel are missing a key point about the Obama approach to foreign policy, which is, that Israel does not merit mentioning. Israel has been abandoned as an American foreign policy issue. Palestinians can and should "work it out" for themselves.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jan 27, 02:01:00 PM:

World-wide hegemony for the Chicago Machine!  

By Anonymous Hangtown Bob, at Wed Jan 27, 02:14:00 PM:

1. Withdraw forces from Iraq regardless of outcome.

2. Beef up forces in Afghanistan and capture BinLaden.

3. Forge an everlasting peace in Mideast using the glorious tools of diplomacy (and nothing else).

4. Mold the U.S. into a member of the community of nations such that it is neither better than nor less than any other nation. Distribute our nation's wealth and power to other nations having less than us. Liberally apologize to all of the nations against whom we have so often trangressed.

5. Adopt an open borders policy to allow all those who are downtrodden by our past actions to come and enjoy our undeserved abundance.  

By Blogger Viking Kaj, at Wed Jan 27, 04:37:00 PM:

In no particular order these seem to me to be indicative of the foreign policy "goals" of this adminstration.

1) We're from Chicago, what's foreign policy, anything south of the little Calumet or north of Lake Geneva is foreign to us?

2) What's in it for the Illinois state paving association? Can we build a freeway with overpasses to nowhere there?

3) How will this move affect my book royalties overseas? Are we still on the best seller list in Kenya?

4) Make sure we don't piss anyone off in Europe, we need to have a place to schmooze after we lose the white house in three years?

5) Anybody seen Hillary this week? She's in Barkmenistan on a humanitarian mission? Where's Barkmenistan? Good.

6) Free Enterprise Zone = the mob casino in Aruba.

7) Biggest foreign policy objective in first year in office? Olympics for Chicago. Yeah that one worked.

8) Isreal? Didn't we put Rahm in charge of that one?

9) Afgahnistan, yeah, yeah, that's a good place to look tough. Not a lot of Afgahni donors so if we screw up no one will notice.

10) Air force one = one sweet ride.

11) Short range missile shield? The Russians are worried? Hmm, we can give that one up no sweat. We'll just go to Poletown for our galumpkis and pieroshkas like we used to.

12) Venezuela? Let's send Ozzie Guillen down there with a marine task force. He'll have that one straightened out in no time.

13) Can Ray LaHood get anybody on his cell phone there? If not, they need an infrastructure "loan". But not before our guy gets the "lunch bag" with Benjamins.

14) Can we send Biden somewhere where they don't understand English?

15) What do we care about foreign policy? Let's get Hawaii lined up for the presidential library and retirement home before we have to sell it to the Japanese to pay the debt. Then we can retire overseas...

Link, whereforeartthou???  

By Blogger Kinuachdrach, at Wed Jan 27, 06:26:00 PM:

The question about what are the Obama Administration foreign policy goals is too difficult for me. Let me answer a related question instead -- what do the members of the International Community (from Iran to China) think those US goals are?

They don't know either!

All they see is weakness and lack of direction.

A lot of very smart (non-US) people are presumably debating right now how & when to take advantage of that.  

By Blogger Brian, at Wed Jan 27, 06:48:00 PM:

1. Progress in stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan.

2. Withdraw most troops from Iraq; Iraq doesn't get any worse.

3. Disrupt terrorist recruitment through cover ops, public cooperation, and improved image of the US.

4. Manage trade relations to benefit domestic jobs.

5. Progress toward two-state solution for Israel/Palestine

I didn't look at other comments - thought that would be cheating.

Climate change has primarily been a domestic priority but I'd bump it to #5 if it were viewed as a foreign policy issue.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Sat Jan 30, 09:42:00 PM:

You guys are making it too complicated:

Goals of the Obama Administration:
1. Make Obama look good.
2. Make Bush look bad.

So far they are failing on both of them.  

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