Fri Nov 30, 2012, 08:43 AM
babylonsister (148,076 posts)
"Not his job to save the world"
The Obama doctrine
Barack Obama’s foreign-policy goal in his second term: to avoid costly entanglements
Dec 1st 2012 | from the print edition
BY CYNICAL tradition “abroad” is where American presidents go to seek a legacy, after their domestic agendas have stalled. This is especially true of second-term presidents. As they lose momentum at home, the temptation is to head overseas in search of crises that only American clout can resolve.
At the outset of his second term, Barack Obama seems to be planning the opposite approach. Mr Obama and his team believe that his outstanding task is to secure a domestic legacy. Their fear is that foreign entanglements may threaten that goal. It may help that he secured something of a global legacy on the day he was elected four years ago amid worldwide adulation, peaking with a Nobel peace prize awarded after less than a year in office, essentially for not being George W. Bush.
On the 2012 campaign trail, Mr Obama earned some of his warmest applause when he vowed to bring troops back from Afghanistan, ending more than a decade of war-fighting that has cost thousands of American lives and more than a trillion dollars. Time for nation-building “right here at home”, he constantly declared, to cheers. In a newspaper essay on November 23rd Mr Obama’s former White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, rammed the point home. Democrats need to make America globally competitive, wrote Mr Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago. Whether it means fixing failing schools, potholed roads, snail-like internet networks or a broken immigration system, the second-term mission must be to “come home and rebuild America”.
Not his job to save the world
Looking overseas, wariness is all. Senior officials say that Mr Obama aims to be “present but not deeply involved” around the globe. They call America an “indispensable catalyst” and the cornerstone of a rules-based international order centred on economic competitiveness (deals on free trade and climate change may get a look-in on those grounds). By winding down the Bush legacy of an all-consuming military response to the September 11th attacks, Mr Obama has freed up “national security bandwidth” to engage with the world in all its complexity. It is an experiment: a macro-policy of engagement that shuns the micromanagement of intervention. On a political note, voices add that muscular action against al-Qaeda has bought Mr Obama space: Democrats are no longer so defensive about national security.
Fresh crises will come. If America is pulled in deeply, it will be against all Mr Obama’s instincts. The president has plans; but they revolve around fixing America, not the world.
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