Arab democracy movements change Obama’s foreign policy

President Obama’s reshuffle this week of his top foreign and military staff has been greeted positively by observers and by politicians in both parties.

Slate Magazine’s foreign policy commentator Fred Kaplan:

Under the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine a shrewder set of moves, both politically and substantively.

The moves by Obama were prompted by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ desire to retire. He will now be succeeded by current CIA Director Leon Panetta, who will be replaced by General David Petraeus, commander of the troops in Afghanistan. Petraeus, in turn, is succeeded by General John Allen, who was his closest man in Iraq. The United States will have a new ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador to Iraq and one of the U.S. diplomacy’s leading Arab specialists. Hillary Clinton was exempted from the staff changes. She will remain as Secretary of State.

The comments also point to the need to stick to the experienced names in view of everything going on in the world, not least the three wars that America is presently waging in the Middle East.

Obama’s foreign policy — the Obama’s doctrine – is given a hard look in an article in the latest issue of The New Yorker by the magazine’s Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza, who describes how the democracy movement in the Arab world has changed Obama’s foreign policy.

In the traditional battle between realists and idealists in the country’s diplomatic service will now term “the Consequentialist” to describe Obama’s foreign policy. In the article, the president’s policy towards Libya is described by an adviser as “leading from behind,” and follows a new definition of American leadership in a world, where America’s relative power is declining while China is on the rise.

Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength, writes Lizza and ends with a quotation from one of Obama’s advisors:

“It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world, but it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”


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