News / USA

Outreach, Afghanistan Dominate First Year of Obama Foreign Policy

President Obama at Forbidden City in Beijing
President Obama at Forbidden City in Beijing

Multimedia

President Obama promised a new era in U.S. international engagement and dispatched special envoys to tackle key foreign policy problems during the first year of his administration. But the year may best be remembered for marathon White House consultations that led to an early December decision to boost the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan.

From the outset, Mr. Obama  and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton promised a more conciliatory foreign policy.  

Speaking to reporters after she was nominated as Washington's top diplomat, Clinton explained how the administration's foreign policy would differ from that of outgoing President George W. Bush.

"We know our security, our values, and our interests cannot be protected and advanced by force alone. Nor, indeed, by Americans alone. We must pursue vigorous diplomacy using all the tools we can muster to build a future with more partners and fewer adversaries," she said. 

Mr. Obama and Secretary Clinton named seasoned foreign policy envoys to tackle tough issues. Richard Holbrooke became the special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell became the special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The administration became a full participant for the first time in big-power contacts with Iran on its nuclear program and sent envoy Stephen Bosworth to North Korea in December to talk about re-starting talks on dismantling the country's nuclear program.   But there was no visible progress with either country. 

Mitchell made multiple trips to the Middle East to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

But that bid was also unsuccessful. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a total freeze on Jewish settlement in the occupied territories, a Palestinian demand.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell traveled to Burma.  After the visit, Burma's military rulers made conciliatory gestures to detained Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi but she is still under house arrest.

The unreciprocated outreach drew criticism from conservatives, who accused the new President of being naïve.

Former Reagan administration official Richard Perle was especially critical of outreach to Iran at a time when Tehran was cracking down on protesters and opposition leaders.

"When you go repeatedly to Iran, which is proceeding at a pace to develop its nuclear weapons, which continues to support terrorism in a number of places and destabilizes the Middle East region, when you go repeatedly to Iran - by the way as it brutalizes its own citizens - you eventually begin to send a message," he said.

Mr. Obama stressed, during the presidential campaign, that he had opposed the Iraq war.

But as president, he alienated some core supporters with his decision, in December, to boost U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan.

That decision followed a long policy review criticized by former Vice President Dick Cheney as "dithering."

The President answered critics in a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. "Instead, the review has allowed me to ask the hard questions and to explore all the different options. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home," he said.

Mr. Obama's handling of the overthrow of elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya got negative or incomplete grades from the experts. 

At year's end, Mr. Zelaya was still not restored to power despite initial U.S. demands.

Finally, the President's gesture on climate change at the Copenhagen conference in December did not produce the deal environmentalists were hoping for.

But many analysts credit Mr. Obama with taking on tough issues.

"I think this President deserves extra credit for the degree of difficulty of what he's taken on. The big question for me is whether his governing tenacity will match the rhetorical audacity of his word,"  said Will Marshall, who is with Washington's Progressive Policy Institute.

Secretary Clinton traveled the globe to mend frayed relationships, although statements she made in Pakistan, that criticized the country's commitment to battling militants, alienated many there.

She advocated a new strategy of "smart power" in  which developmental aid is to become a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy, on a par with military leverage and diplomacy.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid