News / USA

President Obama Calls for Worldwide Focus on Democracy

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, 25 Jan 2011
President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, 25 Jan 2011


President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night dealt largely with the nation's domestic economy, but he did touch on some international topics.  

President Obama indicated in his State of the Union speech that his administration plans to promote democracy around the world over the next two years.

"No one rival superpower is aligned against us," said Obama.  "And so we must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And America's moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity. And because we've begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America's standing has been restored."

Mr. Obama specifically expressed support for the people of Tunisia, who are fighting for democracy after forcing an autocratic leader from power.  He mentioned the recent referendum on statehood in south Sudan.

"In south Sudan, with our assistance, the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war," he said.

Robert Kagan at the Brookings Institution expects more U.S. focus on democracy in the next two years.

"Although people thought that [President] Obama is going to abandon the whole democracy agenda because Mr. Bush had poisoned it, I think you are going to see an increasing return to that issue," noted Kagan.

Kagan also expects the U.S. relationship with China to be a major issue.  He says it is not in America’s interest to see a rising China become the dominant hegemonic power in East Asia, with America’s allies in the region falling within the Chinese sphere of influence.

But the China expert at Brookings, Kenneth Lieberthal, says President Obama’s biggest foreign policy challenge in 2011 could be the ongoing transfer of power in North Korea.

"If there is a breakdown as of now we have not really worked carefully with the Chinese," said Lieberthal.  "Neither have the South Koreans or the Japanese, as to what the response would be. What would the PLA [the Chinese Army] do on the North Korea side of their border?  What would the ROK [South Korean] forces do?  What will the U.S. forces in the region do? And the potential for inadvertently everyone getting into a very dangerous situation is pretty high."

The Brookings Institution experts say President Obama still faces a very serious challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, says analyst Stephen Cohen, it is becoming clearer every day that the situation cannot be resolved without including the Taliban.

"The irony is that if Taliban are included in the Afghan settlement, then the Indians are upset, the Iranians are upset," said Cohen.  "They might turn to military force or supporting group to make sure that that settlement is not achieved."

And in Pakistan, Cohen says, there are three critical issues that affect vital U.S. interests, besides the issue of terrorism:

"There is a short-term crisis in terms of their involvement in Afghanistan, a medium-term crisis in terms of their coherence as a state and a long-term crisis in terms of what they are going to do with their nuclear weapons," added Cohen.

The Brookings experts say that besides his efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and to convince Iran and North Korea to abandon their nuclear programs, President Obama will also have to protect the fragile victory in Iraq.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs