Obama's 21st Century Foreign Policy
For a politician who entered the White House with little diplomatic experience, PresidentBarack Obama has crafted a mature foreign policy that befits the 21st century. It may even be a big part of his legacy.
Initially through secret talks, he has commissioned U.S. envoys to tackle two of this country’s thorniest challenges: first with Iran and now with Cuba. He has also taken on Myanmar.
Quiet diplomacy has eased tensions and opened dialogue with Tehran and Havana, even if most issues remain unresolved. Each effort marks only the beginning of a process, not the end. But at least it’s a beginning.
Mr. Obama still faces a daunting array of foreign policy trials. Not all of his efforts, notably on Israeli-Palestinian peace, have succeeded. Others, such as Ukraine, have yet to play out.
But Mr. Obama has pushed on issues central to the global forces and trends of the 21st century, most notably climate change. He has also sought to bring down barriers to trade and to reform immigration in ways that could help add innovators to the U.S. population.
He has thought bigger, acted more boldly, and been more imaginative than any of his three immediate predecessors, Democratic and Republican, who did far less to take advantage of the Cold War’s end in charting a new global order.
Change usually meets resistance, ignites skepticism, or provokes criticism. Diplomatic outreach doesn’t always work either, as in President Bill Clinton‘s end-of-term diplomacy with North Korea or Mr. Obama’s own attempt to “reset” relations with Russia. Diplomacy can be high-risk. Failure can shape a legacy as much as daring to try something different.
But Mr. Obama should get credit for his willingness to challenge old thinking and outdated tactics, while trying to stay true to American goals. In contrast to his domestic policy, some of his foreign efforts haven’t been cowed by conventional thinking in Washington or beaten back by opposition in Congress.