The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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What They’re Saying: Obama’s Foreign Policy To-Do List

by Newsteam Staff
November 12, 2012

U.S. President Obama places a Veterans Day wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery November 11, 2012. (Jonathan Ernst /Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Obama places a Veterans Day wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery November 11, 2012. (Jonathan Ernst /Courtesy Reuters)
Foreign Policy

In the Washington Post, David Ignatius details the decisions President Obama will have to make on China, Iran, Afghanistan, and the Middle East in his second term. He writes:

On foreign policy, President Obama effectively posted a sign on the White House lawn last summer that said: Come back after Election Day. Now, the moment has arrived, and the world’s problems are lining up for Obama’s attention. To manage them, Obama will have to make decisions of the sort he sometimes deferred during his first term.

Also in the Washington Post, Jackson Diehl writes that President Obama “spent his first term undoing what he saw as the excesses of U.S. post-Cold War foreign policy, from land wars in the Middle East to insufficient attention to Asia.” He says now Obama will spend his second term “grappling with the flaws in his cure.”

A New York Times editorial says that while national security didn’t play heavily in the election, “President Obama’s legacy, and the country’s future, will be shaped as much by the foreign policy and defense decisions he makes over the next four years as by those on the domestic side.”

In Politico, Aaron David Miller advises President Obama that “risk aversion abroad rather than risk-readiness ought to be his watchword,” particularly in the Middle East:

This president’s legacy is ending wars not starting new ones; keeping America safe from terror attacks and fixing the country’s broken economic house if he can.

If, along the way, Obama can figure out a way to help the Middle East be less of a mess, too, that would be a real bonus, especially if he can find a way to stop Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapons capacity short of war.

Israel

In the New York Times, Thomas Friedman writes that President Obama will be too busy with domestic issues and disengaging from foreign conflict to have time to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian situation:

Obama has his marching orders from the American people: Focus on Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, not on Bethlehem, Palestine, and focus on getting us out of quagmires (Afghanistan) not into them (Syria). No, my Israeli friends, it’s much worse than you think: You’re home alone.

Friedman also notes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not aligned Israel the rising political force of the moment, and says that Israelis should focus on their own upcoming election if they want an improved political relationship with Washington.

Climate Change

In the New York Times, Cass R. Sunstein compares President Obama’s opportunity to confront climate change in his second term with Ronald Reagan’s second term legislation to protect the ozone layer:

There is a real irony here. Republicans and conservatives had ridiculed scientists who expressed concern about the destruction of the ozone layer. How did Ronald Reagan, of all people, come to favor aggressive regulatory steps and lead the world toward a strong and historic international agreement?

A large part of the answer lies in a tool disliked by many progressives but embraced by Reagan (and Mr. Obama): cost-benefit analysis. Reagan’s economists found that the costs of phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals were a lot lower than the costs of not doing so — largely measured in terms of avoiding cancers that would otherwise occur. Presented with that analysis, Reagan decided that the issue was pretty clear.

In the Washington Times, Paul Driessen examines six areas where he says the conflict over energy and environmental regulation will be fought, including carbon taxes, renewable energy preferences, and agenda science. Driessen argues the future of the United Sates rests on having an inclusive energy policy that doesn’t exclude fossil fuels for environmental reasons:

Will President Obama, Democrats and executive branch agencies be receptive to bipartisan approaches — to institutionalizing all-of-the-above energy decisions that make scientific, economic, environmental and technological sense? Or will they be even more entrenched, knowing the White House can act via executive decree if Congress does nothing?

The answer will determine whether the United States becomes an economic powerhouse once again or an enormous Greece. Blessed with more oil, gas and coal than almost any other nation on earth, we must not refuse to develop these resources.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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