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Transition 2012

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

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What They’re Saying: Second-Term Engagement

by Newsteam Staff
December 5, 2012

Secretary of Defense Panetta introduces President Barack Obama at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium December 3, 2012. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) Secretary of Defense Panetta introduces President Barack Obama at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium December 3, 2012. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)


On Foreign Policy

The Economist’s Lexington blog notes that typically American presidents look abroad to create their legacy during a second term, but that President Obama may be an exception:

At the outset of his second term, Barack Obama seems to be planning the opposite approach. Mr Obama and his team believe that his outstanding task is to secure a domestic legacy. Their fear is that foreign entanglements may threaten that goal.

The blog says that Obama’s foreign policy doctrine “is an experiment: a macro-policy of engagement that shuns the micromanagement of intervention.”

In Foreign Policy, James Jeffrey says that the United States should continue to play a significant global role, and discusses the upcoming changes Obama’s national security team:

The new custodians of our national security should be willing to use all elements of American power to defend and advance our core interests — but must be careful not to launch massive new adventures for questionable strategic goals. They must understand that preserving our economic strength, reputation for military competence, and support among the American people are also core national interests as much as any specific on-the-ground success.

Zbigniew Brzezinski writes in Foreign Policy that President Obama should use the first year of his second term to confront difficult foreign policy issues because “history, not the public, will henceforth be his ultimate judge.” Brzezinski also says:

Obama needs to think carefully about his second-term agenda. What kind of legacy does he want to leave behind? And here, what not to do is just as important as what to do. A president who aspires to be recognized as a global leader should not personally stake out a foreign-policy goal, commit himself eloquently to its attainment, and then yield the ground when confronted by firm opposition. The bottom line is that — whether dealing with an antagonistic Vladimir Putin, the increasingly self-confident leadership of a dramatically rising China, the elusive and evasive Iranians, or the so-called Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” — Obama’s success will depend on the degree to which he is seen as truly committed and dead serious.

In PolicyMic, Carolyn Posner writes that the U.S.-China relationship will be critical to the success of President Obama’s pivot to Asia:

Looking ahead to President Barack Obama’s second term, foreign policy “success” in Asia will require continued strong relations with regional allies and constructive engagement with China in areas of mutual interest. Plus a few fingers crossed, and a more assertive U.S. foreign policy to prevent territorial disputes over the Senkaku islands and the South China Sea from escalating to open conflict in the Pacific.

Foreign Policy Lists Worth Reading

In Forbes India, Shravan Bhat has written up a “wishlist” for what countries from China to Russia to France would like to see happen in President Obama’s second term.

In the Huffington Post, Michael Brenner, senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, examines five foreign policy areas where he says we should “be alert to signs of redirection or novel ideas,” during Obama’s second term.

In PolicyMic, Jonathan Tkachuk presents his list of the ten U.S. thinkers who have shaped foreign policy over the past year.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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