James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Obama, Foreign Policy, and the State of the Union

by James M. Lindsay
January 24, 2012

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in 2011. (Molly Riley/courtesy Reuters) President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in 2011. (Molly Riley/courtesy Reuters)

ForeignAffairs.com has just published what journalists call a “curtain raiser” that I wrote on what President Obama will likely say about foreign policy in tonight’s State of the Union address. My argument in a nutshell is that while jobs and the economy will get top billing:

What the president says about foreign policy, however, will be equally important to his reelection chances. With more than 40 million viewers expected to tune into the speech–the largest audience he will have until he addresses the Democratic National Convention in September–he has an unparalleled opportunity to argue that his handling of foreign policy merits a second term. He will surely make the most of it.

So look for Obama to tout his successes, implicitly rebuke the criticisms that his GOP critics have been making for months of his handling of foreign policy, and try to create some political protection for himself in the event that events overseas deal him an unpleasant surprise. On that score, Iran, Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, and North Korea figure to feature prominently in his remarks.

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