Look outward, Obama
The president’s domestic agenda may consist of making compromises with Republicans. But overseas he is freer to act. And there’s much that needs his attention.
(Page 2 of 2)
Syria. After more than 36,000 deaths in the continued fighting between rebels and troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, finding the way forward to peace will be challenging. The president should consider increasing arms and munitions aid to the rebels while also carefully choosing which rebel forces to back. The right forces should offer the best opportunity to create a single cohesive opposition that would be ready to assume power when that moment arrives.Skip to next paragraph
Gallery Monitor Political Cartoons
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Afghanistan. Leaving gracefully by the end of 2014, as the president has promised, won’t be easy. Knowing that a peace deal between the government of President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban was in place would make it much easier. So would Afghanistan holding clean elections next year. The collapse into civil war of a country the US has spent so many years and so many billions of dollars to support would leave a black mark on the president’s record – and would be a tragic statement about the lives sacrificed in fighting this war.
Iran. The economic sanctions appear to be working, and there’s still time to cut a deal before a military option goes to the front burner. But Iran will leap to the top of the president’s foreign-policy agency if negotiations fail and Tehran is seen to be close to deploying a nuclear weapon.
Where would Obama rather spend his foreign-policy time? Probably on Asia, where the US-China relationship becomes more important all the time. The two countries are at once economic rivals and massive, interdependent trade partners. China continues to broaden its influence in the region. The US has many allies in the area, from Japan to Australia.
Obama will leave shortly on a trip to Southeast Asia to further strengthen ties there, stopping in Thailand and Cambodia, where he will attend a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He’ll also make a historic first trip for a US president to Myanmar (formerly Burma), whose military dictatorship is taking encouraging early steps toward democracy and opening up to the world.
He has a full plate, and needs to choose his priorities wisely.