Kenneth Weisbrode, author of the The Atlantic Century: Four Generations of Extraordinary Diplomats who Forged America’s Vital Alliance with Europe (Da Capo, Nov. 2009) has a new piece in the History News Network (Obama, Diplomat-in-Chief | 1-11-10). Excerpt below:
[…] The consensus seems to be that Barack Obama and his team have achieved something important, namely a “reset” of America’s international image, but have done less than what they promised. However premature it may be to reach such a verdict, Obama’s actions strike some as overly tentative, even ambivalent—the implication being that he is still learning on the job.
He probably is, as should even the most experienced chief executive. Issuing annual report cards on his handling of foreign policy, issue by issue, may overlook this point, as well as three others: American presidents are rarely able to get all they want; Obama hardly assumed office with a clean slate; and America’s relationship with the rest of the world amounts to much more than the decisions and actions of a single American president, especially after one year.Moreover, both Obama and his Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, have spoken often of the long term and, to repeat a Washington cliché, of keeping their focus on the important as well as the urgent. But just what is the “long term”? And how does a president focus upon it while also dealing with the massive daily workload, not to mention a 24-hour news cycle?[…]The global America that Obama personifies is very much a work in progress. Its relations with the world need as much order as its relations in the world need broadmindedness. Obama has done much so far to change the tone of the latter. One can only hope that he will succeed with respect to the former as he pursues what looks to be a rather pragmatic foreign policy of continuous adjustment. But 2010 is likely to force his and America’s hand; and the thoughtful, deliberate executive may come to find greater use for the inspirational mover of the masses who so dominated the headlines little more than a year ago.