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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2402

The Obama 100 day anniversary: Foreign Policy

By Wajid Ali Syed – Washington Correspondent for Asian Tribune

Washington, 30 April, (Asiantribune.com): President Barack President Barack Obama smiles in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.President Barack Obama smiles in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.Obama pledged during the 2008 campaign to fix the "failed policies" of the "disastrous" Bush administration, including the war in Iraq, the War on Terror, relations with Iran and a host of other issues. But in his first 100 days in the White House he has not fully shrugged off the mantle of his predecessor as many predicted he would.

He did launch himself on the international stage and a different voice. During his first official trip to Europe, President Obama left no room for doubt that the US would have a new way of dealing with the rest of the world, saying "I came here to put forward ideas, but I also came here to listen, not to lecture."

In these early days of his administration, President Obama has met with a range of world leaders, both friends and foes of the United States, in what some critics have described as nothing more than an extended glad-handing getting-to-know you session.

"We've seen this big charm offensive, " said Reginald Dale, a Senior Fellow with the Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "But what we have not seen is any very substantive change in anyone's - in the policy of any other country."

Touching down in capital cities in Europe, Canada, Latin America, as well as Iraq during his first 3 months in office President Obama has offered some glimpses of how he will deal with the myriad of critical issues confronting the United States.

During a news conference ending the three-day Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, the president was asked to explain what a reporter called the emerging 'Obama Doctrine.'

"The United States remains the most powerful, wealthy nation on earth - but we are only one nation and that the problems that we confront, whether it is drug cartels, climate change, terrorism, you name it - can't be solved just by one county," the president said.

Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a foreign policy expert who supported Obama's Iraq policy, has urged critics of Obama's foreign policy attempts to hold their fire.

He mocked complaints of "a foolish wasted effort that that poor president is undertaking."

In fact, Hagel says Obama is taking the right approach by "building a platform," to better relations with other countries in efforts to later change policy.

But this very approach, says foreign policy analyst Reginald Dale, has left the United States in a weakened position when it deals with countries like Russia, China and North Korea.

"They are very happy to have someone to come along and offer them all sorts of concessions without getting anything in return - they think he is certainly someone we can deal with, that we can maybe play like a violin."

On April 5th, while Obama was in Prague for European Summit and EU meetings, he faced an early test when North Korea took the provocative action of launching what they claimed was a rocket carrying a satellite into space.

The US and others say the launch was really a test of long-range missile technology in violation of a UN resolution banning the North from any ballistic activity.

Obama reacted to the news during a speech in Prague before thousands saying "the world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons."

But despite Obama's vows of continued diplomatic vigor, the US and North Korea are some way off from achieving any comprehensive breakthroughs.

The president's unannounced stop in battle-scarred Iraq capped the fencing-mending sojourn through Europe.

Obama went for a defining television shot in Iraq and got it, with pictures of hundreds of US troops cheering wildly as he told them it was time for the Iraqis to take charge of their own future.
"It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. They need to take responsibility for their country," Obama said to huge cheers, more reminiscent of an adoring crowd of campaign supporters than a presidential visit.

Obama's reception as the president who is ending the highly unpopular Iraq war could not have been more starkly in contrast to the staid, set-piece visits of the conflict's author, former President George W. Bush.

Blood was still drying in the Baghdad streets when Obama touched down at the main US base in Iraq on the outskirts of a capital where security remained so fragile the US leader cancelled plans to visit the city centre.

The war zone photo opportunity produced a stunning show of appreciation for an anti-Iraq war president who was swarmed by about 600 U.S. troops, many of whom could soon be sent to Afghanistan.

Obama is boosting troop levels there, making good on a campaign promise to intensify the fight against the resurgent Taliban and its al-Qaida allies hiding in the mountainous border with Pakistan.
Obama's personal popularity ratings in the US remain historically high and despite a lack of concrete developments. A majority of Americans approve of the direction of his foreign policies.
"When we look at the data, we find that he is actually doing a little better on handling the national security, foreign affairs issues than he is the economy," Dr Frank Newport, the Editor-in-Chief of Gallup told the Associated Press.

Rightly or wrongly, the first 100 days of a new US administration has taken on symbolic significance since President Franklin Roosevelt's pushed through record legislative achievements in 1933.
The current White House has called it an artificial gauge of success, but at the same time President Obama has himself highlighted the work his fledgling cabinet has put in as it was finding its feet. "We had to hit the ground running and get an enormous amount done in the first three months," Obama told reporters as his Cabinet met for the first time.

A quick comparison with George W. Bush's administration gives an indication of how flawed the first 100 days measurement can be in predicting the long-term shape of a presidency. The attacks of September 11, 2001 hit the United States eight months into Bush's first term. The attacks and their consequences - two overseas wars, Guantanamo Bay, and a clampdown on civil liberties at home - then came to define, and, some would argue, tarnish Bush's presidency.

- Asian Tribune -

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