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Opinion: Obama has taken on an extraordinary number of foreign policy challenges, but has he taken on too much, too soon?
BOSTON — Ever since Franklin Roosevelt, the first 100 days of every new presidency is put under scrutiny, and in Barack Obama’s case you would have to say that few presidents have thrown so many balls up into the air in so short a time.
Some worry that he is trying to do so much, that Washington notoriously cannot pat its head and rub its tummy at the same time. But these are no ordinary times and there is so much to un-do as well as do, following on a presidency as destructive to American interests as the Bush-Cheney administration.
Foreign policy has been transformed. The unclenched fist has replaced do-it-my-way-or-else.
Obama has set a date for the end of Bush’s war in Iraq, and made the Afghanistan war his own with reinforcements. But nothing has been really settled in Iraq between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, and violence is creeping upwards again.
Afghanistan could yet become Obama’s Vietnam. But as General David Petreaus says, “You can’t kill or capture your way out of an industrial strength insurgency.” New ways will have to be found to stabilize the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Look around the world. Obama has hit the reset button with Russia, and committed himself to the Panglossian task of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. He is opening up to Syria and Iran, and has set a new tone with traditional allies in Europe. He has changed the game vis a vis Cuba, and tried to put the U.S. on a new course in the rest of Latin America. North Korea, however, remains firmly opposed and has even restarted nuclear bomb-making.
There are those, mostly on the right, who are saying that Obama is being rolled, that he is too soft, and that he should strive to be more feared. Former Vice President Dick Cheney snarls from exile that Iran still needs regime change and that torture has been good for us. But that worldview has failed, and Americans are ready for new approaches.