Thursday, January 17, 2008

Assessing Obama's Foreign Policy

Stephen Zunes puts together a helpful assessment of many of Barack Obama's foreign policy views in one place. His conclusion is guardedly optimistic, which seems the most reasonable to me.

Despite his rather limited experience in national office, Obama appears to be one of the smartest, most visionary and most knowledgeable members of the U.S. Senate on foreign policy. As a result, he would be more likely to take creative and independent initiatives and less reliant on the traditional foreign policy establishment than any modern president of ether party.

As many of the examples above illustrate, however, that doesn’t mean he’ll always be right. A combination of his limited vision and the constraints imposed upon any president by the imperatives of powerful economic and strategic interests make it doubtful that Obama will be able to move the country significantly forward in ways that will address the most important challenges facing the country and the world today on his own. However, there are indications that he could be more open to a more progressive foreign policy if the growing social movements in this country for peace and justice are able to mobilize effectively and provide the necessary counter-pressures. Obama’s strong showing thus far in the race for the Democratic nomination is a direct result of such movements. If he wins the presidency, he would be obliged to listen to those who would play such an important role in bringing him to the White House.

In summary, we must neither be na├»ve about Barack Obama’s limitations nor cynical about his potential.

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