Obama, the Realist

Obama, the Realist

US President Barack Obama may have disappointed Washington's foreign policy community by refusing to delve at length on America's external agenda at his second inauguration on Monday. His speech focused, instead, on a sweeping set of political goals that he hopes to pursue at home in the next four years. At the top of Obama's domestic priorities are promoting growth, reducing economic inequality and protecting the essence of the welfare state. Liberalism is back with a bang in America.

The other concerns of the president are gay rights, gun control and immigration reform. The message from Obama is quite clear. Under his watch, America will try and scale down foreign policy adventures and concentrate on nation-building at home.

One particular issue he highlighted was climate change. Obama presented it as a domestic challenge rather than a foreign policy one. "The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult", Obama said. "But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it", he insisted. "We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries we must claim its promise."

Obama's emphasis on the domestic does not mean Yankee is going home. America will carefully select its areas of engagement. Obama declared that "America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe, and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crises abroad".

Obama is emphasising the enduring relevance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the continuation of America's pivot to Asia that the president had launched in his first term to cope with an assertive China.

Middle East Caution

The liberal internationalists as well as neo-conservatives, obsessed as they are with the Middle East, would have loved to hear the president's commitment to support the Arab spring, revive the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, intervene in Syria, confront Iran and threaten al-Qaeda.

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