To begin with, Obama’s No. 1 concern still has to be the U.S. economy. The Democrats are going to lose seats in the midterm elections, which will make pushing domestic reform efforts much harder. It might be tempting to focus on foreign policy, therefore, except that everyone knows Obama’s re-election hinges largely on getting Americans back to work. If the economy and especially employment turn around by 2011 he’s golden; if it doesn’t, he’s in trouble.
More importantly, there isn’t a lot of low-hanging fruit in foreign policy.
He might get an arms-control agreement with Russia, but there aren’t a lot of votes in that and there’s no way he’ll get a comprehensive test-ban treaty through the post-2010 Senate. Passing health care at home won’t make Iran more cooperative, make sanctions more effective, or make preventive war more appealing, so that issue will continue to fester. Yesterday’s vote doesn’t change anything in Iraq; it is their domestic politics that matters, not ours. I’d say much the same thing about Afghanistan, though Obama will face another hard choice when the 18-month deadline for his “surge” is up in the summer of 2011.
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