How Health Care Helps Obama's Foreign Policy

Could it make Middle East negotiations easier?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

As liberal pundits cheer the passage of health care reform, the Atlantic Wire has tried to take a view toward the bill's consequences. We covered how it may change domestic politics, how it's started a fight that may last years, and how it may spark a court battle. But is it possible that the Democratic victory could also have foreign policy implications? That's what some commentators are suggesting as they muse on Obama's revamped image around the world. We know Europe's a fan of  health care reform, but could the bill's passage actually help Obama in, say, the Middle East? Here's the debate:

  • Rebranding on the International Scene  The Financial Times' Gideon Rachman says the passage of the health care bill will "undermine the Michael Moore vision of America as a country where big business ruthlessly exploits the downtrodden poor. This is a cartoon version of the US that is wildly popular in Europe and around the world." He also thinks the victory will change the view of Obama as "weak, indecisive and ineffective." World leaders "will now have to consider the possibility that the president’s persistence might ultimately deliver success."
  • May Help With Israel in Particular, say Politico's Laura Rozen and Ben Smith, arguing that how Obama is viewed will change most in "a place obsessed with American politics."
  • Hogwash: This Won't Do Much at All  "Journalists and commentators find it easy to rely on an essentially narrative style of analysis," gripes Harvard professor Steven Walt at Foreign Policy. But the "larger structural forces that are shaping events and constraining choices" haven't changed here. The only way in which he thinks the health care victory might have any effect at all on the international side is in freeing Obama from needing to "coddle quite as many congressmen on foreign-policy issues."
  • Well, Lends Credence to Idea of 'Long Game' in Middle East, suggests Walt's fellow Foreign Policy blogger Marc Lynch, who says that, "for most of the past year," he's been unsure whether Obama's "just making things up as he goes" with regard to the Middle East, or "keeping his eye on the long-term objective while others get lost in the tactics and the public theatrics." The perseverance and eventual victory in the messy health care battle "give at least some support for the optimistic reading that on the big picture, Obama may actually know what he's doing."
  • Fewer Distractions Now  Says Brookings's Shadi Hamid, writing at The Huffington Post: "To the extent Arab leaders have outmaneuvered Obama, it is, in part, due to two interrelated factors: they believe Obama has been distracted, and, secondly, Obama has actually been distracted."
  • Some Respect  "The one thing health care passage might do for Obama," says Tufts's Daniel Drezner, blogging for Foreign Policy, "is add a dollop of respect for Obama's political acumen among other world leaders."
  • Four Things Obama Gains From Health Care  The win could give Obama "an international and oxygen," given the president's previously health-care loaded agenda, says Heather Hurlbut, a former Clintonite. Also: "ambition." She explains: "just the progress to this point threw Obama's approval rating back over 50%."
  • Five Things World Leaders Learn from Health Care  Global Dashboard lists them: (1) "that is becoming increasingly hard for the American political system to make major decisions"; (2) "countries are heavily exposed to the US’s bitterly partisan politics"; (3) "much of the healthcare debate were being driven by forces inaccessible to the mainstream media or to elite opinion"; (4) "change on most important issues is going to be increasingly hard and time-consuming to achieve"; and (5) leaders will get "an interesting model of the compromises needed to deliver radical change"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.