“While President Obama’s news conference of June 29th addressed the two main foreign policy issues of the moment – Libya and Afghanistan – a political consensus on these matters remains elusive. Legal questions about the constitutionality of the Libyan expedition – raised by Democrats and Republicans alike – persist; the pace of Obama’s announced drawdown in Afghanistan continues to be hotly debated. The rising intensity of conservative critique ensures that Afghanistan will feature as the most prominent of the foreign policy issues in the 2012 campaign cycle.
Obama’s two new national security appointments – Leon Panetta as secretary of Defense and David Petraeus as Director of the CIA – will be the key voices in the coming months. Petraeus has the more difficult task as he takes charge of an agency that has always been more skeptical about the military’s attachment to counter-insurgency strategy than the Pentagon. While defending Obama’s approach at his Senate nomination testimony, the new US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, also left open the possibility that he would recommend a slower withdrawal should he judge that to be advisable.
As these changes and the July 4th holiday take place and the August 2nd deadline for extending the federal debt limit nears, something of a pause in foreign policy priority is taking place. Two matters are, however, unavoidable.
The soon to take place flotilla protest against the Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza has drawn strong State Department criticism, but will pose awkward questions for the Administration should the Israelis take action against the participants, who include a number of prominent Americans. In the same Middle East context, the likely vote at the UN General Assembly in September on Palestinian statehood is also opening a gap between the US and some of its closest allies in Europe and the Middle East. Neither matter is welcome to the White House as it seeks to guard itself against Republican attacks for foreign policy weakness.
With regard to the federal debt limit, the necessary consensus for a deal between the two parties is nowhere close to gelling. In Republican eyes, what they saw as Obama’s confrontational tone at his press conference widened the gap. Most observers believe an agreement will emerge – perhaps at the last minute – but already the credit rating agencies are issuing warnings that see the possibility of a default as a real possibility.”
Photo Credit: 4th of July By sygyzy