Swoop: Washington’s World: January 27th – February 2nd, 2014

Swoop: Washington’s World: January 27th – February 2nd, 2014
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Swoop: “In his address to the Davos World Economic Forum on January 24th Secretary of State Kerry set out a robust defense of US global leadership. State Department officials to whom we have spoken highlighted the words “So the question isn’t whether we’re leaving. The question is how we are leading” as the key message Kerry was seeking to convey.

Privately they acknowledge that the speech would never have been given had there not been real concern in top US leadership circles that the rest of the world has already drawn the conclusion that US engagement in on the decline. As such Kerry’s words echo those of President Obama in his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2013 in which he said “Understand that America will never retreat from the world.”

Our readers will recall that we have reflected for some time on the topic of US retrenchment from the international scene and refocus on domestic regeneration, noting it as one of our “drivers” for 2014. US officials realize that the point under discussion in foreign policy circles around the world is not the level of US activity in the world. This remains high. Next week, for example, Kerry will engage in the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue and Deputy Secretary of State Burns has just concluded the latest round of the US-China Asia Pacific Consultations.


US reaction to world events, for example in Egypt, South Sudan or Ukraine, remains instantaneous and global. The real point, these same officials concede in private, is whether the US has the will or the means to insist on the outcomes it wants. Here the evidence is more ambiguous. On issues as diverse as putting the Joint Plan of Action with Iran into operation, negotiating bilateral security agreement with Afghan President Karzai, steering the Geneva II conference on Syria, managing the direction of the Arab Spring or mediating between the increasingly bitter exchanges between China and Japan senior Administration policy-makers acknowledge some tangible loss of leverage. Strikingly, Republican and Democratic critics of what they see as the Administration’s failure to engage more forcefully in international crises appear to have little resonance with wider public opinion which seems content with less rather than more US international engagement.

In next Tuesday’s State of the Union address, we expect Obama to reflect Kerry’s rhetorical sentiments, but otherwise we believe that foreign policy will form only a modest part of his agenda.”

Source: Swoop
Photos Credits: US Department of State / Top Photo: President Barack Obama walks to the White House residence with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, after a day of meetings in the West Wing of the White House, Jan. 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)