The Obama Administration's Revival Of Diplomacy

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 23, 2009

It is no revival at all:

When he entered office, US President Barack Obama promised to inject US foreign policy with a new tone of respect and diplomacy. His recent trip to Asia, however, showed that it’s not working. A shift to Bush-style bluntness may be coming.

There were only a few hours left before Air Force One was scheduled to depart for the flight home. US President Barack Obama trip through Asia had already seen him travel 24,000 kilometers, sit through a dozen state banquets, climb the Great Wall of China and shake hands with Korean children. It was high time to take stock of the trip.

Barack Obama looked tired on Thursday, as he stood in the Blue House in Seoul, the official residence of the South Korean president. He also seemed irritable and even slightly forlorn. The CNN cameras had already been set up. But then Obama decided not to play along, and not to answer the question he had already been asked several times on his trip: what did he plan to take home with him? Instead, he simply said “thank you, guys,” and disappeared. David Axelrod, senior advisor to the president, fielded the journalists’ questions in the hallway of the Blue House instead, telling them that the public’s expectations had been “too high.”

The mood in Obama’s foreign policy team is tense following an extended Asia trip that produced no palpable results. The “first Pacific president,” as Obama called himself, came as a friend and returned as a stranger. The Asians smiled but made no concessions.

Weren’t things supposed to be easier than this with the Obama Administration in office? I recall that having been the promise. Of course, no American would or should want the American President to go through an especially difficult time in the foreign policy arena, but if there is a silver lining to be taken out of this story, one hopes that there will be renewed attention to the fact that foreign policy has never been, and will never be as straightforward and simple as Team Obama said it would be during the course of last year’s Presidential campaign.

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