Obama turns anew to foreign policy
By Dean J. Brian Atwood
April 11, 2010
In every administration there is a struggle between domestic advisers and the national security team over the president's time. In the past few months of the Obama administration, there was no contest: The health care reform legislation dominated. Final passage of the bill even caused the postponement of an important visit to Indonesia. Was it worth the long period of inactivity on the world scene? The administration's foreign-policy advisers would say yes. Had the president lost this important initiative, he might well have been crippled in pursuing his many overseas initiatives.
Domestic issues have long had an impact on external relations. Experienced diplomat Charles W. Freeman, in his excellent book on diplomacy, "Arts of Power: Statecraft and Diplomacy," observes that "in diplomacy, perceived power is real power." American power is not measured in military arms and financial strength alone. It is derived from the vibrancy of our culture, the strength of our civil society and the capacity of our political system to produce results. The passage of the health care reform bill has changed perceptions about the Obama presidency. Passing this domestic test gives the president the impetus he needs to address major challenges to the United States on the international stage.