SINGAPORE – US President Barack Obama’s foreign-policy landscape is littered with deflated balloons. Soaring speeches, high hopes, and great expectations have yielded minimal returns.
Across the Islamic world – from North Africa to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – we see fragile relationships, unhappy transitions, unresolved conflicts, and outright attacks on the United States, despite Obama’s case for a new beginning, movingly articulated in his June 2009 speech in Cairo. Israel, deaf to Obama’s urging, is further from reconciliation with Palestine, and closer to war with Iran, than it has ever been.
Likewise, for all the effort put into improving America’s most important bilateral relationships – those with China and Russia – ties with both countries have become increasingly tense, owing most recently to the Kremlin’s intransigence over Syria and official Chinese behavior in the South China Sea.
But the balloon that has deflated the most may be the one that Obama sent aloft in Prague in April 2009, when he made the case for rapid and serious movement toward a world free of nuclear weapons.