CAMBRIDGE – Approaching the end of his first year as president, Barack Obama has taken a bold step in deciding to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan to over 100,000. Critics on the left point out that the Korean War crippled Harry Truman’s presidency, just as the Vietnam War defined Lyndon Johnson’s administration. Obama thus risks becoming the third Democratic president whose domestic agenda will be overshadowed by a difficult war.
But critics on the right have complained that Obama’s approach to foreign policy has been weak, too apologetic, and overly reliant on soft power. They worry about Obama’s promise to begin withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan 18 months after the surge.
Obama inherited a fraught foreign policy agenda: a global economic crisis, two
difficult wars, erosion of the nuclear non-proliferation regime by North Korea and Iran, and deterioration of the Middle East peace process. Obama’s dilemma was how to manage this difficult legacy while creating a new vision of how Americans should deal with the world.