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News Analysis: Obama to make foreign policy speech amid charges of weakness

English.news.cn   2014-05-28 07:13:13

By Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, May 27 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is slated to make a speech on Wednesday outlining his foreign policy goals, as critics cast him as a foreign policy paper tiger.

Obama's foreign policy approval ratings stand at a mere 39 percent, and critics say the president's repeated "red line" remarks -- that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a line that could invite U.S. military intervention -- have caused countries worldwide to see him as a leader who fails to follow words with action.

Indeed, critics called his "red line" statements tantamount to giving Moscow a green light to deploy troops to the Crimea in recent months, although Russia said the move was intended simply to protect ethnic Russians there.

Some critics call the U.S. response to Russia almost comical. After Obama lambasted Moscow for what he said was acting contrary to international law, he merely slapped travel bans on a handful of Russians, which was viewed as a lackluster response by those who advocated much harsher sanctions.

Moreover, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday publicly mocked Obama. In a move that made many Americans cringe, Putin asked why "doesn't (Obama) get a job in a court or something," in an interview with the CNBC in St. Petersburg.

Obama's speech, to be made at the West Point commencement ceremony, is expected to counter suggestions that the president lacks resolve in the foreign policy realm. U.S. media reported Tuesday that Obama will explain his brand of foreign policy is international, rather than isolationist.

"Obama will address concerns about his foreign policy, but it is not clear how he can improve the substance of his foreign policy performance," Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.

"Events are taking place around the world where the U.S. has little influence and limited ability to shape the outcome. It is going to be hard to demonstrate results that will lead people to conclude he is a strong foreign policy leader," West said.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that the main criticism of Obama's foreign policy "is his aversion to military action that makes it harder for the U.S. to levy credible threats that force international foes to change their behavior."

Also harming U.S. foreign policy is the current weakness of the U.S. economy, as a decade of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has run up a multi-trillion dollar bill.

Still, other experts said Obama will make the case in his speech that his foreign policy is not weak.

"I think Obama will make the case that really this is not weakness, but a kind of middle ground between what he would consider excessive military intervention on the one hand and doing nothing on the other hand," David Pollock, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Xinhua.

Obama will try to convince people, not just in the United States but also in other countries, that he remains committed to certain kinds of intervention, short of large scale military intervention, and that he wants to do it in cooperation with other countries, not unilaterally, Pollock said.

"He (Obama) is going to make the case that this is not weakness, this is wisdom," he added.

Editor: Fu Peng
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