So far, new US security strategy seems odd mix of continuity and change

As we keep on trying to weigh up Obama’s now over-100-day-old presidency and its meaning for the world, maybe it’s useful to shift focus off the man and onto some other parts of his administration. The New Security Beat blog-site has usefully picked up an interesting speech by Under Secretary for Defense Michele Flournoy, which shows how old and new elements are might be blended in the US security strategy. The mix thus far combines encouraging and thoroughly disappointing elements. Continue reading

Obama in power (7): when disappointment gets plain silly

According to Naomi Klein in yesterday’s Guardian and the current Nation, there is a new vocabulary of dashed hopes about Obama. On the Guardian‘s ‘Comment is Free’ site, she got a walloping from some of the blograts for despairing and criticising too soon though, to be fair, it’s not clear whether she was setting out her loss of belief in Obama or merely reporting  how others feel. Either way, it strikes me as plain silly. Continue reading

Obama in power (6):policies clarifying, pattern still hazy

By the time Obama was inaugurated, he had promised so much, there was a risk that he could only disappoint. Let’s not get too carried away in these tough times, but there is some much needed good news: perfect his administration is not, but the first signs in foreign policy are far from negative. This extended post surveys the key issues. Continue reading

Obama in power (5): does he need to be bipartisan?

Obama’s approach to the challenges of government is fascinating. Not yet 100 days into power, he seems to retain that combination of the cerebral strategist and the practical politician that, combined with clearly enunciated principles, made him such an attractive looking candidate. Whatever else you’re going to say about him, however you’re going to characterise him, “Same old, same old” is not it.

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Obama in power (4): challenges, doubts and the G-20

Barack Obama comes to London this week – the heads of 20 other governments do too because G-20 has suddenly grown into G-22 but of course it’s Obama who sets the pulse racing. Everybody knows his host, Gordon Brown, needs the G-20 to be an all-out success; anything less – mere solid achievement, for example – will be spun as failure by the UK government’s army of critics. But is Obama in a similar situation?

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The economic crisis and world power

Moments in history when the world power balance has shifted decisively – or when the result of a slowly accumulating shift has been revealed to general view – have usually been related to war, economic crisis, or both in tandem. Is today’s combination of economic crunch and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan such a moment for the US? And if so, who gains – China? Continue reading

Obama in power (2): points from the US President’s speech to Congress

Barack Obama gained several points in opinion polls and a lot of favourable media comment for his speech to Congress on Tuesday 24 February. Its main focus was the economic crisis in the US. He had little to say on foreign policy, nothing new, mostly generalities, with a couple of worthwhile points. But in what he said on responding to crisis, there was much that reflects how the President sees the US place in the world and may therefore be suggestive of his administration’s stance and future actons. Here, without comment, are brief excerpts from the speech with points that I found especially significant on that score. Continue reading

The power of Obama

A few days away from inauguration, there is a palpable eagerness to know how US policy will be under Barrack Obama. Most discussion of this is about his vision and strategic preferences. I think we should also look at the basics of US power. Because, call me old-fashioned or what, I believe that however transformational Obama is, he will also be the American President.

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