Obama’s foreign-policy trap

The focus of the next year for President Obama will be the economy: He told reporters at his first post-election press conference today that his “No. 1 concern” would be to restore jobs and reduce the deficit. The middle classes now know that he feels their pain.

He certainly never mentioned foreign policy goals among his priorities, and no White House reporter asked him about them. Foreign policy was not among the voters’ concerns during the campaign.

But Obama has set a trap for himself on the foreign policy front by declaring July next year as the date after which the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will begin drawing down, and by setting a deadline of a year for a Middle East peace agreement that is supposed to be reached by Israel and the Palestinians by next September. Addressing both of these conflicts will require heavy lifting from the president, whose vice president and secretary of State are to meet the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in the U.S. next week. In Israel, analysts have concluded that Obama has been weakened by the midterms, which will make striking a deal with Netanyahu all the more difficult.

We could see a slight shift in the emphasis of Obama’s foreign policy, which will be explained in terms of helping the economic recovery in the U.S. Today, he justified his upcoming tour of Asia in this way, noting that he will be accompanied by businessmen to India. He kept talking about how America needs to revive its “competitive posture” around the world.

So despite his stated intention to focus like a laser beam on the economy, add a dash of Iran and a pinch of terror scares to the mix and it will more likely be business as usual on the foreign policy front for the president.

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