What Foreign Policy Objectives Should the Obama Administration Establish as its Top Priorities?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
January 20, 2009
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton

On January 20, 2009, President Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America. What foreign policy objectives should the Obama Administration establish as its top priorities?

What foreign policy objectives should the Obama Administration establish as its top priorities?

Comments

Comments

joe
|
Tennessee, USA
January 23, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Here is a bit to read: They will not even work with their own people...and they are dilusional in every respect:

Hamas dismisses reconciliation talks with Fatah..
Posted by: kdriggers on Jan 22 - 12:15
DAMASCUS, Syria -- A senior Hamas official has dismissed any reconciliation talks with the rival Fatah group.

His remarks Thursday followed claims by the militants that they emerged victorious after the group survived a relentless three-week offensive by Israel on the Gaza Strip.

Sami Khater, a member of the militant group's Damascus-based branch, says Arab and international donations to reconstruct the war-devastated Gaza should go directly to Hamas and not to rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose faction rules the West Bank.

Khater says Abbas and his Palestinian Authority cannot be trusted.

Khater says a Hamas delegation will travel to Cairo this weekend for talks with Egyptian mediators on ways to consolidate a Gaza cease-fire in place since last Sunday.

Jake
|
Tennessee, USA
January 23, 2009

Jake in Tennessee writes:

Hamas is an elected government, elected by the Palestinians. The Palestinians decided their fate the day they voted Hamas into office.

Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned group out of Egypt.

If Hamas would have not fired rockets at Israel, Israel would have not needed to attack Gaza. Israel should not and will not allow itself to be fired upon without response.

I wish Israel would have not stopped the fighting. The only thing Hamas is doing now is regrouping, rearming, and getting ready to fire on Israel once again. Hamas should be completly wiped out.

Tom
|
Florida, USA
January 23, 2009

Tom in Florida writes:

Help to establish a Palestinian state and to broker a just peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Withdraw all U.S. military forces from Iraq (no permanent U.S. bases).

Rapidly conclude the seven year long war in Afghanistan, and withdraw all U.S. military forces.

Work through the United Nations to end genocide in Africa and wherever else it occurs.

Begin to phase out all 700+ U.S. military bases on foreign soil.

Examine evidence to determine if crimes against humanity were committed by the Bush Administration in the run up to war, and during the war, with Iraq, and prosecute if evidence warrants.

Engage Iran and all nations through diplomacy, economy, education, culture and communication. Military action should ONLY be taken as the absolute last resort in the defense of our nation.

John
|
Greece
January 24, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Joe in Tennessee -- I think I understand what you're talking about Middle East and Hamas. I agree 99,9%. That's why I have only a 0,1% query concerning Hamas/Fatah:

Please do not misunderstand me -- cause I do not know the "area' so well. Recently, I read that sometimes ("regularly" and often) Hamas members become Fatah and Fatah members become Hamas, according to local political circumstances and climate, no matter if we think that they hate each other. I am not sure about these, that's why I ask you.

You may fight Hamas today and after some months you will have to face the fact that Hamas was Fatah and Fatah was Hamas? And then you have to fight from the beginning? If you add to all these the Hezbollah and many other terrorist groups around the world, then it's a chaos!

So, is it only a Hamas problem or is it a more general Arabic-Muslim "veto" against the existence of Israel and U.S.A.?

Efna P.
|
New York, USA
January 24, 2009

Efna in New York writes:

Please reinstall social Security benifits to government retirees. As long as their pensions are less than one hundred thousand dollars a year. Most older americans are not enjoying their later years. Need and want are monsters at their doors. The additional SS benifits would do much to enhance their last years.

David
|
Maine, USA
January 24, 2009

David in Maine writes:

Stabilize our relationship with Russia and work toward the reduction of nuclear weapons.

joe
|
Tennessee, USA
January 24, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Hamas has no realistic history to begin with, what are they other than a far right PLO-PLF and whatever number of splinters? From 1954 onward the Palestinians have been a Nomadic people fighting to have anything at all. Starting wars with Jordan and Syria in their history, credibility give only with their aid of Lebanon, otherwise they are a nonexistent group of nomadic peoples who came from some historical time and place. They have not in modern times had any legitimate governing power. Arafat was only chosen as he was the best of the worst so to speak and commanded the largest group. An educated thug, no more, no less who was empowered indirectly in an international attempt to create a base government to deal with.

Here a bit of history which was just repeated, the only change is the country involved: 1960s:The Jordanian government moved to regain control over its territory, and the next day, King Hussein declared martial law.[7] By September 25, the Jordanian army achieved dominance in the fighting, and two days later Arafat and Hussein agreed to a series of ceasefires. The Jordanian army inflicted heavy casualties upon the Palestinians -- including civilians -- who suffered approximately 3,500 fatalities. Two thousand Fatah fighters managed to enter Syria. They crossed the border into Lebanon to join Fatah forces in that country, where they set up their new headquarters.[8] WOW, DOES THAT SOUND FAMILIAR but the irony is: their new headquarters were GIVEN TO THEM by the very people they are attacking.

1. Hamas won by threat and murder, no more, no less. They are NOT a representation of the Palestinian peoples. If you believe that, then why doesn't anyone want them? Why are the Palestinians here in America not Hamas? That is a very large misnomer which the Press created and is supported by most communist, Marxist and Islamic extremist. The Russian Strategic Center refers to Hamas as a borderline and perhaps misrepresented elected government which may be extreme; but, was legally elected. Perhaps you hold Russian view and do not have any democratic ideals; because, under Hamas you could not even shave your face, have your wife ask you for anything or let your children play with toys which were not condoned first. Is this democratic ideology? They murdered their way to victory.

2. The very history of the Palestinian people is one in which NO bordering country wanted them. They never had a realistic sovereign state to begin with. The idea of such was only to keep them from being incorporated into surounding borders and served individual nationalism. No one wanted them, as the Palestinians have repeatedly shown they will not bend or involve themselves in a productive manner as new citizens. It is the mercy of Israel they were given any land to begin with. Israel, by International law, did not have to honor or recognize Palestine to begin with ... The war was inevitable.

3. The question of Hamas vs. Fatah is almost irrelevant as no matter what center government may actually be with the Palestinian peoples, Hamas is not flexible and will continue to create grief on one border or another. My only concern is who is supplying them to continue the war. They do not have the money for arms purchase to begin with and nothing to trade in actuality -- which means there is a external provider which must be shut down...who is supplying them? Arms are not inexpensive.

I think one of the major problems which exist in our diplomacy is the lack of common sense, not education; we have a lot of very smart people working 24-7 to provide peaceful solutions but: Sometimes you are in the school yard with a bully and you cannot run. We complicate it for what purpose? How many people are hurt before the bully is put down and if we did care that much, why wait?

Some fires need to be put out quickly or they spread...

joe
|
Tennessee, USA
January 24, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

I don't think this has been mentioned:

1. How about starting a new branch of the DOS to combine our aid within national borders. In Africa, as an example there are over 100 groups supporting AIDS there and much wasted double effort and cost. Everybody is rowing in the same direction, but in different boats that need be supported. If we are going to give 34 billion more and still be the major caretaker of peace in the world, would it not be beneficial to organize more productively?

2. Ambassadorships should be earned and not political favors. Why: It does not create due diligence or affirmation of truth in reports. How many times has this happened? Even in small areas as in the Philippines a few years back with the rhetoric of a political favor creating a riot.

It is not expanding the DOS in intelligence roles; but, will give credibility that actually reaches the President and Senate committees as to viability within any border.

Many of these major problems we note worldwide with terrorism are started by small groups. Why does it take so long to recognize organization of these groups? The provider does not want to hear of problems.

A prime example is within the problems encountered by hindsight in the Iraq war. When the Generals had to actually ask the boots to the ground AFTER 5 YEARS what was going on because of tainted information which caused misjudgments. Why? No officer wants to say they failed or want to apease their superiors.

The same does occur in many of our ally third world countries and smaller democratic and non democratic states where we have an Embassy. If the Ambassadorship is political in nature, then any information is automatically tainted to the provider. It is only natural is it not?

Galal
|
Yemen
January 24, 2009

Galal in Yemen writes:

I think it's necessary for Mr. Obama to focuse on the middle east as an essential part of the U.S. foreign policy. The dispute between Arabs and Israel is realy deserve such focuse. The former U.S. presidents faieled to reach any settlement. Instead of this they supported Israel. It'll be a remarkable shift for Mr. Obama to support the idea of " Palestinian State Establishment ", and to act as a fair broker with the two sides. The history will record this as it recorded that Obama was the first black who entered the white house.

Nick
|
France
January 24, 2009

Nick in France writes:

The government has already identified Afghanistan and the Middle East as essential areas of activity.

I would ask that the administration engage constructively with the United Nations and its institutions. This would do much to recover the USA's reputation overseas.

The previous administration undermined the UN and the work it tries to do. It witheld funding from both the central body and its institutions, in particular UNESCO.

It would be nice to see the United States participating and negociating rather than imposing a vision in places where conditions simply do not allow its realisation. The UN is the only forum available for small developing nations to be heard. Many of the ideas expressed may be "off the wall" and informed by ideologies at odds with those commonly held by Americans. However to simply denounce them as "corrupt and decadent" (as one of your ultracon citizens expressed it to me) serves no useful purpose.

It seems to me that much as the President engages in pragmatic negociations with the House and the Senate in the development of domestic policy, so it should be with the UN. This would mean fewer useless declarations from the UN and fewer vetos from the US. Which, in turn would hugely enhance the international reputation of the US and bring about the re-emergance of the UN as a force for change and defence of human rights (which do not differ much from the bill of rights) on the world stage.

Doug
|
Virginia, USA
January 25, 2009

Doug in Virginia writes:

I'm seriously concerned about the future of the country, if the State Department wants to know what I think the top priority ought to be. Don't we pay you guys to figure that out?

Paul
|
Florida, USA
January 25, 2009

Paul in Florida writes:

I think a top priority should be to focus on the Middle East and our relations with them. I believe that Secretary Clinton and the Obama Administration will do a good job in focusing on building a good relationship there. Another issue that I think is very important is that the United States should focus on Womens rights and Womens issues across the world. The United States can be a great example to the rest of the world on this issue too.

Ali
|
Jordan
January 25, 2009

Ali in Jordan writes:

It is about time U.S. presidents take a new track towards the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Thru the years, the U.S. government was bias and blindly supporting Israel while neglecting Palestinian rights for self determination.

It is about time that U.S. President Obama, takes a serious step towards pushing Israel to end the occupation in the West Bank, remove the Sea, Land and Air embargo on Gaza, remove road blocks, illegal settelments and remove the Aparthied wall that is cutting Arab villages and towns into pieces. It is about time to start negotiating with Hamas and Fatah to establish a Just peace for all. I personaly think a one state solution is the only solution to this conflict.

Wendy
|
California, USA
January 25, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

One of our U.S.A. astronauts was asked, "What did you think when you looked back at our planet Earth from space?" He said, "What struck me when I looked back at our planet from space is that there aren't any lines on it."

Shocked, I became global in that instant. I know that we still live with the imaginary lines, but Prez O & SoS Hillary are both grok or deeply drink in the necessary conviction that respect is one of the greatest solvents of distrust and even hatred in the world.

No change or priority could possibly be greater than to treat every other human being on our tiny fragile beloved planet with respect.

Cynthia R.
|
Michigan, USA
January 26, 2009

Cynthia R. in Michigan writes:

I beleive one of the top priorities is to promote Human Rights and End Discrimination against women and children. Human Rights is a broad catagory that covers, child labor, torture, inhumane treatment, politial oppression, slave trafficing, religious persecution. We need to set an example and work toward engaging once again in the world not as a dominate force that says our way or the highway, but as an example and roll model. We can promote our country and our people to the world with a new scense of Nationalism not Isolationism and with respect to other cultures, countries and their heritage.

Barry
|
Massachusetts, USA
January 26, 2009

Barry in Massachusetts writes:

With regard to Afghanistan, I don't have the answers, but I do wish that Mr. Obama, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Holbrooke, would ALL meet and discuss it with Rory Stewart. Mr. Stewart has lived on 3 continents, he has served as a British Diplomat, an Iraq Deputy Governor for 2 provinces, has founded an NGO in Afghanistan -- where he currently resides, has written several books on the region and is the Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Mr. Stewart's ideas and insights are not parallel to those of the Bush administration, to European governments with activities in Afghanistan, nor even to the proposals so far of the Obama administration. This is precisely why I think he should be engaged -- he has a great deal of knowledge of the region's history, it's culture, and more importantly, successful real world experience with the indigenous organizations, the power brokers as well as the common people, the life there. He understands the region, the limitations of external influence there, and has good ideas on how to actually make progress and get things done.

I think ideally he would be made part of the team, but at the very least, I think he should be engaged for significant discussions at the highest levels so that leaders at the White House and the State Department get the benefit of his learnings.

For a little look into what he has to say, you may review a lecture he gave on 11-13-2008 entitled "Afghanistan: The Places in Between". It's kind of a grand tour in about an hour, describing the people, the history, the folly of some current coalition initiatives there, and successful work that he has been doing, together with some hints on what the international community might do to improve their effectiveness there (no, it's not throw more money and troops at the problem).

8 Parts totalling roughly 1 hour:
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=8BBF3A522F7AFF5E

Dave
January 26, 2009

Dave writes:

Develop a real, sincere, desire to advance what is in the best interest of the world as a whole, rather than those of sole benefit to the United States. If this is not our highest priority, how can we expect others to care for our well-being? We need to take the leadership role in developing this higher sense of a global community to ensure long-run peace and prosperity.

sam
|
Illinois, USA
January 26, 2009

Sam in Virginia writes:

Tonight National Geographic aired a fantastic special on Air Force one. The producers of that show should be given some type of journalist award. A segment of the special dealt with the Presidents November 2003 Thanksgiving Day visit to Iraq. What struck me as odd was how concerned the President was about the SAM threat to the aircraft upon departure. He called his security specialist twice to inquire about the aircrafts altitude. No one should use the word scared when talking about the leader of the free world; but he was in my opinion overly concerned. My God if you don't feel safe on Air Force One, how the heck do you expect a 22 year old Marine to feel safe in a Hummer that's not up armored?

In addition the President was only in country a few hours, active duty and Foreign Service personnel are in country for a year or longer. The pilot of Air Force one said that only 5 individual knew about the flight; that's odd, according to the photographs in Elisabeth Bumiller's book, an American Life, the President took at least one VIP on this secret mission. That would have been an entirely different security piece. The troops in Iraq/Afghanistan should be brought home immediately! The focus should shift to protecting the Southwest Border of the United States. NATO is almost totally useless. US (NATO) soldiers should be sent back to the United States and expeditionary forces used to combat the war on terror. AFRICOM is stationed Germany because no country on the African continent wanted to support this base. The new President should unBRAC a base in the US to support AFRICOM. It would be a lot cheaper and the taxpayers could use dollars instead of Euros to finance this operation! Towards the end of the NETGEO special they showed President Obama exiting a suburban and boarding AF1. He was putting away his Blackberry. I wonder will he be able to use it in the White House.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2008/05/mil-080526-v...

http://washingtontimes.com/weblogs/potus-notes/2009/Jan/21/ex-bush-offic...

Hatem
|
Egypt
January 26, 2009

Hatem in Egypt writes:

Dear sirs,

For the sake of humanity, democracy, the credibility of international law and all that is decent, it is imperative that the new U.S. President and Government take a humane and fair look at what is happening in the occupied territories in Palestine.

Historically, the U.S. has provided unconditional, unquestioning support and umbrella coverage for whatever atrocities Israel has committed with impunity. This needs to change if the U.S. wishes for its image to improve and if President Obama is any different to his predecessors.

As an example of how twisted the truth has been remember that Gaza is legally "occupied territory" and its inhabitants have a legal right guranteed under international law to resist the occupation including the use of military means. These are not terrorists, these are a people under occupation, resisting this occupation, and they have the right to do so.

Imagine please for a minute that you are a Palestinian, living for the last 50 odd years in gaza or the west bank....what would you do, what are your options?

The new U.S. President has campaigned as an honest, decent man, not a cynic, not a realpolitik zealot, but a fair and balanced man, who seems at least to want to do the right things.

This is one right thing he must do.

Hatem
|
Egypt
January 26, 2009

Hatem in Egypt writes:

Dear sirs,

You know what the priority should be in terms of the Middle East? Simply the implementation of international law and security council resolutions.

Resolutions which include that the annexing of Jerusalem is rejected by the UN, that Gaza and the West bank and all pre-1967 Arab land is under occupation and that inhabitants have a right to resist this occupation, that Israel as the occupier has a duty to protect the people it is occupying.

The new U.S. government should stop vetoing resolutions which the whole world wants passed.

Let us keep it simple, after all, who doesn't want international laws to be respected? Except of course those who are breaking them? War crimes have been and continue to be committed, including collective punishments, use of illegalised weapon systems etc...etc... ad nauseum.

We Arabs and Muslims understand that Israel's biggest issue is security, what we cannot understand is how poisoning water wells, and burning orchards and killing children (over 50% of all deaths in Gaza have been under the age of 17) improves security. Nor do we understand how the U.S., a country which consistently claims the moral high ground, can support, arm, defend and grant cover to Israel in its unrelenting massacre, humiliation and dehumanization of the Palestinians.

Bring back respect for international law.

Lucio
|
New York, USA
January 26, 2009

Lucio in New York writes:

Re: international health as a priority

I. Improve upon our leadership under PEPFAR.
i. take your time selecting a leader for the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator. As many organizations are requesting, setup an advisory committee composed of stakeholders, and delay this choice for a few weeks.
ii. get rid of restrictions on HIV-positive people traveling to the US

II. start planning for the G8 summit this summer, to launch HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE 2020, which Obama described as "a global effort to improve global health care and to train health care professionals to serve in the developing world."
i. again, setup an advisory committee composed of stakeholders to help plan this new initiative. Ensure organizations that stand up for human rights and for the "right to health" are included in said panel (e.g. Physicians for Human Rights, which has been lobbying on this issue of training health care workers for several years, and HIV/AIDS treatment activists).

Holly
|
California, USA
January 27, 2009

Holly in California writes:

I would like to direct our dear Hilary's attention to what is going on in Middle East especially in Iran in regard to Women Rights issue. I have posted a note on my blog (black chador) for Madam Secretary. I love it if our top diplomat pays attention to women rights issues as she did when she was our first lady.

More power to Hilary.

Evelyn
January 26, 2009

Evelyn writes:

There is no 'winning' in Afghanistan with the use of bombs and drones on the population. Before sending in more troops to kill and be killed, the first priority must be to make every diplomatic effort possible. We are now propping up an administration in Afghanistan that is ineffective and extremely corrupt, make the establishment of an honest and effective government the first priority. Second, put nation building in the hands of the people of Afghanistan, not in the reach of Western organizations and companies which take most of the money for themselves and their staffs so that very little gets to the people of Afghanistan. The way funds are handled now is a ripoff to the American taxpayers. I have been told stories of members of NGO's taking the best houses in Kabul and driving around in white SUVs in the midst of the poverty all around them. Third, have a dialogue with the Taliban. In order to eradicate them an entire generation of men educated in fundamental Islam while in Pakistan will have to be killed. Better to talk with them and try to re-educate them. I do not want 'Bush's' war in Afghanistan to become 'Obama's' war by continuing to be the quagmire it is now. Do not repeat history, no nation has been able to win in Afganistan for over 2000 years.

joe
|
Tennessee, USA
January 26, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Quote by Abraham Lincoln: "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." Without America, how long will there be a Free World? Think about it.

-- All decisions must be provisional on reconstruction of the foundation of America first and foremost.

-- Free Trade markets must keep a fair basis, economic restructuring needs to be include provisional democratic laws for the people who accept our aid and a oversight of Companies who invest in new democracies or underdeveloped countries on an international level.

-- We care more about making laws regarding prisoners of war and rules of war than thousands who go abused in various manners internationally by corporate greed and are often treated worse than any Gitmo resident. Ever see a diamond mine? How does this happen? Why does it go on?

Note:
What does Air force One have to do with any of this Sammy? Agreed, the Presidency was not supposed to emanate a King over his surfs...George Washington made that clear...! In fact I had a hamburger Inauguration Day, not pheasant and fish and actually gave thanks to God for it...I was not aware that Lincolns meal was an Average Americans diet today!

Angel
|
District Of Columbia, USA
January 26, 2009

Angel R. in Washington writes:

The only Middle East policy we should have is getting off of our dependence on their oil. This means investing in clean renewable energy here at home. There are too many hostile states in the middle east getting rich off of our hard earned cash. Meanwhile we are asking china for more and more loans. There is a reason why the states that matter in the Middle East don't meddle in the petty quarrels in their own back yard. When was the last time you saw the Suads make any real effor to resolve the various conflicts. These conflicts are hundreds if not thousands of years old and will probably continue indefinately. We as a nation need to stop being the world police, bring our boys home, and start rebuilding this nation piece by piece.

Kevin
|
Washington, USA
January 27, 2009

Kevin in Washington writes:

Secure a just and fair two state solution in the Middle East, between Israel, and the Palestinians

Work with the elected leaders of South America, including chavez, morales, et al, to create econonomic conditions which create markets for inter-american products
end the embargo of cuba

Johnathan
|
Canada
January 27, 2009

Johnathan in Canada writes:

I believe the Obama administration will gain much respect and legitimacy, if it puts its foot down on human rights abuses.

(1) It needs to come up with a comprehensive list of countries that are about to or are comitting genocide on its own people.

These countries include China,Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Burma. Impose sanctions on these countries, prevent any form of arms export etc, till they make radical improvements.

(2) Help bring peace to the Middle East, impose a two state solution. Give some level of access to Holy city for the Palestians. Try to bring Hamas to the negotiating table, provided it recognizes Israel's right to exist.

(3) Negotiate with Iran, try to peacefully disarm its nuclear capability through hard bargain Provide some international guarantee to protect its borders from incursion etc but also dismantle its international terror support networks.

Patsy
|
United States
January 27, 2009

Patsy in U.S.A. writes:

To seek and truly see, with clear and compassionate eyes, those who suffer in our midst. As long as we choose to leave people behind there will be desperation and meanness in the world. Also, we must try to understand and respect others and try to mend our own ways before making judgments. The more we blame, the more we draw attention to our own faults. Life does not have to be this hard. Right now, there are plenty of resources to go around. Greed kills, yet I find the rich and famous being lauded every day on the "news." It's time for people of good conscience to stand up for what is right. Our survival as a species is not about boundaries, religions, old prejudices, it is about compassion, respect, maturity. It is about encouraging a culture of life, not death. It's about love, not fear.

Sophia
|
Virginia, USA
January 27, 2009

Sophia in Virginia writes:

The U.S. Foreign Policy that needs the greatest overhaul is the U.S. policy for Africa. The Obama Administration should stop patronizing and undermining Africa's own capacities and craft a policy that will allow the people of Africa to determine and craft their own social,economic and political programs.

Brett P.
|
South Africa
January 27, 2009

Brett in South Africa writes:

Madam Secretary

May I firstly congratulate you on your appointment, I strongly believe that you will charter a new way forward for the U.S.A. and the world at large.

I am Zimbabwean living in South Africa, not by choice, but exiled due to the situation in my country. As I speak, the talks have failed yet again. How can the world, continue to allow Mr. Mugabe to savagely dismantle the country. The SADCC community will not speak out against this dictator.

I only hope that the USA will formulate a stronger strategy to pave a way to change the situation in my country.

HELP!

May god bless you and the current administration.

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