Today on Foreign Policy, Rosa Brooks argues that Barack Obama doesn't have a "grand strategy" when it comes to foreign and national security policy. But grand strategy or not, the president has certainly delivered his fair share of foreign-policy speeches since assuming office -- 205 to be precise, according to one tally by the Washington Post. And a look back at his most sweeping, agenda-setting addresses reveals that No. 44 has consistently devoted more ink and rhetorical flair to certain issues that, when pieced together, help illuminate Obama's worldview. (For a breakdown of Obama's foreign-policy views, go here.)
In some cases, the president's views have hardly budged over time (as in the need to create a world without nuclear weapons). In others, his position has evolved (as in America's ability to dissuade Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons through negotiations). And while he can boast of significant progress in some areas (disrupting al Qaeda, withdrawing from Iraq), he has less to show in others (closing the Guantánamo Bay detention center, addressing climate change).
When Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, he may touch on relatively new topics such as the administration's strategic pivot to Asia. But you can be sure that many of the themes below will crop up once again. What'll be interesting to keep an eye on is whether Obama, after 3 years in office during a period of geopolitical upheaval, still sounds like the presidential candidate who outlined his foreign-policy vision before a roaring crowd in Berlin back in 2008.
MULTILATERALISM AND AMERICA'S GLOBAL LEADERSHIP
"Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity."
"America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more. Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."
"Human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared."
"Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone. We have sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world, and now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.... The United States stands ready to begin a new chapter of international cooperation, one that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all nations."
"But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come."
"We must defeat determined enemies wherever they are and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And America's moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity. And because we've begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America's standing has been restored."
"As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to try to impose regime change by force, no matter how well-intentioned it may be. But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people's call for help."
"The Security Council authorized all necessary measures to prevent a massacre. The Arab League called for this effort. Arab nations joined a NATO-led coalition that halted Qaddafi's forces in their tracks.... This is how the international community is supposed to work: nations standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming their rights."
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