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The Speech Had Potential

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
January 28, 2010
The Daily Beast


The foreign policy portion of President Obama's State of the Union address was among the shortest, if not the shortest, in the annual speech since the start of World War II. But it was laced with tantalizing statements about portentous decisions and policies in the offing. Mr. Obama most certainly didn't intend to downgrade national security. Rather, he didn't want international issues to divert from his main message: the economy and jobs.

Actually, the president served up some potentially meaty stuff, but deliberately didn't elaborate on what he had in mind. He offered rather strong declarations of intent to wind down major American involvement in the Iraq and Afghan wars. He omitted any reference to Pakistan and Yemen, though proudly stressed that his efforts had killed more terrorists in 2009 than had been killed in 2008. Perhaps we will hear more of the new military doctrine to fight terrorism that lies behind this boast within the year. He ritualistically reaffirmed his previous commitments to reducing the risks of global warming and the spread of nuclear weapons as well as increasing America's energy independence, though he offered scant detail. He also made a rather remarkable pledge to double U.S. exports within five years.

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