Opinion: Obama’s State of the Union address: Idealism in foreign policy


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Most of President Obama’s State of the Union speech dealt with domestic issues, following the polls that show Americans are focused on the economy and what it means for them.

But the president did touch on foreign issues, and used the same framework that he had tried out in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize last year. It is idealism, forged in more than two centuries of rule of law and constitutionalism, that has shaped America and its role in the world, Obama argued.


And the big example is Haiti, still reeling from an earthquake. Obama renewed his call to help that country, the second in the hemisphere to have a democratic revolution in the early 19th century.

“Our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That is why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild,” Obama said.

“That is why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; and we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.”

But Obama also argued that the war against terrorism must be won, and that it too requires a bipartisan approach.

“Throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than our security. Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has dissipated. We can argue all we want about who’s to blame for this, but I am not interested in relitigating the past. I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let’s put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough. Let’s reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let’s leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future -- for America and the world.”

He also gave a shout-out to those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world and again called for a renewed commitment to help military families, a special issue for his wife, Michelle, and Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president.

He gave no new ideas in how to deal with Iran and North Korea and their nuclear programs, though he mentioned the disputes, along with the need for economic help to bring much if the world up to the level of the more developed countries.

-- Michael Muskal

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A shopper watches flat panel TV screens showing live broadcast of U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address from Washington D.C. at Yamada Denki discount store in Tokyo, Japan, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)