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Obama on Foreign Policy: A Mysterious Work in Progress

The central theme of Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency has been his call for “change”—albeit often with few details about the nature of that change.  There is certainly a pressing need for change in U.S. foreign policy.  During the Cold War, Washington’s strategy led to security free-riding by allies and clients, caused the republic to blunder into ill-advised military crusades, and laid an unnecessary, chronic financial burden on taxpayers.

Matters have become even worse since the end of the Cold War.  U.S. presidents have ordered ten major military missions in the past 19 years, intervening in places as diverse as Panama, Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans, and the Persian Gulf.  Washington’s security commitments have expanded enormously; America is now under treaty obligation to help defend such tiny clients as the Baltic republics, Slovakia, and Slovenia in addition to the obligations undertaken to various allies during the Cold War.  America’s strategic overextension and muddled priorities have reached new levels under George W. Bush, with Washington’s expensive and bloody folly in Iraq and the administration’s utopian goal of implanting democracy in the Middle East and other unpromising regions.

Our foreign policy fairly cries out for drastic change, but it remains uncertain whether Obama would bring the right kind of change. ...

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