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Barack Obama at Yearly Kos 2007
Pundits and the global media are already downplaying hopes that President Obama's trip to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan is essentially meaningless. I tend to agree with this assessment and share the view of President George W. Bush and President Obama that there is essentially nothing that the United States can do to solve that problem. They are either going to have a major war between various Muslims and Israelis and settle it one way or the other, or the status quo will continue. President Obama is correct in not making much of it. Go, shake the hands, wear a yarmulke, go home. Whatever.

However, the President's trip does seem to indicate a vacuum of sorts: a lack of strategic guidance for America after he's gone.

After the experience of two major, expensive, bloody wars (and one cheap and bloodless one, at least for us), President Obama has made it very clear he's putting an end to the neocon pipe dream of war on Muslims everywhere and all the time. He has, on several occasions, signaled his interest in East Asia as being the place where the United States should turn its strategic focus and internationalize the job of procuring the safe flow of Middle Eastern fossil fuels. (It is that key strategic necessity that drives all of American foreign policy, but it is conflicted by the neoconservative dogma on support of the state of Israel above all else). The President has been also been open and focused on his efforts to reduce nuclear weapons and secure them once they are taken off line. He has been a leader on this front for many years.

President Obama has also been absolutely relentless in his pursuit of terrorists. It seems he has a very clearly policy: Kill them. Kill them all. He's not interested in nation building nor is he interest in regime change. Just kill the terrorists as cheaply and efficiently as possible with little to no loss of American life. The president's noted reliance on the paramilitary arm of the intelligence community and his close relationship with the Special Forces Command of the military is the key to understanding how he views the use of force abroad. He wants it quiet, quick, and absolutely lethal. He doesn't want the legal headaches that come with capturing enemy forces, nor does he want very much Congressional oversight of his activities. However, a policy of pure killing has its strategic downside is well. We can't just keep on killing forever and ever without knowing what the long term consequences are. At some point we have to look at why we have to kill them and bring some final resolution to the issue of international religiously motivated terrorism.

So what does this all add up to? What sort of vision of American strategic direction can we expect the president to leave in his wake? We get the brushstrokes: get out of the Middle East, turn to East Asia, kill terrorists cheap, no big wars, scrap nukes...but what sort of picture is the president painting here?

Perhaps that is the better story that needs to be told rather than going on and on about the Israeli/Palestinian pointless peace process. What sort of world does Barack Obama envision for us?

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