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Event report: A Discussion on the Obama AdministrationÂ’s National Security Policy at CAP

January 30, 2012

This event, A Discussion on the Obama Administration’s National Security Policy, took place at the Center for American Progress on January 30.

Benjamin Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, elaborated on the main foreign policy focuses of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, and asserted that they have remained priorities throughout the Obama administration. Rhodes stated that Iraq was the overwhelming focus of foreign policy for several years, and upon entering office, Obama pursued a more aggressive timetable for the Iraqi War. This timetable has shifted away from former President Bush’s global war on terrorism, toward President Obama’s focus on Al Qaeda. Rhodes emphasized the Obama administration’s winding down the war in a way that allows the U.S. to concentrate on its efforts against Al Qaeda. In conjunction with this, Rhodes believes that there is still room for improvement in the Middle East and Asian peace process, especially in regards to our relations with Syria, Iran, and Pakistan.

Rhodes highlighted the U.S.’s need to maintain its strong alliances, and develop relationships with emerging powers that are critical to America’s global operations. One area of particular interest is the Asian Pacific, where Rhodes believes the Obama administration has been successful in reestablishing America’s security and economic presence. The U.S. has increased its exports to the Asian Pacific, creating jobs, and is currently encouraging democratic reforms in that region, while supporting Brazil’s new democratic government as a model for other countries. Both the U.S. and Asia, specifically China, have stakes in the economic and political interests in Southeast Asia, and Rhodes hopes that the upcoming visit from Vice President Xi of China will be another milestone for addressing major issues in our economic relationship.

Rhodes stressed the importance of a foundation of multilateral pressure in Iran, creating a framework in which the U.S. can steadily build up pressure, while constantly maintaining that a diplomatic solution is possible. In Syria, the U.S. is supporting a political transition, acting as a catalyst for voices that can improve the government, and keeping constant pressure on Bashar al-Assad. With Russia, the U.S. will seek future discussions on arms control, and work to establish cooperation on missile defense. The U.S. will need to work on building trust with Russia, and Rhodes desires South Korea to be a part of this relationship as well. Rhodes hopes that countries like Turkey and India will provide the U.S. with assistance with political and security issues in their respective regions. According to Rhodes, no other country comes close to the U.S.’s global role, and this is evident by the fact that several African and Asian countries have expressed a “real hunger for U.S. leadership.” Rhodes underlined the “core pillars” in U.S. global influence, the two most important being the recognition that strength at home leads to strength abroad, and that strong alliances are a force multiplier. Allies must share the burden and must continue to work together not only within their own countries, but abroad as well.

A full video of the event is available on the Center for American Progress website. Click here.


Jaclyn Escudero
SPSSI Spring Intern

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