iOS app Android app More

State Of The Union: Where Was The Foreign Policy?

State Of The Union

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 01/26/11 12:05 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:25 PM ET

Obama's expansive State of the Union address on Tuesday covered everything from Facebook to smoked salmon, but was surprisingly short on a topic that is usually a heavy hitter: foreign policy.

In fact, as ABC reports, Obama spent just 13 percent of his time dealing with foreign policy, the lowest since the 9/11 attacks. President George W. Bush regularly devoted about 40 percent of his annual address to dealing with foreign issues.

The president did speak about Afghanistan and Iraq, saying that the Iraq war is coming to an end and a drawdown of U.S. military personnel will begin in July. He pushed back against the narrative of a muddled mandate in Afghanistan, saying, "Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11."

And while the popular uprising in Tunisia, hailed as an important blow for democracy in the Middle East by much of the world, was mentioned, the ongoing protests rocking Egypt that very day were notably absent.

However, in large part when Obama was treading on foreign ground, it was directed not towards the two wars the U.S. is currently fighting, but the nation's emerging international competitors. He noted that India and China are "educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science," while in the U.S., educational standards are slipping. He mentioned that China is "home to the world's largest private solar research facility, and the world's fastest computer," while the U.S. infrastructure was graded a "D." And he put forth that "we need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world."

When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Washington this month, Obama stressed repeatedly that the U.S. welcomed China's "peaceful rise" and that "healthy competition" between the two would be "good for the world." However, speaking to a home audience Obama seemed slightly more concerned about that "healthy competition." As NPR pointed out, "While the president made reference to Gaby Giffords "empty chair," there was clearly an even more important absent player looming over the event: China. This was perhaps the first State of the Union that was as much about them as it was about us."


You can read the rest of Obama's speech here.

FOLLOW HUFFPOST WORLD