Don't look now, but the Obama administration is making as radical moves in foreign policy as it is with the economy. Just as President Obama is jettisoning the laissez-faire approach that the Bush administration adopted toward the financial markets, so he is abandoning its refusal to meet and cut deals with America's adversaries, whether it's Russia, Syria, or Iran. Obama's overhaul of foreign affairs could well prove to be as momentous as his attempt to create a new New Deal at home.
Take Russia. According to Russian leader Dimitri Medvedev, Obama sent a secret note several weeks ago offering to scrap the ill-advised and costly missile defense system that George W. Bush and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld pushed to install in Eastern Europe. No, Russia doesn't the power to compel Iran to abandon its dream of nuclear missiles. But a Russia allied with Europe and the U.S. could help exert real pressure on Tehran to reconsider its plans. Moreover, Obama clearly wants to draw Russia back into the western camp. Cutting a deal with it is classic power politics and a sign that Obama, unlike Bush, has a keen understanding of the game of international politics. You might call it, as defense secretary Robert Gates did, a sign of an "analytical" mind. Bring on the analysis.
Ditto for Syria and Iran. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is right to seek talks with Syria, which has played a dangerous role in Lebanon and played footsie with Iran. Detaching Syria from Iran would further help weaken the revolutionary power of the Iranian revolution. It could also lead to a broader peace settlement with Israel.
The main point is that instead of standing aloof and sulking in the corner, as the U.S. has for years, it's starting to wield its influence. For too long, Bush allowed America's foes to dictate events by refusing to engage them. Obama is taking the opposite approach. Just as the economy needs to be jump-started, so does foreign policy. Obama has recognized that. The revitalization of American diplomacy and power has begun.