THE BLOG

Need Another 100 Days To Grade Obama's Foreign Policy

Obama has had a remarkably productive first 100 days on the foreign policy front. He has sought to rebuild fractured alliances, toss out bad acronyms (GWOT, among others), and restore America's tattered image abroad, even if it means having grip-and-grin sessions with adversaries. It's hard not to like what I see.

But let me try. The most dangerous place in the world is probably Pakistan, something Obama has addressed both rightly and wrongly. He was right to dispatch someone with a strong ego like Richard Holbrooke to the region and work on Afghanistan and Pakistan as a tandem. He was wrong to continue the Bush policy of predator drone strikes, which invariably kill civilians and are counterproductive. It also means that Obama now has innocent blood on his hands.

Obama has done remarkably little on Africa (except to shoot down a few pirates), which was maybe his predecessor's only achievement abroad. Nothing has been done on Darfur. Nor is there much hope of things changing anytime soon in Sudan, Congo and other wartorn places.

Frustratingly, too often Obama's foreign policy has focused more on the metaphor and less on the meaty stuff. I'd prefer to see less talk of "smart power" and "reset buttons," neither of which I really understand, and more talk about substance (How much soft power is necessary? Does resetting U.S.-Russian relations mean turning a blind eye to journalists getting kicked out of windows?).

But let's face it: 100 days is too soon to tell, especially when Somali pirates and swine flu keep distracting this administration and the media from larger foreign policy concerns. This summer is crucial. Once we know election results in Iran and Lebanon, we'll get a better read of Obama's Middle East policy (and Israel's), which will keep his hands full for the next few years. How will Obama respond to a hardliners' return to power in Iran, or a Hezbollah-majority parliament in Lebanon? We'll have to wait another 100 days to find out.