Last week was a big week for President Obama's mission to show that US foreign policy will be very different under his administration. On climate change, 'torture', Cuba and relations with other American states he communicated his change agenda. The BBC communicated all four shifts:
On climate change... "The US government is to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, having decided that it and five other greenhouse gases may endanger human health and well-being. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the move following a review of the scientific evidence. The decision marks a major change from the Bush presidency, when the EPA argued it could not regulate CO2 because the gas was not a pollutant."
Publication of 'torture' memos... "The US has published four secret memos detailing legal justification for the Bush-era CIA interrogation programme. Critics of the programme say the methods used amounted to torture. President Barack Obama has also issued a statement guaranteeing that no CIA employees will be prosecuted for their role in the interrogation programme."
Friendlier relations with other American states...
Friendlier relations with other American states..."President Barack Obama has said the US seeks an "equal partnership" with all the nations of the Americas. Mr Obama said in particular that he wanted a thaw in relations between the US and Cuba, having earlier shaken hands with one of the US's harshest critics, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez."
A easing of restrictions on Cuba... "US President Barack Obama has approved measures that will allow Cuban Americans to travel more freely to Cuba, his spokesman has said. Cuban-Americans will also be allowed to send more money to relatives in Cuba. The move, announced by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, comes after Mr Obama last month signed a spending bill easing some economic sanctions on Cuba."
Writing in the Financial Times Clive Crook attempted to define an Obama foreign policy doctrine. He identified a key ingredient as personal warmth:
One aspect of this pragmatism is the president’s desire to build alliances and cool old enmities, and work towards US aims through co-operation rather than confrontation. The trouble is, most US presidents – including Mr Obama’s predecessor – felt the same way until the world beat it out of them. Foreign policy doctrine is put to the test only when co-operation in pursuit of mutual interests fails to achieve results, and the hard choices that Mr Obama insists he is willing to make actually present themselves.
Though it is much too soon to write off Mr Obama’s friendly overtures, you could hardly describe them so far as a notable success. He travelled to Europe this month and received ovations at every step; presidents and prime ministers jostled like giddy teenagers to be photographed with him. Yet he went away with nothing: no co-ordinated fiscal stimulus; no meaningful commitments of new military support in Afghanistan. Judged by the outcome, could his predecessor have done much worse?
The world agreed that North Korea’s missile test should be opposed; the US even hinted it might shoot the rocket down. The launch went ahead without repercussions. The US and its allies could not agree on a response.
The world believes that Iran should be stopped from developing nuclear weapons, but the allies drag their feet over sanctions."
Read the rest of Crook's piece here.