Obama shifting from Bush focus in diplomacy: US think tank

February 17th, 2009 - 12:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Feb 17 (IANS) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s choice of Asia for her first trip abroad is intended to signal a more global focus as opposed to the Bush administration’s heavy emphasis on the Middle East, according to a US think tank.

It also represents the kick-off of an ambitious travel plan that will see Clinton visiting numerous countries across the globe in a bid to project the image of a more cooperative US administration, the strategic intelligence think tank Stratfor said.

Clinton’s Asian expedition with scheduled stops in Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul and Beijing is not the first overseas visit by a key member of the President Barack Obama’s administration, Rodger Baker noted in an article on www.stratfor.com.

Vice President Joe Biden travelled to Germany for the Munich Security Conference, where he faced the Russians. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell has finished his first trip to his area of responsibility and is already planning a return visit to the Middle East.

Richard Holbrooke, special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has visited both South Asian countries in addition to making a “listening” stop in India.

“As with any new US presidency, there will be a period of reshaping policy, of setting priorities, and of balancing internal differences within the Obama administration,” Baker said, suggesting a “two-pronged Obama foreign policy approach is unfolding”.

“The first prong, relating to the general tenor of foreign relations, involves a modern application of the ’speak softly and carry a big stick’ approach,” he said.

“The second prong, relating to the distribution of power within the administration, involves a centralisation of foreign policy centring on a stronger and expanded National Security Council (NSC) and relies on special envoys for crisis areas, leaving the secretary of state to shape foreign perceptions rather than policy,” Baker said.

Clinton’s foreign travels are thus less about shaping foreign policy than shaping foreign images of the US, he said. “She is demonstrating the new consultative nature of the administration by going everywhere and listening to everyone.”

Meanwhile, the hard-hitting foreign policy initiatives go to the special envoys, who can dedicate their time and energy to just one topic.

“Holbrooke got South Asia, Mitchell got the Middle East, and there are indications that managing overall China strategy will fall to Biden, at least in the near term,” Baker suggested.

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