The world’s superpower is stepping back.
As Russia menaces Ukraine, Syria seethes with violence and China flexes its might in Asia, President Barack Obama has avoided military options. He has struggled to rally international coalitions and to reassure allies that the U.S. will be there for them as it has in the past.
“We have less credibility as a leader in world affairs than we did in 2011,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of the U.S. State Department’s policy planning staff during the first two years of the Obama administration and now president of theNew America Foundation, a policy-research group.
Yet even as Republicans such as Senator John McCain attack Obama for not doing more, Americans are apt to say the president is too involved in foreign crises. Public disaffection with overseas engagements is at its highest level in 50 years, according to a Pew Research Center pollreleased in December.
The tension between the public’s desire to go slow and the foreign policy establishment urging Obama to be more assertive hangs over decision-making at the White House. So far, Obama is more in line with the public, focusing on a domestic agenda for his second term that includes new climate change rules and a possible immigration law overhaul.