January 20, 2015

SOTU: Richard Fontaine on Working with Republicans

The world has changed since President Obama gave his last State of the Union Address. In the past year Russia invaded Ukraine, America has taken military action in Iraq and Syria, and a resurgent al Qaeda is attempting to best its Islamic State rivals in attacking the West. Meeting these and other national security challenges demands a measure of political unity at home, despite our divided government.

President Obama could use this year’s address to articulate the case for a new American internationalism, one that wins the support of Republicans and Democrats alike.  Many in the new congressional majority would support moving forward with reversing sequestration and enhancing America’s military power; passing trade promotion authority and then the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement; rescinding the calendar-based withdrawal of American forces in Afghanistan in favor of one based on conditions; lifting the self-imposed restriction on American combat forces in Iraq; meaningfully aiding the moderate Syrian rebels and the government of Ukraine; and working more closely with security and economic partners across Asia.

Each of these steps would require America to step forward and not back, and to take action sooner rather than later.  America cannot afford to pause its vigorous international leadership while Democrats and Republicans squabble at home.  On Tuesday night, President Obama can set the tone for a unified internationalism that serves both America and the world.