For a president with a daunting domestic agenda and limited experience in foreign policy, Barack Obama has taken on an unusually active world role. He has made important policy overtures to America's adversaries, delivered major addresses in Cairo, Prague, Moscow and at the United Nations, and set a White House record with visits to more than 20 countries in his first year in office. And with his December speech on Afghanistan, he now owns that war.
Yet it will be at least a year before we know whether the Afghan surge is bringing the hoped-for results. Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba have failed to accept Obama's outstretched hand. Russia has been grudging in its support for more effective policy toward Iran's nuclear program, as has China, which also shows no sign of allowing its undervalued currency to rise against the dollar.
Among allies, Europeans have shown only very limited willingness to provide more troops for Afghanistan and have been mostly unwilling to accept Guantanamo inmates, and South Korea and Colombia are irked about trade policy.