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Obama Scheduled To Give a Redundant Foreign Policy Speech

Obama will give a redundant speech later this week:

President Barack Obama will use his speech at the West Point commencement Wednesday to lay out a broad vision of American foreign policy that a White House official Saturday called “both interventionist and internationalist, but not isolationist or unilateral.”

It’s not obvious what purpose is served by delivering another speech on foreign policy at this point. The administration already has enough problems from giving in to the temptation to indulge in rhetorical overkill, and that will be only too easy to do while laying out a “broad vision.” Obama has been repeatedly faulted for creating too large of a gap between words and actions, and so he is responding to this by giving a speech that will draw even more attention to this gap.

Delivering a high-profile speech on this subject seems most likely to result in nothing except a new round of criticism, and based on the description of the speech’s content it isn’t going to satisfy very many people. There is no danger of confusing Obama’s foreign policy with an “isolationist or unilateral” one, so this is just a nod to the usual boilerplate rhetoric that conjures up the phantom of “isolationism” only so that so-called “isolationists” can be cast out from the debate. We can expect a speech that rehearses conventional consensus views about the U.S. role in the world and the need for “leadership.” Obama will probably try to refute his hawkish critics while endorsing most or all of their premises. I doubt that there will be anything in the speech that is either new or interesting, and I don’t see how it helps Obama politically or in any other way.

Based on what the article tells us, the most remarkable thing about it is that Obama thinks that giving another foreign policy-related speech is going to do him and his administration any good. Insofar as most Americans are even paying attention to it, the public will very likely greet it with a shrug. The editorial writers and pundits that will be paying attention to it are going to use it as an a new excuse to pile on the administration for its failures both real and imagined. If Obama does say something newsworthy, the greatest danger is that it will be another vague promise or threat that hawks will seize on to demand that the U.S. do something unwise and reckless.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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