03/26/11 — Yes, no, maybe: Does anyone truly know what American foreign policy really is?

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Yes, no, maybe: Does anyone truly know what American foreign policy really is?

When the sole purpose of your foreign policy is to earn the favor of others -- at home or abroad -- it is not tough to make a decision, but infinitely a challenge to make the right one.

The reason so many people are so worried about President Barack Obama's decision to participate in the Libya attacks is that they are not sure why the choice was made in the first place.

And it is not the first time that someone has noticed -- and pointed out -- that the administration's foreign policy seems to be a mishmash of what feels good at the moment and what is politically expedient. It jumps from appeasement to hawkishness with the speed of a Popsicle melting on a hot sidewalk. Combine the seemingly disorganized and inexperienced White House foreign policy advisers with then-candidate Obama's statements about what he called U.S. arrogance on the world stage, and it kind of makes you wonder if decisions are being made on polls and world opinion, not solid information as it relates to U.S. interests now and in the future.

Whether or not the U.S. should be involved in the Libyan revolution is not really the issue here. What is disturbing is that we seem to have entered an armed conflict -- and yes, there are American servicemen and women involved in these attacks and in danger, even if they are not on the ground -- that seems to have been rushed through without the benefit of a true look at how it fits into the U.S. strategic agenda or a plan for what happens after the last jet strikes.

When we are in defense of our nation against attack, that kind of speed is understandable. You do not have time to analyze the consequences, weigh the possibilities, you have to act. But that is not what happened in this case.

And because so many other policies seem to have shifted with the wind, some citizens are more than a little concerned that this is another ill-conceived decision that will come back to haunt us later.

Almost no one wants the U.S. to jump into another leadership role on the world stage when so many have been so critical of U.S. involvement in the past. Many people feel that this country does not have to prove anything to anyone and that it is time for the rest of the world to stand up.

Officials have repeatedly said that the U.S. is not going to take the lead role in the Libyan battles. And the president has assured us that U.S. ground troops will not be turned toward this enforcement.

And that is good to know -- as long as the rest of the world knows it, too.

The United States is a nation of people with hearts and principles. We do not turn our backs on those who need our help, a fact we have proven across decades.

The question here is whether we have any foreign policy at all and what its boundaries are.

Most Americans do not feel that this country has been anything but a champion for freedom across the world. But they also want other nations to know that this is a strong nation prepared to aggressively respond to anyone who threatens its borders, its allies and its people.

Perhaps that is the place from which President Obama ought to start as he takes on the task of creating a realistic and coherent U.S. foreign policy.

Published in Editorials on March 26, 2011 7:33 PM