Examining Mr. Obama's foreign policy

Thursday, November 25, 2010; 5:54 PM

Daniel Kurtzer had it exactly right in his Nov. 21 Outlook commentary ["If the U.S. rewards Israel's bad deeds, we'll all regret it"], especially that "Israel may regret receiving such a bribe even more" than Washington will "regret bribing Israel." I would like to add one more to the ambassador's many persuasive arguments.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems intent on wringing as many concessions and inducements from the Obama administration as possible. That the United States has to resort to such extraordinary enticements just to get Israel to agree to a 90-day settlement freeze reinforces the perception, especially in the Middle East, of a weakened United States. And a weakened or humiliated United States undermines Israel's security, which, more than ever in its history, is dependent on a strong United States on its side.

What's more, this "unseemly" bargaining might diminish Americans' support for their government backing Israel diplomatically, economically or militarily, including steps to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, which is also in America's interest.

Seymour D. Reich, New York

The writer was chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations from 1988 to 1990.

In his Nov. 22 op-ed, "Stuck in the 1980s," Jackson Diehl laments that the Obama administration "is notable for its lack of grand strategy - or strategists." For this we can, in this season of thanksgiving, be truly thankful.

The administration of George W. Bush had such a grand foreign policy strategy. Promoted by neocons inside and outside the administration, the strategy was to militarily remove Saddam Hussein from his palaces in Baghdad. From this, a garden of American-style democracy planted in Iraq was to spread harmony throughout the region. The results of this naive policy have been immense in blood, treasure and national prestige.

We no longer live in the kind of bipolar world calling for a Kissinger-style grand strategy such as containing the Soviet Union. Regional and transnational issues today call for different approaches as circumstances develop and change. The United States has sufficient foreign policy and regional specialists, inside and outside the Obama administration, from which to seek guidance, as well as the administrative mechanisms and structure to implement policy decisions.

Philip A. True, Glen Allen

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