As President Barack Obama prepares to make
the case for sending more troops to Afghanistan, some allies are urging him
to return to a line of argument little heard since the Bush years: the United
States has a moral obligation to protect the Afghan people, particularly women,
from the Taliban.
Obama ran on a promise to restore cold-eyed calculations
of national interest to American foreign policy, a reaction against President
George W. Bush’s tendency to cast a confrontational foreign policy in terms of
the freedoms it would achieve for nations that did not have them. And he has
governed without the public appeals to human rights that marked American foreign
policy ventures from Kosovo to Iraq.
But realism has proved, at times, a
hard political sell. Bloodless talk about “engagement” has left the Obama
administration without a compelling story to tell or argument to make. And its
emphasis on process has only increased the pressure for more tangible results.
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