“President Obama gave a very cleaned-up version of what in fact is going on in the Middle East right now, such as this notion that we’re not being dragged into another ground war. I think that was kind of slid over tonight,” Professor of International Affairs at Wake Forest University David Coates said.
Coates said that the president glossed over certain details that seemed hard to digest at face value, primarily because deeper investigation would likely expose flaws in policy logic, especially given the US sizeable presence in places like Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to a “hidden war” that is being fought against supposed terrorists.
The professor also took aim at the president’s characterization of US Syria policy versus what is actually happening.
“And then there is this notion that we’re supporting a moderate opposition in Syria. I mean it’s very hard to find a moderate opposition in Syria right now,” he said.
Diplomacy and Statecraft professor from Syracuse University, Michael Schneider, also felt that Obama’s speech was infused with some wishful thinking and that his “phraseology was loose enough” to allow a lot of room for interpretation.
“I thought he [Obama] may have overplayed a little bit the end of the war in Afghanistan. Yes, no combat troops are on the ground, but there will be 10,000 military advisors,” Schneider said. “We should have learned that the mission isn’t over, like [former US President] Bush proclaimed after toppling Saddam Hussein.”
Schneider also wasn’t falling into Obama’s lines regarding the US strategy in Syria which lacks coherence, he said, especially considering that “moderate Syrians are hard to come by these days.”
An Associate Professor of Social Science at Boston University Thomas Whalen explained that Obama spent little time expounding on foreign policy because the President believes “in terms of priorities, what’s going domestically is far more important.”
Plus, Whalen stressed that Obama operates better with a long-term view, so at times his short-term remedies lack details.
“And he [Obama] also made a point that in terms of foreign policy it’s the long game that he is aiming for. He is not going to respond to headlines,” Whalen said. “What he is saying is that, in order to have an effective foreign policy you have to show results and stick with it over several years, if not decades.”
Professor of Global Affairs at the University of Texas, Jeremi Suri, seconded the notion that Obama’s strengths lie in long-term planning.
“Oftentimes in the short run, what he is doing does not look very strong, although in the long-term it gives some advantages,” Suri said. “So I think it’s mixed, and the test for his policy is in the long term."
President Obama during his State of the Union address on Tuesday lauded the fact that the United States was no longer sending large ground forces overseas and was trying to resolve the conflict in Syria by supporting moderate opposition forces. He also called on Congress to pass a resolution to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State.