Certainly the Bush administration made mistakes on foreign policy. It over-reacted in certain areas and implemented good ideas badly in others. But I suspect that there will be a more continuity between the two administrations than most people expect. The threats facing America have not changed with the departure of George W. Bush and the arrival of President Obama.
Obama has called Middle Eastern leaders today and will meet with General Petraeus, Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs later today. Rather than getting bogged down in the quest for a solution to the Israeli Palestinian problem, something that won’t happen while Hamas is in control in Gaza, it is to be hoped that Obama spends his time and capital on Afghanistan and Iran. In a testament to the progress made in Iraq thanks to the surge, that country is now a second-tier issue for the president.
The new president would be well advised take advantage of his European honeymoon to demand troops without caveats for Afghanistan and a commitment to take a far tougher line with Iran if direct diplomacy with Tehran fails, as it probably will even though it has to be tried.
Even in his famous anti-war speech in 2002, Obama was at pains to stress he was not a deluded dove. David Miliband will not be the last foreign minister in Europe to find himself surprised and shown up by Obama’s tough stances.