Stephen M. Walt in Foreign Policy:
I don't expect President Obama to devote much time to foreign policy issues during his State of the Union address tomorrow, because other topics (health care, the economy, regulating Wall Street, etc.) are causing him the most trouble these days. Plus, if he was going to talk a lot about foreign policy, what exactly could he say? That we are making great strides in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Nope. That his Cairo speech has transformed our standing in the Middle East and brought us to the brink of Middle East peace? Hardly. That we have turned the corner on climate change, nuclear arms reductions, or relations with Iran? Um … not exactly. That relations with allies like Japan have never been better? Well, no. That the Guantanamo prison has been closed on schedule, as he promised a year ago? Er. … not quite. When you look at the list, you can see why he wants to talk about a discretionary spending freeze and other exciting topics like that.
To be fair, the absence of tangible achievements isn't entirely Barack's fault. As I've written elsewhere, there were few low-hanging fruit when he took office, and nobody should have expected him to fix all of these difficult challenges in a single year or even in a single term. (You may even recall that back when he assumed office, he warned us that it would take time to repair all that was broken). So even if he had done everything right — and he hasn't — a lot of big-ticket items on his foreign policy agenda were going to defy easy solution.
But what would I like to hear him say on Wednesday night?