Nor is it gloating to observe that this reflects a maturation of Obama’s views. Beyond their long-standing reflexive anti-Bush stance (still persistent but, if the speech was any indicator, perhaps fading), administration officials often made what appeared to be, at first blush, a coherent strategic argument: the Middle East was a sideshow and diversion from the emerging great-power competition of the 21st century and the challenge of China. If the president’s speech means anything, it means that he has rejected this China-first approach to strategy. The growth of political liberty across the region is “not a secondary interest,” the president asserted. “Today I am making it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.”
This is also an admission that, though he has confirmed the new direction for U.S. strategy in the region, there is much to do to plot the course and guide the ship. As my boss, Dany Pletka, and former NSC director for the Middle EastMichael Singh both pointed out this morning, there are a number of thorny questions still to resolve, and simply taking them one at a time probably won’t work.
Whole thing here.