Obama’s foreign policy ‘to-do’ list

President Obama’s State of the Union address focused mostly on domestic issues. Yet how Obama talked about his foreign policy agenda underscores a crisis of purpose about U.S. engagement in the world.

To advance his national security agenda in the next three years, Obama should offer a more cohesive strategic argument for global engagement, one that more clearly articulates the values informing his policies. Economic challenges at home, including slow job growth, have made many Americans more selective about which global problems they think the United States should take on. A Pew poll released last month found that most Americans think we should mind our own business internationally.

It won’t be sufficient for the administration to state how the president intends to approach particular national security questions: He needs to articulate why they matter and what’s at stake. Obama has done this before; his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech made a compelling moral and strategic argument for U.S. engagement in the world.

This article was originally published in The Washington Post.