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Obama speech: Despite foreign policy successes, a need for the big view (+video)

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama pointed to foreign policy successes, such as killing Osama bin Laden. But he and GOP nominee Mitt Romney still need to lay out a vision for a changing world. US influence depends on its competitiveness.

COMMENTARY: Harvard Kennedy School professor and former diplomat Nicholas Burns discusses US foreign policy in the Middle East as part of the American Conversation Essentials series.
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In making his case for a second term last night at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama delivered some of the most rousing lines of his acceptance speech during a short survey of national security threats and international trends meant to show that Republican nominee Mitt Romney is not yet ready for prime-time diplomacy.

That was smart politics, particularly on the eve of a report showing the economy added a paltry 96,000 jobs in August and more people quit looking for work. Amid a sputtering recovery, foreign policy is the president’s strongest card. But he missed a larger opportunity – one that Mr. Romney also failed to grasp a week earlier – to unite the disparate elements of foreign policy into a coherent overarching framework for American leadership. That’s needed at a time of both deepening crises and new openings in a rapidly changing world.

For the third time in two decades, American diplomacy is confronted with a need for adaptation. The end of the cold war 20 years ago unleashed waves of both democratization and sectarian strife across Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Africa and thrust Washington, as the lone superpower, to the fore in a new and experimental era of international peacekeeping. A decade later, 9/11 prompted a second radical shift in US diplomatic strategy in the context of state failure and transnational terrorism.

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