Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hope and Concern

Jim Cason, FCNL
Guest Blogger

The president last night gave me hope.

I don't have a magic wand to fix the economy. Listening to the president's address to Congress on February 24, I did find myself appreciating his comments about the importance of not just reviving the economy, but investing in the economy this country will need a decade from now. The government cannot afford to spend all of these resources jump starting the economy of ten years ago. The president, the Congress, and all of the people in this country need to get working urgently on the task of building the economy the United States will need ten years from now, with investments to protect the environment, reform our health care system and improve education.

I've watched almost every presidential address to Congress in the last two decades. I find the pomp and circumstances a bit annoying and trite. But the president's words last night were not trite, and his comments on domestic policy gave me hope.

I also had one concern.

Understandably, foreign policy was not a big focus of the president's address. I was heartened by the president's call for a "new era of engagement" and his promise to "not shun the negotiating table" - both issues on which FCNL has urge the president to act. The president's comments about his next war, the expansion of the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan, left me disappointed. His comments on Afghanistan could have been spoken by the last president. Is the U.S. doomed to continue the failed policies of the past in Afghanistan, but this time with a few more troops, or can the president craft a new, comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan and the region?

I don't know the answer. What I read in the press suggests there is an active debate within the administration about how to stop the spiraling violence in Afghanistan - many of the president's own advisors are calling for negotiations, including negotiations with the Taliban, and for expand efforts to address the development needs of people in one of the poorest countries on earth. To my mind the president missed an opportunity to use the words diplomacy and development specifically in reference to Afghanistan. We at FCNL will need to keep urging him in that direction.


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