Obama's embarrassingly vague essay in the current issue of Foreign Affairs should have been a veritable ribbon-cutting on his agenda for American foreign policy. Instead, the Senator gave us very little by the way of concrete plans and opted once again to ride the waves of rhetoric, highlighting the issues we all know should be addressed with what might as well be an invisible pen. Amitai Etzioni at the Huffington Post is right on in his criticism of the lackluster piece:
Obama's favorite term, repeated ad nauseum, ad infinitum, is vision. What we need, the Senator writes, is "vision." We need a "visionary leadership" and "a new vision of leadership." This is, of course, all too true but also tells us very little as to which vision of foreign policy this new leader would ask us to follow. Obama, like most political candidates without a clear agenda, still manages to be quite clear as to what we are not to do. We should not retreat into Fortress America. We should not get out of Iraq in an "irresponsible" way. And we cannot stop fighting terrorism. So far so good. So far so little.Obama has charisma. Obama has style. Obama has a vision. But - like a person afflicted with cataracts vainly attemting to obtain a driver's license - that vision is grossly insufficient to inspire a Democratic nomination for the presidency.
Now read Obama. He calls for the United States to provide "global leadership grounded in the understanding that the world shares a common security and a common humanity." These lines are about as vacuous as they come. Such far-from-inspirational prose ("grounded leadership," "share a common security") does not set Obama aside from most if not all other candidates. They lack a substantive vision that one can get one's hands around and draw on to guide a foreign policy.