One of the unavoidable realities in any U.S. administration is that the president himself can only focus on 10 or so pressing foreign policy issues at any given time. Immediate crises and pressing national security threats tend to dominate that list, which has the unfortunate effect of making the top echelons of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus reactive rather than proactive. Thus, most of the attention of the Obama administration's national security team over the past several weeks has been focused on the crisis in Syria, to the detriment of matters that may be less immediately urgent right now but that will have a much more important long-term impact on America's position in the world.
The postponement of what would have been a state visit of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to Washington next month due to fallout over revelations of U.S. spying activities—a reaction that could have been mitigated through proper and prompt attention—is a stark reminder that U.S. administrations have to be able to strike a balance between reacting to current events and laying the groundwork for the future. ...
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