Ahead of President’s trip, a look at what the elections mean for the International Affairs Budget

November 5, 2010 By Andy Amsler

As President Obama departs for Asia today, observers speculate in the New York Times whether foreign policy will be an even greater focus for him after Tuesday’s elections and a new Congress, which will focus heavily on a domestic agenda. However, Obama has drawn the link between foreign policy and pressing domestic issues like jobs, telling his cabinet, “The primary purpose [of this trip] is to take a bunch of U.S. companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and we can create jobs here in the United States of America.”    For a look at what the elections mean for the International Affairs Budget, check out our Smart Vote 2010 Election analysis page.

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Who’s in The News

Lockheed CEO: Despite GOP Gains, U.S. Defense Cuts Possible (John T. Bennett – Defense News)

Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens said Nov. 4 that Republican control of the U.S. House and gains in the Senate will not stave off pressure to pare defense spending. During an interview on Bloomberg Television, Stevens also said the U.S. Navy’s desire to buy two Littoral Combat Ship designs would lower total program costs and boost the shipbuilding industrial base.

Politics/Foreign Policy

For Obama, Foreign Policy May Offer Avenues for Success (Helene Cooper  –  New York Times)

The elections on Tuesday gutted the Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee, paved the way for a pro-Israel Cuban-American to preside over the House Foreign Affairs Committee and removed the most antiwar Democrat from the leading Senate foreign policy committee.

A sightseeing bus on Havana’s waterfront in July. Republican gains in Congress could stymie plans to ease American visits there.

But for President Obama, a truism holds: While his domestic agenda may end up being stalled for the next two years, national security remains his domain, no matter how unfriendly Congress may be.

After ‘shellacking,’ can foreign policy be a bright spot for Obama? (Howard LaFranchi – Christian Science Monitor)

An Obama who could present the American electorate with a breakthrough deal with Iran, or better yet a done Middle East peace deal that guarantees both Israel’s peace and security and a viable Palestinian state, could restore his stature with the US public.

But in the short term, Obama’s foreign-policy agenda may present almost as many pitfalls and opportunities for setbacks as does the domestic front, some foreign-policy analysts contend.

Post-midterms, Obama to focus on foreign policy in four-nation Asian trip (Scott Wilson – Washington Post)

President Obama embarks Friday on a foreign trip focused on Asian nations that he believes are essential to the recovery of a stumbling U.S. economy, just days after voters anxious over the lack of jobs dealt Democrats a stinging defeat.  Presidents often emphasize foreign policy during difficult political times at home, and Obama’s only extended foray outside the country this year will take him to a quartet of democracies where he is viewed more favorably than he is in the United States.

Haitians Brace for Storm as New Crisis Looms (Mike Esterl – Wall Street Journal)

Hundreds of thousands of earthquake-displaced Haitians, still living in tents and under tarps, hunkered down in makeshift homes Thursday as a powerful storm threatened to push their Caribbean nation’s humanitarian crisis into a new phase of misery.

Tropical Storm Tomas was expected to strengthen overnight, potentially packing hurricane-force gusts of 75 miles an hour or more along Haiti’s western coast and dumping as much as 15 inches of rain in some areas.

Myanmar Opposition Group Has New Tack: Cooperation (Wall Street Journal)

The secretive military regime that rules this Southeast Asian nation will hold its first national election in 20 years on Sunday, and few observers doubt the outcome. For two decades, Myanmar’s embattled opposition has been led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, among the world’s most famous political prisoners. She has inspired a robust anti-regime movement among exiles and their sympathizers that has held sway over Myanmar policy in Washington and European capitals. Now, a new opposition movement is gaining force, and it threatens the legacy she built. Led by a loose coalition of activists, intellectuals and businessmen—including some with alleged ties to Myanmar’s military and others who spent time as political prisoners—it preaches a simple and, some say, dangerous, message: Collaboration with the regime is the best way to bring about change. Helping lead the push, according to people familiar with the movement, is a civil-society group in Yangon called Myanmar Egress. Egress’s stated mission is to seek “constructive” engagement with the regime and other groups while promoting democracy. It has drawn acclaim from international aid groups and funding from European donors and others who see its work as part of a new way forward for the country.