Read the Live Online discussion on OBAMA'S FOREIGN POLICY DOCTRINE with The Root's David Swerdlick.


That irresistible beat you hear off in the distance is either the sound of an all-night discothèque in Istanbul shutting down at sunrise or the hum of Air Force One coming in for a landing as President Barack Obama—leaner, browner and smoother than his predecessors—returns from barnstorming across the globe.


The Financial Times noted that in Turkey, Obama "flattered to cajole" and Israel's daily Ha'aretz said that Obama gave enemies and allies a simple choice to "share Obama's vision or if they prefer to take the road of confrontation with the United States."

Returning home after a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq yesterday, the contours of the Pax Obama have started to take shape. What have we learned so far? Image counts. Walk, don't run. Less is more. Encourage your friends to get comfortable…

But not too comfortable—Uncle Sam still has a pretty heavy trigger finger.

"Get down with the genie…"

For the president, it probably helps being biracial—even when he's in a room by himself, he's already engaged in a cross-cultural dialogue. It only took him eight days to unravel a knot of ill will that took George W. Bush eight years to wind up, and he still found time this weekend in Prague to take his wife out to dinner and a little Saturday Night Fever.


With a 66 percent approval rating at home, Obama may want to consider cleaning up the mess that's there to be cleaned—perhaps emphasizing foreign policy a little more and the economy a little less as he frames his presidency.

"Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk…"

By now we've all noticed the president's signature gait. It's not exactly cockiness, but there's just enough swagger to put everyone on notice that "Obama" isn't just a noun; it can be a verb, too.


The element of personal appeal is unabashedly a part of the Obama game plan. For some reason, he's still criticized for bringing a rock star persona to foreign affairs, but his mandate, as much as anything, is to overhaul America's image. Obama understands that perception is reality, and for better or worse we live in a rock-star ready-made world.

On this trip overseas, Obama successfully fused the enchantment that Europeans experienced with JFK's statesman-like charm—"I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris"—and their comfort level with Bill Clinton's state fair popularity—"Hell yeah, I'll eat another one of those deep fried whatever-you-call-‘ems!"

In 2006, when President Bush opted to ignore Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rambling 18-page personal letter, he played right into the Iranian president's hands. No one expected Bush to start following Ahmadinejad on Twitter—but in saving himself one "forever" stamp and a sheet of letterhead, Bush gave Iran an opening to accuse him of disengaging.


But by now it should be evident and potentially a little worrisome to Islamic radicals or theocratic regimes like Iran's that Obama is starting to flip the script on them.

After his offer in his inaugural address to "extend a hand if you will unclench your fist," Obama has done the Al-Arabiya interview, the Nowruz video greeting and a speech to the Turkish parliament which culminated in the money line: "The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam."

Al Qaeda's Ayman "House Negro" Al-Zawahiri won't be walking the red carpet with a Turkish honor guard any time soon. But President Obama can release as many YouTube clips as he wants—and his are in high def. The goal is to make it harder for these guys to sell confrontation to their people. They've got opinion polls in Waziristan, too.


"And it's me you need to show…how deep is your love?"

A central theme of Obama's message this past week was the idea of shared responsibility. You might call it the "Gin and Juice" or "I Got 5 on It" model of international relations—we can go half on a sack, but don't hold your cup out if you ain't chipped in.

Obama didn't get the troop commitments he requested from his NATO counterparts—only 5,000 new non-combat forces—but he laid out the expectation that if Europeans, Turks and others don't commit to providing more boots on the ground to ease the burden on American troops in Afghanistan, they'll be asked to contribute in other ways. The Turks have to help shoulder the load in the Israeli-Arab conflict, and if France and Germany won't send guns to Afghanistan, they can send more money.


Job No. 1 for President Obama on this trip was to be un-Bush because as MSNBC's Mike Barnacle points out, "Phony tough guys get you killed." Mission accomplished.

And because even his detractors have to admit that he's a nice guy, they let Obama slide when he refers to the Governator's native tongue as "Austrian." Of course, if you pull a "W." and feel up Germany's "Austrian"-speaking Chancellor, you just look like a putz.

Obama's been to London, Strasbourg, Prague, Ankara and Baghdad, and now he's home in time to throw out the first pitch for opening day this weekend at a ballpark near you.


Hot dog, anyone? He'll take two and one of those deep-fried whatever-you-call-‘ems…

David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root.

Read the Live Online discussion on OBAMA'S FOREIGN POLICY DOCTRINE with The Root's David Swerdlick.


David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.