While President Obama’s interview with Al Arabiya — his first interview since taking office on Jan. 20 — signaled a new rhetorical posture toward the world, his initial appointments and directives have shown that, unlike the previous administration, this president intends to put policy weight behind that rhetoric and effect a significant change in U.S. foreign policy. In the first week of his administration, Obama “gave his national security team a new mission to end the war in Iraq,” as he had promised during the campaign. The President “revoked all executive directives issued by the CIA between Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 20, 2009,” that have been used to justify torture. He created a commission to examine options for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, which has been a source of outrage around the world, with the goal of shutting it down within a year. The President empowered high-level envoys for two key areas — George Mitchell for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Richard Holbrooke for Afghanistan and Pakistan — signaling that these conflicts will receive the sort of presidential attention that they sorely lacked over the last eight years.
From The Progress Report