President Barack Obama addressed an array of foreign policy issues in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, including the ISIL threat, a resurgent Russia, and his policy changes toward Cuba. However, in a sprawling speech to lay out his policy agenda for the next two years, he also did not address some of the most pressing issues of the past year. Here are some of the most striking ones about the U.S.’s role on the international scene.
- Central America: Obama barely touched on immigration except to address the rising passion associated with the issues. He did not call on Congress to pass reform or to extend his executive action. In 2014, one of the biggest issues of the year surrounded the thousands of children refugees fleeing from Central American nations through unsafe passage in Mexico. While Obama did pass an order to grant them refugee status, he failed to address the larger issue of immigration roiling along the nation’s borders.
- Syria: The president referenced Syria only insofar as to mention the U.S. efforts in the fight against the Islamic State. What Obama failed to discuss was his policy change toward Bashar al-Assad, the president of the country, who has routinely massacred his own people. In the fight against the Islamic State though, the president is embracing his leadership, albeit with distaste. In 2012, the president stated:
A year ago, Qaddafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators -– a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed, and that human dignity cannot be denied.
Clearly, this rhetoric of change is no longer relevant, and Syria is touted as an important partner in the fight against terrorism. The civil war in Syria, though, was noticeably left out under the new international circumstances.
- Mexico: The distrust between the Mexican state and its people was further degraded this week when it was discovered that president Enrique Pena Nieto had bought his home in an upscale neighborhood from the same developer who subsequently won billions of government contracts. While this discovery alone might not be devastating, it contributes to a shaky relationship that exploded during the investigations into the missing Ayozinapa students late last year. The state is largely seen as being responsible with its strong ties to the drug cartels and the impunity in which they rule many areas of the country. The United States has been largely silent on both issues, and has ignored the growing unrest across its borders.
- Israel: America’s ally also received almost no mention, except in reference to seeking negotiation with Iran. Despite a war that rocked the Middle East last summer, Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly seeking another peace negotiation. Other presidents, including George W. Bush, have tried to pursue last ditch peace efforts in the waning days of their administration and Obama appears to be no different. However, perhaps highlighting the unlikelihood of the prospects or perhaps avoiding the political debate of the topic, Obama did not address these possible negotiations in his speech last night.
In an hour long speech, it is clear Obama could not address all these issues. Heading into 2015, though, these appear to be the most significant ones left out, and ones that voters should continue to monitor.