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Though Obama may be right, the speech did little to mollify critics who have accused him of passivity and weakness, particularly regarding Syria and Ukraine.There is no reason to believe that Obama was being disingenuous about his objectives.While vowing to use force when America's vital interests are at stake and rejecting pessimistic projections of national decline, Obama has – unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush – relied more heavily on diplomacy than force. Nor did those who now disparage Obama's measured response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent annexation of Ukrainian territory call Bush an isolationist for his weak response to Putin's invasion of Georgia in 2008 .In fact, in the 20th century, U.S. presidents who pursued transformational foreign policies were neither more effective nor more ethical.Obama's foreign policy mistakes, by contrast, have had only modest repercussions.Like Eisenhower, he steered the U.S. through multiple crises, overseeing one of the more successful periods of U.S. foreign policy in the last half-century.Of course, some of the criticism of Obama's speech was valid. To be constructive, the debate about Obama's foreign policy must account for 20th-century U.S. history.
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