In last night’s State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama focused almost entirely on domestic issues. While domestic concerns are important, Obama’s lopsided remarks neglected foreign policy issues critical to United States values and security. For the millions of innocent people around the world now at risk of “violence and intimidation”, the speech was severely lacking.
Hits and Mostly Misses
Obama briefly addressed the Arab Spring and countries like Syria, which have seen some of the worst atrocities:
“And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied. How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome.”
The president went on to talk about the importance of promoting values abroad:
“And while it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings – men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews.”
We couldn’t agree more. However, discussion of Syria and Burma—countries where violent regimes continue to perpetrate atrocities—took up just minutes in a speech that lasted over an hour. There was no mention of the ongoing crises in Sudan, South Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo. As we know, these countries are some of the worst places in the world in terms of violence against civilians. These crises require an urgent response if President Obama is to keep his promise to “stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings.”
Join the Conversation
It’s past time for action and you have an important role to play in pressuring the Obama Administration. There are two upcoming opportunities for you to join the conversation.
Twitter Q & A on Foreign Policy with Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor
This Friday, January 27 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (EST), Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, Ben Rhodes, will be answering your questions about foreign policy via Twitter.
How to Participate
1. Ask your question on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat
2. Administration officials respond to your questions in real-time via Twitter
3. Follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account
4. If you miss the live session, the full Q&A will be posted on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/WhiteHouse
Sample Twitter Questions
1. No mention of #Sudan during SOTU. What is being done to protect civilians from Bashir’s ongoing violence & possible famine? #WHChat
2. Death toll in #Syria is rising & intl. action has been ineffective. What is the US doing to stop it? #WHChat
3. Many see hope for democracy in #Burma, but what’s being done about attacks against ethnic minorities? #WHChat
President Obama Answers Your YouTube Questions about the State of the Union
On Monday, January 30, President Obama will “answer your top-voted questions in a special post-State of the Union interview from the White House.”
How to Participate
To participate, visit www.youtube.com/whitehouse and submit your question. The deadline to submit questions is Saturday, January 28 at midnight (EST). Watch the video below to learn more.
1. President Obama, you didn’t mention Sudan during your State of the Union address. As you know, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is a wanted war criminal who continues to perpetrate atrocities against civilians in places like Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Recently, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed concern about a possible famine in Sudan’s border areas affected by violence because Bashir has denied the international community access. What are you doing to protect civilians from Bashir’s ongoing violence & avert an escalating humanitarian disaster?
2. President Obama, the death toll in Syria is on the rise as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to attack his own people. At the end of 2011, the United Nations said that at least 5,000 people had been killed, including a significant number of children. The Arab League has tried to respond to end the violence, but their action has been ineffective. What is the United States doing to address the crimes against humanity underway in Syria?
3. President Obama, despite some progress related to democracy in Burma, ethnic minorities continue to be targeted by the Burmese military. What are you doing to address these ongoing atrocities? How will continued violence against civilians be factored into U.S. policies toward Burma?
Share Your Questions and Videos
Do you have a question about genocide prevention, Sudan, Syria, Burma or the Democratic Republic of Congo that you think should be asked? Share your ideas for questions by submitting a comment on this blog. Also, are you planning to submit a YouTube video? Once submitted to the White House, please feel free to share the link to your video question.