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In foreign policy, there is one quick way into the history books – make a major mistake.President Barack Obama has not made a major mistake.Obama has been less skillful at the constructive aspects of foreign policy, of building up an edifice of achievements.Russia is not a rising global power seeking to overturn the liberal world order.Part of Obama's problem has been that he has tended to make grand pronouncements on issues where he would not use American power forcefully – Syria and the Arab Spring being the clearest examples. On the issues where America was engaged – Ukraine, Asia – his statements were strangely muted. In his speech to European leaders on Ukraine, Obama struck most of the right notes but also littered the speech with caveats about not acting militarily. Obama's restraint has served him well in avoiding errors.From the Asia pivot to new trade deals to the Russia sanctions, Obama has put forward an agenda that is ambitious and important, but he approaches it cautiously, as if his heart is not in it, seemingly pulled along by events rather than shaping them.
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