International Crises Put Obama in a Bind

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In the Arab world, calls for the United States to get more engaged are growing louder. But domestically, it seems intervention fatigue is sinking in, as evidenced by record opposition to the war in Afghanistan.

The two forces combined pose a significant challenge for President Obama, who has maintained an active presence on the international front but without directly confronting the uprising.

While it's not the first time a U.S. president has been confronted with the double task of tackling a weak economy at home and turmoil abroad, Obama, from the outset of his presidency, laid out a hope-filled agenda on both fronts.

"I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect," Obama said in his famous speech in Cairo in 2009.

But many in the Arab world feel they are simply seeing more of the same U.S. policy.

In Libya, rebels fighting against the longtime dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi are clamoring for U.S. help and intervention. In Cairo, young pro-democracy leaders snubbed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and rejected an invitation to meet with her. In Bahrain, which has been rocked by violent clashes, residents are calling for American help but are suspicious of the United States' close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which sent in troops to fight the opposition.

The White House insists it has acted with haste in all these events, but the Obama administration has yet to take any bold steps. And that doesn't come as a surprise, given how little appetite there is in the country for foreign intervention.

There is broad concern that the U.S. military is overcommitted, and most Americans feel the United States does not have a responsibility to intervene in Libya, where calls for U.S. help have grown louder in recent days, according to a survey by The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

In the poll, conducted March 10 through 13, 63 percent say the United States does not have a responsibility to act in Libya, barely half favor increasing economic and diplomatic sanctions against Libya and only 44 percent are in favor of enforcing a no-fly zone.

Even opposition to the war in Afghanistan is at a record high.

Just 31 percent now say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, a new low, 64 percent call it not worth fighting, and 49 percent feel that way "strongly," according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday.

"The broadest observation is that the president's foreign policy cup runneth over with problems," said James M. Lindsay, coauthor of "America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy" and a former director at the National Security Council. "Americans have lost more than 5,000 soldiers over the last decade. They are not eager for yet another foreign intervention."

The voices on Capitol Hill regarding U.S. intervention have been muted for the most part, reflecting a sense of intervention fatigue.

Only two senators, John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have raised their voices in support of imposing a no-fly zone in Libya.

Others are crafting their rhetoric more carefully.

Sen. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday if the administration wants a no-fly zone, then it must get Congress to declare war first.

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