As familiar trouble spots in the world have erupted, there is a clamor for President Obama to get more involved. I think despite all this, President Obama should still stick with 'Light Footprint Foreign Policy' in general with only one or two exceptions. There are number of reasons for such an approach.
1. To start with President Obama understands it very well that 'fiscal cliff' issue is nowhere near resolution, there are weighty issues of domestic economy which are hobbling America and overall economic recovery is still not strong. Americans expect him to keep that in his mind. Americans want President Obama to husband their pocket book issues first and so far (though it is very, very early in Obama's second term) President is sticking with this script. After all a budget deal is the foundation for America's global role.
2. What in the world an American President can do to solve the Israel-Palestinian issue apart from simply giving a blank check to Israel and protecting her in UNSC? That conflict has a life of its own and unless that 'train wreck' has reached a terminal state with catastrophic consequences; those players (Israel, Fatah and Hamas) do not walk back. At least that is the history. The politics is so calcified in that conflict that the world simply has to move forward (just ensuring that genocides do not occur). Israeli Right is hell bend on bringing the bloodshed and it does not want to accept how 'settlement policies in West Bank' are essentially dooming any chance of resolving this issue in the end. Arabs of Palestinian origin within Israel will eventually force Israel to become a secular state instead of remaining a Jewish state and the internal domestic political pressure at that point will make the peace with Palestine possible. Those who ignore this writing on the Demographic Wall, just need to read American 2012 Election results and understand the force of 'coalition of ascendants'. Israel Right will NOT be able to defy the logic of Demographic Gravity and will eventually have to change.
All that change however is not going to happen in Obama's second term. In next couple of months Israeli PM Netanyahu will get re-elected with harder Right Coalition Partner and then where is the opening to make any peace move? Despite what all pundits in the world say, Barack Obama was right to raise the issue of 'settlement freeze in West Bank' as the crucial step towards peace. But neither Israeli Right nor American Right wanted to listen that sanity. On top of that many Middle of the Road analyst got stuck with procedural issues when they criticized that Obama should have had finesse in raising that issue.
So 'go to hell' that is what Americans feel when it comes to this perpetual Middle East Conflict. As America continues to become 'self reliant' in Oil and Gas; national security imperatives of Middle East conflicts are less daunting (though the price of Oil may increase since it is set globally).
On a practical level, the primary focus of Obama Administration should be to avoid blood shed as much as possible, let regional power brokers play important roles to control this conflict (in particular Egypt and Turkey) and at UNSC level continue to work for more consensus.
3. Meanwhile, the issue of Iran is a different one. Basically what Barack Obama has done so far is break the exclusivity of Israeli narrative on Iranian nukes. He needs to continue that. As and when his Administration determines that Iranian nukes cross the threshold of dangers to America's interests (including protection of Israel); President can decide the right approach. But all that has to be done on the time of America's choosing and not because a hawkish Israeli PM comes on Sunday Talk shows to talk another 'mushroom cloud' while his GOP brethren are all busy carrying water for him. (After all there are many more people apart from Jews who live in Florida and all those still want Obama as their President...just in case if someone forgets that.)
4. That brings us to the issue of Syria. Yes, it is possible that this is going to become Rwanda for Obama Administration as 40,000 people have died so far. Reluctance of Obama Administration in granting full support to still disorganized Syrian Opposition is understandable considering how difficult to track these elements are after the revolution. Benghazi fires are still blowing in Washington. However, if at all there is any conflict where President Obama would need to loosen a bit and get involved; it will be this. To start with, that is where it can make a concrete difference; Assad government is completely discredited; defeating Assad is one more chip down for Iran and larger Arab Population wants Sunni voice in Syria to be upheld. Once again in partnership with Turkey and European Powers, Obama Administration may need to get more involved. To be sure, we are not talking here any 'no fly zones' or definitely not any 'boots on ground'; but more than what Obama Administration has done so far.