From Hope to Audacity

Appraising Obama's Foreign Policy

The foreign policy of U.S. President Barack Obama can be assessed most usefully in two parts: first, his goals and decision-making system and, second, his policies and their implementation. Although one can speak with some confidence about the former, the latter is still an unfolding process.

To his credit, Obama has undertaken a truly ambitious effort to redefine the United States' view of the world and to reconnect the United States with the emerging historical context of the twenty-first century. He has done this remarkably well. In less than a year, he has comprehensively reconceptualized U.S. foreign policy with respect to several centrally important geopolitical issues:
•  Islam is not an enemy, and the "global war on terror" does not define the United States' current role in the world;
•  the United States will be a fair-minded and assertive mediator when it comes to attaining lasting peace between Israel and Palestine;
•  the United States ought to pursue serious negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, as well as other issues;
•  the counterinsurgency campaign in the Taliban-controlled parts of Afghanistan should be part of a larger political undertaking, rather than a predominantly military one;
•  the United States should respect Latin America's cultural and historical sensitivities and expand its contacts with Cuba;
•  the United States ought to energize its commitment to significantly reducing its nuclear arsenal and embrace the eventual goal of a world free of nuclear weapons;
•  in coping with global problems, China should be treated not only as an economic partner but also as a geopolitical one;
•  improving U.S.-Russian relations is in the obvious interest of both sides, although this must be done in a manner that accepts, rather than seeks to undo, post-Cold War geopolitical realities; and
•  a truly collegial transatlantic partnership should be given deeper meaning, particularly in order to heal the rifts caused by the destructive controversies of the past few years.

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