Obama Foreign Policy Grades


August 29, 2012 06:32 EDT

President Barack Obama promised changes in foreign policy, but has not deviated from the path of George W. Bush and his predecessors. Furthermore, though Americans may not consider foreign policy a priority in the upcoming election, it still remains one for the United States. 


Barack Obama took office promising change. One front would be foreign policy – as the Washington Post said, “[Obama] promised to change the foreign policy priorities of a Bush administration that was unpopular abroad, had strained relations with key allies and was facing a growing Iranian challenge and a continuing menace from al-Qaeda."

So how exactly have these promised changes panned out in the last four years?

“Despite the rhetoric of the inauguration, the talk of extended hands and unclenched fists, there hasn't been any great difference between the Obama and George W. Bush administrations in foreign policy,” an article on Policymic noted. “Afghanistan is still occupied, Iran is still the enemy (and subject to economic attacks, assassinations, and cyber warfare), special forces soldiers and drones wage undeclared war in dozens of countries, from Somalia to Pakistan to the Philippines, dictators and death squads are still the U.S. ally of choice from Bahrain to Colombia, interventions under the auspices of the never-ending War on Drugs continue to ruin lives, and cruise-missile humanitarianism has destroyed another country (Libya).”

The criticism is perhaps harsh, but it is clear that Obama treads much the same path as George W. Bush and his predecessors, even if he attempts to do it better. One has only to take a look at Foreign Policy’s “Who Said It” piece for confirmation.

There are areas where Obama has tried to forge his own legacy. He has turned to the Pacific to engage with, but at the same time, contain, China. He has also mended fences in Europe, where the George W. Bush administration was at odds with France and Germany, but the US has not taken a very active role in resolving the European sovereign debt crisis. Given the sputtering economy at home, it might be too much to expect more.

As the presidential elections intensify, Fair Observer dives deeper into foreign policy to analyze Obama’s performance in each region.

Why is Obama’s Foreign Policy Important?

US voters have a complicated relationship with foreign policy. In a recent Reuters poll, only 3% of registered voters said foreign policy was the most important issue in the campaign. Pundits debate about what to make of election promises in foreign policy since politicians know they will be held less accountable by a public largely disengaged in international affairs.

Nonetheless, foreign policy has played a role in the Presidential campaign. Mitt Romney has been critical of President Obama for failing to provide leadership on Syria. President Barack Obama’s campaign says it’s Romney who’s failed to provide a viable alternative. As Foreign Policy Magazine said, “foreign policy matters in elections — even in years when people think it doesn’t.”

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