When Obama entered office in January 2009, he had already taken an activist stance for the destiny of his foreign policy. He wanted to restore the image of the United States, especially the Middle East. End the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; extend a hand to Iran; rearrange US relations with Russia as a step toward eradicationof nuclear weapons from the world; and stimulate Chinese cooperation on global and regional issues; Obama by his own account sought to bend the arc of historytowards justice and a stable and peaceful world.
Where possible, Obama has been a broad-minded but a realist when necessary. Given the global and domestic situations he has encountered, pragmatism has been dominant.Obama’s critics have had a field day criticizing his balancing act, which has pleased few. He has made compromises that have been takenfor weakness. Occasional inability to yield clean results has also been taken as a sign of ineffectiveness. He has made efforts to engage rival powers have appeared to come at the expense of overlooking traditional allies. This paper examines President’s Obama’s foreign policy as it has been since he took office to ascertain the validity of critic’s sentiments and to audit the effectiveness of his decisions (Johnson 2014, p14).
Obama has had some important successes. Hehas significantly weakened al Qaeda, effectively managed US relations with China, and withdrawing American troops from Iraq, among others.Notable setbacks that cannot be ignored include little progress towards resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a continued low standing of the US in the Muslim world, increasingfriction with Pakistan, Mexico full of violence and drugs and Iran still determinedto acquire the nuclear weapons, and defiant North Korea still increasing its nuclear stash (Bakhtavar 2015, p1).
Foreign Policy in Asia
Obama came to power with plans for a foreign policy foundedan improved relationship Asia’s rising powers, mainly China; a transformed relationship with the Muslim world in which collaborationsubstituted conflict; and strengthenedmovement toward reductionof nuclear weapons and disarmament. However, the financial collapse made management of the economic crisis president’s highest priority in foreign and domestic policy. From the start, the new administration wanted more active relations with Asia, trying to improve ties with allies and friends and liaising with China on mutual, regional, and global matters. The Obama team acknowledged that China’s importance in the world was rising and that the US could no longer exercise the degree of influence it had before (Immerman 2014, p2).
However, the administration’s push to work closer with the Chinese have not been easy. The two countries’ managed to keep disagreements within manageable bounds. One of the Obama administration’s key goals has been to have China become a player in the current international order. Although China is a major player in global matters, it still sees itself as anemerging country whose duty is to grow its economy first, not to take on global duties.The greatest policy failure for the two powers has been the inability to curtailsuspicion over each other’s intentions. Beijing views almost every American as part of a sophisticated plot to upset China’s rise. Washington on the other hand is concerned that Beijing intends to use its military and economic power to achieve both security and diplomatic advantages at the US’s expense (McCormick, 2005).
The Middle East
The administration’s relations with the Muslim world have been dramatic. While Obama has been keen on fighting terror, he has focused on winding down the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has concentrated on attacking al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, eliminating the group as a threat to the US and the rest of the world. The administration made key achievements I this area. Obama can rightly has ended the Iraq war, endured Afghanistan and Pakistan, and basically decapitated al Qaeda by the killing of Osama Bin Laden.Consequentially, Obama has displayed strength in character and decision making. It is not yet clear if Obama will be able to achieve both his goals concurrently In Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. Stability is fragile in these countries and, the US exiting these wars leaves them in uncertainty.Obama made the decision to withdraw troops especially when negative sentiments started rising in these countries about the presence of the US forces. It was better for U.S. military involvementoverseas that itrebuilt its reputation for exiting when asked instead of remaining against the wishes of those nations.
Middle East diplomacy has been a source of the widest gap between promise and delivery in the Obama administration’s record and the ultimatesource of frustration to the president. The irony is that Obama vowed to make the peacemaking process in the Middle East a high priority. Critics seriously disparaged Obama’s demand for a full stoppage on Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories. By doing this, Obama sent Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas away from the negotiationtable, damaging U.S. integrity as a mediator in this conflict.While restricting settlement activity was to improve the negotiation environment, it was not the best move at this juncture in respect to the negotiations. When Obama gavehis special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, the go-ahead to negotiate nothing less than a complete settlement freeze with Netanyahu, the president failed to fine-tune his stated objective. The lethargy in the USA’s views on the admittance of the Palestinian state to the United Nations Assembly created bad blood in U.S.-Israeli relations and a settlement cessation that upset the Arabs.
Obama’s relations with Israel have been bad. In 2009 in Cairo, he made a speechclearly directed at the Arabs. There were however no equivalent visits to Israel or speeches aimed at the Israelis. This frustrated the his peace mediation by weakening his influence over Netanyahu, who monitors the polls compulsively and gathered that he had more to gain at home from disregarding a president taken as hostile.
This diminishing relations with the Israelis may have made to look like he had brought the Arab world around to a more promising diplomatic position. When he proved unable to fulfill his promise to end the Palestinian problem andclose Guantánamo, the Arabs became disappointed with him. Obama ended up with the most awful of both worlds. The recent actions of Netanyahu visiting the United States and addressing congress without the administration’s invitation shows clearly how Obama’s relations with the Israelis are warped.
Obama has managed the tensions and turmoil in the Arab World fairly well. The president put the United States’ people’s demands for democracy and freedom in the Arab world. These protests assisted in removing unpopular tyrants in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen, while doing his best to safeguard U.S. interests in the Gulf. Tactical missteps have been experienced, including the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s humiliation, failure to push decisively for important reforms in Bahrain. He has been slow to push for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama’s idealism has put the US on the right side of history. Obama’s balancing of American interests and values is likely to be tested in the Persian Gulf soon. Saudi Arabia seems keen to restrainpolitical reform. Even though the monarchies have enjoyed legitimacy among the people, this cannot be a long-term solution. No Arab regime will remain protected from demands for political freedom and accountability. Obama has been inclined to let these changes play out on their own. It is not clear that a more unswerving U.S. policy in the Middle East would produce better results since the turmoil began. The influence of the United States’ has been characteristically limited many times.
Obama took office determined to seek a future where Nuclear weapons were absent. Russia was important to this effort, and Obama sought to reset relations with them.He signed a treaty with then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March 2010 geared towards reductions in the nuclear arsenals of both nations. Iran and North Korea have been at the center of the nuclear proliferation matter. Obama has been in constant motion trying to engage Iran. As part of his prevention agenda, he wanted to ensure that whoever broke the rules would face sanctions. He engaged China and Russia in the passing of a charter to manage this.The administration’s efforts to alter North Korea’s conduct have been fruitless. The effort has been done in a way to maintain the credibility of the US diplomatic process. Through its clear expression of the penalties of continuing nuclear and missile development the administration has improved China’s inducements to pressure North Korea. The White House has worked with South Korea to come to an agreement on how to deal with Pyongyang. As aresult, the U.S.-South Korean alliance remains strong. Consultations with the Japanese have helped progress American relations with the Japanese government, as well, and condensed the risks to the U.S.-Japanese alliance the effect of political change in Japan.Similarly, close dexterity against Iran with Israel and Saudi Arabia has increased the efficiency of the U.S. strategy.
Despite the lack of progress in disarming, Obama has strengthened the world’s commitment to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Iran and North Korea face increasingseclusion from the developing global order Obama is modelling. It remains to be seen of Iran’s potential credibility in its nuclear program development promises. Obama has been keen to negotiate with the Iranians and success in this would be a boost to his legacy (“Change.gov” 2015).
Obama’s foreign policy has helped in keeping the country safe. He helped prevent an even worse economic breakdown. The gap between the Obama’s rhetoric and deeds has produceddissatisfaction at home and abroad amongst those who did not like it that Obama’s method of realizing progress is of progression rather than transformation. Oneway to build his policy is the rebalancing of relations toward Asia. If planned and managed well, it could produce a confirmation of the leadership of the United States’ internationally, for years. This will serve as a basis for trade and investment, a makeover to a more flexible military that works diligently with foreign partners; and redesigning of regional and global organizations to maintain a leadership role for the US while showing the developing distribution of power globally. Obama’s ability to follow such a strategy will however depend on other factors. The Iranian nuclear matter and a revitalization of the United States’ local political economy. If Iran goes nuclear, or if the United States or Israel attacks it in an effort to head off that result, security matters in the Middle East would go up to the top of the agenda of foreign policy. This would throw the region into turmoil and push other matters onto the background again. Just when Obama thought he would be reducing his engrossment in the Middle East, he would be taken back in again (Adams 2015, p3).
The other factor is if Obama will be able to handle the structural problems of the United States including growing unemployment, low growth, and an unmaintainablegrowth of debt. The world system is centered on the United States’ economic and political, as well as military. That power is now being questioned, and the dysfunction in the United States political platform is affecting future expectations around the world. Washington’s capability to take control over its monetary challenges while engaging in investments that cultivate the United States’ volume to compete and adapt in the future is going to obviously have to be an important constituent of any important program. National security budgets have to be trimmed too but without the severe reductions.
The United States continues to have many advantages. It has the strongest army in the world, aninfluential network of partners and allies; a sustained lead in development and research; the best higher education system in the world, high-tech manufacturing, innovation, melting-pot demographics and a balanced growth in the population; a political system that is transparent and rule of law that is reliable. This help entice foreign investment. The US also has an abundance of natural resources, a civil society that is very active and huge experience in global leadership.
Some key trends are going in the wrong route, and the country’s economic future remains risky. The sustained weakening of the US’s economic fundamentalsmismatches the goal ofkeeping long-term foreign policy andnational power. Failure to take control of American the domestic decline for the United States and the rest of the world at large will thus impact far beyond any costs stemming from the president’s partisan standing or individual popularity.
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