Obama’s foreign policy: our country and world are better off for his leadership

Graphic by <span class="credit credit- "><a href="/credit/"Aileen/" title="View all of this person's work">"Aileen</a></span>

Graphic by Aileen Wu

In coming histories of the United States, our age will be defined by the emergence of an ideology of immense significance: the Obama Doctrine. Jeffrey Goldberg defines this ideology in The Atlantic as “a tragic realist’s understanding of sin, cowardice, and corruption, and a Hobbesian appreciation of how fear shapes human behavior” and an “optimism that the world is bending toward justice.” In full consideration of its ramifications, it is clear that the foreign policy of the Obama Administration has benefited the American people by maintaining influence in the Middle East, the masterful pivot to Asia, and the implementation of measures that speed globalization and promote free trade.

To begin with, an anonymous staffer in an interview with The New Yorker characterizes Obama’s approach to the Middle East to be “leading from behind,” stating that he has kept the United States from engaging in reckless Bush-esque interventionism while still maintaining American influence in the region. Although many attack the Obama Administration’s refusal to retaliate after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed the ‘red line’ by using chemical weaponry, Obama’s caution actually prevented a costly expedition into a nation defined singularly by gray lines. Additionally, the Iran nuclear deal has prevented Iran’s development of atomic weapons for another decade, far preferable to building a bomb in a matter of months. Both key prongs of the Middle East policy—Syria and Iran—have exhibited the unwavering pragmatism characteristic of the Obama Doctrine.

Furthermore, a signature stratagem of U.S. foreign affairs under President Obama was the shift out of the Middle East and into Asia. The refocus on Asia, and the careful execution of it, has led to the reallocation of our nation’s resources to check a more pressing threat to America’s global hegemony—the People’s Republic of China. With China’s GDP set to pass that of the United States in 2028, according to “Can China’s Companies Conquer the World?” by Pankaj Ghemawat and Thomas Hout in Foreign Affairs, increasing aggression against U.S. allies, such as Japan and South Korea, and continued support for the rogue state of North Korea makes it increasingly apparent that China poses real obstacles for the United States in the coming century. By assuring our allies of our commitment in the region and countering the Militant Rise of Socialist China, the United States has put itself behind liberality and republicanism in East Asia.

On the global stage, the United States has continued leading the world forward through promoting free trade via the greatest advancement in economic globalization since the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP has a stated goal of “[promoting] economic growth; support[ing] the creation and retention of jobs; enhanc[ing] innovation, productivity and competitiveness” through lowering trade barriers and establishing an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. These policies, as countless episodes of history have shown, will increase America’s economic ties to the Pacific Rim, reassure our allies of our continuing interest in their development as democracies, and offset the influence of the Chinese backed International Monetary Fund rival, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

In the end, Obama’s record stands to show that a middle path exists between isolationism and interventionism, which best serves the needs of the American people in the most pragmatic sense. Defying the foreign policy establishment in Washington, Obama has changed the game, fighting for U.S. interests and allies, while not invading and destabilizing them. The decision on the administration’s part to ignore precedent, and avoid fighting an unnecessary war in the aftermath of the use of chemical weapons has undoubtedly served to save the lives of American military personnel, while leading to the disarmament of the Syrian government’s chemical weapon stashes. Previous presidents, and even members of his own administration, may not have been so prudent

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