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After ObamaAfrican American Politics in a Post-Obama Era$
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Todd Shaw, Robert A. Brown, and Joseph P. McCormick

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781479807277

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479807277.001.0001

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Foreign Policy during and after Barack Obama

Foreign Policy during and after Barack Obama

(p.340) 13 Foreign Policy during and after Barack Obama
After Obama

Robert B. Packer

NYU Press

In this chapter, I will review what I see as the essential characteristics of the Obama foreign policy style and analyze whether we can discern a clear “Obama doctrine” from his foreign policy actions and rhetoric. In order to do so, I will lay out the four major approaches to American foreign policy-making and then assess how Obama’s policies fit within these approaches. Obama’s early foreign policy moves emphasized reconciliation and a more focused approach on counterterrorism as opposed to regime change. However, domestic political and international geopolitical constraints came to limit his ambitions. As the first Black president, Obama’s initial soaring rhetoric of change was replaced by cautionary tales of avoiding mistakes. After laying out the four schools of American foreign policy (nationalist, realist, liberal institutionalist, neoconservative), I discuss Obama’s policy style—the “nonideological doctrine”—that was purposively deliberative and cautious, in contrast to the ideological Bush regime-change crusade. Obama was careful to weigh the costs and benefits of policy options, keeping an eye on his predilection that foreign affairs must not interfere with the domestic agenda. This caution, which avoided major commitments to overseas conflicts, came under criticism from both the Left and Right of the political spectrum.

Keywords:   Obama administration, Obama doctrine, foreign policy, nationalist approach, realist approach, liberal institutionalist approach, neoconservative approach, counterterrorism

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