Has President Obama Changed the Nature of US Foreign Policy?


The US foreign policy is how the US relates to other countries in the world. The US is viewed by other countries as a superpower owing to the stability of its economy and the superiority of its military might. The US, therefore, has a global mandate of ensuring that countries co-exist peacefully (Milner & Moravcsick, 2009). This is because the well-being of the US is dependent on the stability of these other nations. From a different perspective, the US interacts with the rest of the world through international trade, which entails importing and exporting of goods from other countries and vice versa (Galbraith, 2008).

As part of the grand strategy, the Obama administration has continued to offer financial grants and military support to countries that are in dire need of the same (Dueck, 2011; Keating, 2011). Also, the US has collaborated with other national alliances such as NATO in a bid to combat militia groups such as Alqaeda (Quinn, 2007). However, Obama’s concepts of neo-isolation and selective engagement have not been successful in preserving the national interest.

This paper focuses on the changes that have taken place regarding US foreign policy since the election of President Obama to the white house. The main themes discussed are the concept of US foreign policy, Obama in Iraq and Afghanistan, the concept of grand strategy, and failure of Obama’s strategy.

The Concept of the Nature of US Foreign Policy

The US has been using its foreign policy to highlight its might and power. This has been evidenced by the deployment of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq (Layne, 2006; Kotlin, 2006). However, Traub (2010) and Mead (2011) highlight that since the election of President Obama to the white house, there have been many major changes in the US foreign policy. Before his election, President Obama had mentioned that it is important to shift the country’s focus from foreign missions to domestic missions.

Obama reckoned that the efforts achieved before were of no use if the livelihoods of many Americans continued to be compromised (Drezner, 2011). The predecessors of president Obama had resorted to using force to achieve the ambitions of the US foreign policy. In the end, it came at a cost because military spending had to be increased to enhance the success of the state’s missions. Moreover, the foreign campaigns were under a lot of criticism due to US military casualties (Dueck, 2011; Valentino, 2011).

Unlike his predecessors, President Obama opted to cut back on expenses that were tied to foreign military expeditions. First, Obama pushed for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and partial withdrawal of the same from Afghanistan (Zakari, 2008). While this may have been a wise decision, many people criticized it. From the look of things, Obama does not believe in the use of force and that is why he advocated for the removal of US forces in Iraq. To the outside world, this noble gesture may have implied that the US has run out of capacity to combat terrorism. However, in a few months down the line, Obama was able to capture Osama bin Laden (Blackwill, 2011).

There was no guarantee that the extended stay of US forces in terror-affiliated nations would help in keeping the US safe from the attacks of such criminal groups. Obama decided that the war on terror could not be fought in foreign nations because of the need to preserve US security. It is now clear that Obama wants the US to assume the position of intermediary between the western countries and the Arab world (Dueck, 2011). This argument is evidenced by his latest manifestation of leniency towards Muslims. It is during his tenure in office that Muslims have been allowed to put up their place of worship (Kagan, 2010).

Regarding the issue of Iran, Obama is committed to solving the nuclear weapons issue amicably without compromising the security of the parties involved. The leniency offered to Iran serves as the stepping-stone towards mending the broken bondage that existed between the US and Iran (Keating, 2011).

National Interest and Grand Strategy

Obama has a very demanding role because he is striving to use the strategies of selective engagement, neo-isolation, and cooperative security as the approaches of grand strategy. He is trying to trade interests, but on the other hand, the concerned parties are finding it hard to put their bitterness aside. Perhaps it is because they know that President Obama will not be in power for long and thus, they have to stand on their ground to ensure that whoever takes over after Obama probably knows that it will be a difficult task to protect the national interest (Western & Goldstein, 2011).

Despite the rejections that he has encountered, Obama has managed to remain composed. Thus, it is certain that this would not have been the case if a different president were in office (Valentino, 2011). Obama has gone as further as lifting the economic sanctions imposed on some countries in a bid to make them accept his proposal. Obama believes that the US is better of with fewer enemies and that is why he has been employing this strategy of turning enemies into friends, but the only setback is that the alleged enemies are not willing to change their status (Drezner, 2011).

Obama has been trying to portray the US as a non-partisan state, but this is not achievable because the Obama administration has had to bend the rules where it deemed necessary. For instance, Obama ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden who is the renowned leader of Al Qaeda without the consent of Afghanistan authorities (Dueck, 2011; Oren, 2011).

Before Obama’s reforms, the US used to confront the enemies of its allies such as Pakistan, but all that took a different turn all together (Pincus, 2006). Obama tried his best to reconcile Israel and Pakistan by encouraging Israel to make Gaza strip to be accessible by Pakistanis. Previously the US would have opted to impose economic sanctions as earlier witnessed in Iran’s case.

Previously, the US refused to acknowledge Taiwan as an independent state and offered protection to the country against external invasion by her neighbors (Cox, 2007). On the other hand, President Obama’s administration has advocated for the empowerment of this young state such that it can be able to protect itself without the assistance of US military units. The US has entered a trade deal that will see more of US military weapons being sold to Taiwan (Drezner, 2011).

Failures of Obama’s Strategy

The failures of Obama’s foreign policy strategy outweigh the benefits because apart from the capture of Osama bin Laden, the rest of his ambitions are far from being successful (Dueck, 2011). Obama has tried as much as he could within his administration’s capacity to blend the allies with the enemies. However, this has not been possible because none of the involved parties is willing to bow down to Obama’s pressure. The gap between enemies and allies remains, and Obama’s efforts have overwhelmed both sides because they do not expect the US to be non-partisan (Miller, 2011; Bergen & Tiedemann, 2011).

Moreover, there is a great sense of distrust because none of them is willing and ready to withdraw its weapons of mass destruction. In Obama’s quest to mend broken relations, he has ended sidelining some of the most loyal allies such as Egypt (Keating, 2011). The masses expected the US to deploy its military in a bid to protect democracy during Egypt’s recent civil uprising, but the superpower opted to remain a number about the issue (Blackwill, 2011).


President Obama has transformed the nature of US foreign policy, but the change is not exhibited evenly in the policy. This is because certain aspects of the policy have remained intact. So far, the US is still the largest aid donor in the world and thus, it is still committed to ending poverty and food shortages in drought struck countries. However, it is difficult to predict if Obama’s policy will last. This is because the change in leadership could result in an alteration of foreign policy. The current situation of the policy implies that the US is losing its influence on global issues and therefore the predecessors of President Obama could try to recover this lost glory by using the former tactics.

This study has found out that military interventions and the war on terror are the major indicators of the US’s grand strategy of fulfilling its global mandate. However, these strategies are not permanent and hence they are dependent on the present leadership. Similarly, grants to poor countries have remained intact and it is most likely to remain that way in the future.

Reference List

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Cox, C. 2007. ‘Still the American empire’. Political Studies Review, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1-10.

Dueck, C. 2011. ‘The accommodator: Obama’s foreign policy’. Policy Review, pp. 13-28. Web.

Drezner, DW. 2011. ‘Does Obama have a grand strategy’. Foreign Affairs. Web.

Galbraith, P. 2008. Unintended consequences: How the war in Iraq strengthened America’s enemies, Simon & Schuster, New York.

Kagan, R. 2010. ‘Letters to the editor: Obama’s America; Greene’s Vietnam’. World Affairs, pp. 95-96.

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Pincus, W. 2006. ‘Violence in Iraq called increasingly complex’. Washington Post. Web.

Quinn, A. 2007. ‘The great illusion: Chimeras of realism and isolationism in post-Iraq US foreign policy’, Politics & Policy, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 522-547.

Traub, J. 2010. ‘In the beginning there was Somalia’. Foreign Policy. Web.

Valentino, B. 2011. ‘The true costs of humanitarian intervention’. Foreign Affairs. Web.

Western, J & Goldstein, J. 2011. ‘Libya: Humanitarian intervention comes of age’. Foreign Affairs. Web.

Zakaria, F. 2008. ‘The future of American power’. Foreign Affairs. Web.

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