Last fall, American voters vindicated not just an embattled president, but also his vision of government. While the campaign mainly focused on economic and social issues — with only a slight detour into international issues — President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine also received a renewed mandate.
With divided government at home, it is in the realm of foreign affairs that Obama can become the truly transformative statesman he has sought to be.
The Obama Doctrine’s first term has been a remarkable success. After the $3 trillion boondoggle in Iraq, a failed nation-building mission in Afghanistan, and the incessant saber-rattling of the previous Administration, President Obama was able to reorient U.S. foreign policy in a more restrained and realistic direction.
He did this in a number of ways. First, an end to large ground wars. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it in February 2011, anyone who advised future presidents to conduct massive ground operations ought “to have [their] head examined.” Second, a reliance on Secret Operations and drones to go after both members of al Qaeda and other terrorist outfits in Pakistan as well as East Africa. Third, a rebalancing of U.S. foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific — a region neglected during George W. Bush's terms but one that possesses a majority of the world’s nuclear powers, half the world’s GDP, and tomorrow’s potential threats. Finally, under Obama's leadership, the United States has finally begun to ask allies to pick up the tab on some of their security costs. With the U.S. fiscal situation necessitating retrenchment, coupled with a lack of appetite on the part of the American public for foreign policy adventurism, Obama has begun the arduous process of burden-sharing necessary to maintain American strength at home and abroad.