The Obama Doctrine’s First Term

Public-opinion polls indicate a close US presidential election in November, as slow economic malaise favors Barack Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. But Obama is on firmer ground when it comes to foreign policy, despite failing to implement the transformational initiatives that he promised four years ago.

ASPEN – Public-opinion polls in the United States indicate a close presidential election in November. While President Barack Obama outpolls the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, on foreign policy, slow economic growth and high unemployment – issues that are far more salient in US elections – favor Romney. And, even on foreign policy, Obama’s critics complain that he has failed to implement the transformational initiatives that he promised four years ago. Are they right?

Obama came to power when both the US and the world economy were in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Indeed, some of Obama’s economic advisers counseled him that unless urgent steps were taken to stimulate the economy, there was a one-in-three chance of entering a full-scale depression.

Thus, although Obama also inherited two ongoing wars, nuclear-proliferation threats from Iran and North Korea, and the continuing problem of Al Qaeda’s terrorism, his early months in office were devoted to addressing the economic crisis at home and abroad. His efforts were not a complete success, but he managed to stave off the worst outcome.

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