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Obama Administration's Foreign Policy

Updated on February 19, 2013
The President of the United States, Barack Obama
The President of the United States, Barack Obama | Source

Let's set the scene a bit, shall we? When Obama took office, America was engaged in two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq. Our image around the world had been tarnished because of an uncovered torture policy, among other things. What could one person do to rectify this? In steps young Barack Obama.

On his first day, he signed executive orders to stop torture and close Guantanamo Bay. Sadly, the Guantanamo Bay part didn't quite pan out because the inmates could not be shipped anywhere. Their home countries surely didn't want them and the American public was certainly against having them on U.S soil. That one remains an unfinished task.

Here I will lay out the major tenants of Obama's foreign policy.

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

1. War as a last resort

During his first term, Obama successfully ended the Iraq war, which we had been fighting since 2003. He directed the focus back to Afghanistan, which was the rightful war to avenge the deaths in the 9/11 attack. He even executed a surge of troops to Afghanistan since the war in Iraq had ended. This got us on the path of waging war for the right reasons and not based on false intelligence. He's one of the few senators to vote against the Iraq war, in fact.

The Afghanistan war is now coming to a close in 2014, which is sooner than we originally thought. The Afghan army will now have to take responsibility for its own country. The U.S army has been training them for years and years. Arguably, they're still not ready based on the evidence, but we can't stay for decades. Historically, no one has conquered Afghanistan. Napoleon and the Soviets are only a couple of examples.

Soon, America will not be entangled in any wars, which will free up a considerable amount of revenue to be spent on domestic issues, rather than decade-long wars.

2. Drone strikes

The Obama Administration has ratcheted up the use of drones greatly. They've been in development for over a decade, but they've now gotten to a point where they can replace the use of jets in many parts of the world.

It has allowed the Obama administration to dismantle the hierarchy of Al Qaeda almost entirely. It is not without controversy. Drones have actually been used to kill American citizens abroad. One particular American citizen was Anwar Al-awlaki, who had terrorist affiliations. The legal right to enact this aerial vengeance isn't so clear. The Obama legal team has crafted a memo that outlines why it thinks it can bypass many parts of the constitution (due process, for one) and murder American citizens abroad. That particular memo will now be released to certain members of congress, so they can look over it. Of course, the American public shall not see it. Many questions are left unanswered. One, in particular, was asked by Rachel Maddow, host of the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC: Can Obama kill American citizens in the U.S, if there is an imminent threat?

Most progressives are known for being weak on foreign policy, but Obama is not one of those.

3. Osama Bin Laden taken out

While Obama put the nation's focus back on Afghanistan, he also put the focus (secretly, mind you) back on the hunting of Osama Bin Laden, who orchestrated the murder of thousands in the 9/11 attacks, among others. He achieved this in his first term.

It was a very risky decision because if they failed, international law had been broken. Honestly, international law had been broken either way, but through successfully killing him, we were not held accountable for the law breaking. It was seen as justified. The operation took place in Pakistan. For the longest time, the common orthodoxy was that Osama Bin Laden took refuge in the caves in Afghanistan. Logically, it would be tough to lead Al Qaeda in a cave.

So, overall, he took down the most wanted man in the world. That's a pretty big accomplishment and it shows how he would stop at nothing to find him and kill him.

4. Increased cooperation with the United Nations

Arguably, the U.S broke with the UN when it came to the Iraq war. That's not to say we didn't have any allies. We certainly did, but we did not get United Nations approval for the war, as we did with Afghanistan. Rather than leading the charge in every country with a dictator or tyrannical government, the Obama administration had chosen to utilize the global community.

In Libya, American had no "boots on the ground," so to speak during the conflict. In the end, Muammar Gaddafi was killed and the chance of freedom was given to the Libyan people. The U.S provided supplies, arms, and intelligence, but did not engage the American military.

In Egyptian revolution, no armed forces were deployed by any country. We decided that democracy was taking its course. While the U.S did provide public support for the protesters, it never sent troops. That lesson has been learned. While many will criticize the Obama administration for not getting involved because the new President of Egypt was part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Obama doctrine differs from the Bush doctrine, in that just because the leader of a nation is not someone we agree with, it does not mean we can use military force. The people voted for him and we must respect their decision. If they sour on their current President, they can protest again or vote for someone else. That is how democracy works.

Conclusion

We are just now at the start of Obama's second term, but in his first term, he ended one war, set the date for another war to end, killed Osama Bin Laden, ended our torture policy, restored our image around the world, and has systematically dismantled the leadership of Al Qaeda using drone strikes.

That's pretty good, if you ask me.

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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 4 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Hi SD, thoughtful article. Although I highly disagree that are standing around the world is much better. But did you disagree with Bush's use of drones? Osama was killed in May 2011 ( I think...), are you telling me there was no use of torture in the first two years of the Obama administration? That's highly unlikely. Myself and other GOPers see hypocrisy in the muted criticism of the President. I agree with the use of drones. No problem with it. But liberals (in fact, all progressives) have now ceded the moral high ground on the use of "enhanced" interrogations, suspension of haebus corpus and assassinations, which are still technically illegal since 1975. Never again can you criticize those policies because of your silence during the Obama Adminstration.

      But don't stop writing. Anything thought provoking is great.

    • Steven Dison profile image
      Author

      Steven Dison 4 years ago from O'Fallon, Illinois

      I can only base my assertions on the facts. He banned torture on his first day in office. Were there still instances of torture in the first two years? Honestly, I have no way of knowing. All I know is that he publicly denounced it and banned it via executive order.

      I don't mind the drone strikes on one hand. It's supposedly killing people who are an imminent threat to the U.S. On the other hand, it might not be legal, since as far as I know, the only place we are legally able to use drones is in Afghanistan. Yet we use them in Yemen, Pakistan, Iran, etc. So, I'm conflicted. I'd say the same thing if Bush was in office, though.

      But, the only way us liberals could cede the high ground (on torture) is if the Obama administration was still torturing. We don't know that and as far as I know, there's no evidence of it. Obviously, there's no way that liberals can criticize President Bush on the use of drones with the way Obama has used them. But, isn't it interesting that a majority of the senators who sent President Obama a letter asking for the release of the memo authorizing them to use drone strikes were Democrats? So, they're certainly not going easy on him regarding this.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 4 years ago from Auburn, WA

      You are correct about the Senators, led by Oregon's Ron Wyden, if I'm not mistaken. But my complaint is with columnists, pundits and other media members who are being grossly hypocritcal. A few lefty Senators really have no impact on the political discourse (as sad as that is...). Even Joan Walsh's latest column that was mostly critical of the President ended with the notion that maybe this "leak" about the drone strikes is Obama's way of asking if it was alright. Are you kidding me? She was one of the loudest anti-Bush, "He's putting everyone in jail" crowd. Toure' and Goldie Taylor have gone completely off the tracks. The NY Times has been somewhat critical but we have been spared the hysteria of anti-Bush criticism. This is just reinforcing much of what conservatives believe about progressives: that they have tendency toward benevolent dictatorships. We don't know why. But we do ask the question all the time. And we never come up with an answer. And I close with this, I'm no conspiracy theorist, and most conservatives would not consider me one of their own, but question your government all the time. I say that as a government employee. The definition of "terrorist" will change again and we will eventually have to confront that question. Best of luck. lions44 out.

    • Steven Dison profile image
      Author

      Steven Dison 4 years ago from O'Fallon, Illinois

      I think the main thing I can glean from examples is this: some people are hypocrites. That goes for Republicans and Democrats. Obviously, we should hold Obama to the same standards. As I said in the article, Rachel Maddow (quite the leftist) has been pretty tough on Obama over the drones, among other things.

      And I wouldn't say progressives want a benevolent dictatorships. That would certainly be the perception from conservatives. We do believe in a larger government that provides for the elderly, sick, poor, etc. Also known as the social safety net. I just think it can be a force for good.

      Most, if not all, progressives don't support things like the patriot act, warrant-less wiretapping, and indefinite detention of American citizens (which Obama signed, despite saying he won't detain American citizens). So, I'm not sure who these "progressives" are that want a benevolent dictatorship.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 4 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Alright, SD, this will be last post, I promise...you made my argument for me. In your last paragraph you stated all the issues that progressives are not in favor of: patriot act, warrant-less wiretapping, and indefinite detention of American citizens. Yet those things are still going on and you give him high marks as President. If the core of being progressive is the protection of one's individual liberties, then how do you support him? Do you see what we mean and why we're confused as conservatives? If a GOP Prez broke from a core issue (think Bush 41, no new taxes), he would lose support among his own, and it cost him. Yet the same can't be said for Dems. Maybe you are more loyal. But if you are willing to cave on core issues, that does not bode well for the future. A colleague of mine said it best when speaking of those on the left: "They'd give up their Bill of Rights for a free doctor visit." Again, thx for the great back and forth. Keep up the good work.

    • Steven Dison profile image
      Author

      Steven Dison 4 years ago from O'Fallon, Illinois

      I would be in favor of all those things being repealed. Sadly, that is up to congress, not the President. Not to mention, his job approval rests on much, much more than just on repealing stuff liberals don't like. He's had a pretty successful first term by any measure. But, back to the Patriot act thing. And I know I should be quoting someone when I say this, but once you give up freedom, it's impossible to get it back. Hence, why we may never get back the freedom we had before the Patriot act was passed. The Democrats know that it is a sensitive issue. If they were to push for it being repealed, the Republicans would roast them for being anti-American or pro-terrorist or weak on defense. This is why it's generally not spoken about anymore.

      But, I support him for many reasons. No candidate is perfect and I won't agree with all of them. For instance, I don't agree with Chris Christie on many things, but I'd be more than willing to vote for him in 2016, or whenever he decides to run. I support Obama because of his stance on taxes, the economy, social issues (gay rights, specifically), etc. I'm quite sure he is not in favor of the Patriot Act, just like he's not in favor of Guantanamo Bay, but the reality is that it can't be closed (yet). The same goes for the Patriot act. Once the Afghanistan war is over and we focus more so on things at home, maybe we'll revisit the issue, but I see it as unlikely.

      On a side note, I think Bush 41 got a bad rap. I respect him much more than his son. He definitely should not have promised "no new taxes," but it surely helps you get elected sometimes. *sigh*

      I've enjoyed the back and forth too. Thanks.

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