Key Achievements of Foreign Policy of Barack Obama

Foreign policy of Barack Obama has been mainly known for the two main principles that he followed:

  • Firstly, military rearranging and the improvised burden-sharing scheme with the allies and partners;
  • Secondly, the offer of dialog for it enemies like Cuba or Iran. The strategic focus has now under him have shifted from Europe to the Middle East area to Asia.

Since 2011, the Arab Winter and the crisis in Ukraine hampered the power of realization of Obama’s “grand strategies” that was taking place.

The former US President George W. Bush left a weak legacy after the two wars and a shortage in the financial markets for the new President i.e., Barack Obama. Obama will be remembered as a president whose primary concern was the domestic policy and the way he came over with the economic disasterwas incomparable to anyone in recent past. He was also criticised that he frequently focussed only on the happening events instead of pursuing some overarching strategies. The reality was however different as he had very clear and firm strategic principles like that the US has to maintain its global leadership position, duties and the hegemonial status, but at the same time keeping in mind to lower the cost and transfer a great part of the burden to their allies.

The Iraq Issue

Obama from the very beginning rejected the “dumb” Iraq war. He argued that Saddam Hussein, did not constitute any great threat to the US. Obama believed that Iraq War was just a distraction while the “necessary war” in Afghanistan was being neglected.

After the public opposition faced to the war in Iraq in 2002, Obama had announced in his election campaign in 2008 that he will remove the US troops from Iraq and instead place the military engagement in Afghanistan. Further he proclaimed that the perspective of dialog with countries like Cuba and Iran, which had been viewed for years as arch-enemies by the US. After winning elections, Obama checked on his campaign promises thoroughly like the strategic backing from the Middle East and the change of focus towards Asia, joint diplomatic relations with adversaries, became the essential pillars of his foreign policy. These strategiesbrought successes like the agreement in the nuclear dispute with Iran, the renewing of diplomatic relations with Cuba,  a new trade deal with the Asian and Latin American states.

In 2009, President Obama had to bring the US foreign policy to new levels. As he realised that in the long term, US global power depend on its economic performance.

The wars during Bush had severely affected the nation’s treasury, these costs had to be lowered. The new administration also had to restore to the US economical pace through some kind of reform program. From the very beginning, Obama had consistently built over two overarching principles:

  • First, a policy of engaging designs to restore the global confidence in the US stature, which had been severely affected during the era of Bush. This meant not only the restoration of damaged relations with the transatlantic partners, but at the same time tenacious diplomacy with the Washington adversaries.
  • Secondly, after overreaching both strategically and militarily during the era of Bush, the US had to now exercise the global leadership role but now in a less expensive and more perfect way. Military stabilization operations were avoided and military force was now employed in a much more discreet way the allies and partners were now supposed to make much more significant contributions.

US Policy for China

US policy for China has been a mixture of controversial and cooperating elements. For Washington the long threat to national security of US was China’s economic and geopolitical rise. In order to get China’s hegemonial support, the Obama government announced a pivot in the grand strategy of  US which will again calibrate the primary attention and resources in foreign policy from the European countries and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region. The US increased its military existences in the Pacific Ocean and in near future a huge part of US air force and naval capabilities are to be concentrated in the Pacific region. Bilateral security ties with India, Vietnam, Philippines, Japan, and Australia will be strengthened further. National Security Strategy of Obama in 2015 affirmed the primary status of Asia, even after Russia’s annexed Crimea. In 2015, Obama got all the necessary parliamentary authorization to conclude the trade agreements and those needed for negotiating the Transpacific Partnership.

Military Retreats

The Ukraine Crisis and the wide spread of the IS worsened the security issues beyond Europe’s boundary in 2014, and have jeopardized not only the base of the desired pivot to Asia which is a stable condition of Europe even the productive relations between the West and Russia was included. Since Crimea had been annexed, the military intervention in eastern Ukraine, Russia was from then viewed as a great threat by Westerns. Therefore, the Baltic states and other Eastern European countries arestronger US partners to fight against the Russian aggression.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, there were signs of military retreat from the Middle East too and required the rebalancing strategywhich may have been pre-mature till then.


Despite all the problems with implementing his foreign-policy strategy, As he left office at the beginning of 2017, US is now a much more prosperous, stronger, and safer than it was before he began his office term in 2009 as a president.US had the world’s biggest economy and one of the highest growth rates of theWest. It remained the focal point of the liberal Western world order. Its defence budget is equal to the expense of the next seven countries combined together. Though there were no official doctrine of Obama between 2009 and 2016, the president’s foreign-policy vision was very clear from his strategic deliberations. His foreign policy has been marked by the awareness that the US had very less resources at its disposal for finalising deals and the increasingly complex challenges. Therefore, he narrowed down the country’s strategic interests focussing more on urgent foreign policy problems. This mainly led to decreased US influence in civil wars which are not of vital interests to it, like thewars with Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Ukraine. On the other hand, Obama reacted to China’s increasing assertiveness in its foreign and military policy with a geostrategic pivot to Asia. All credit goes to the patient and the constant diplomacy of Obama’s administration which have probably helped in preventing the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb for at least a time of ten years. Obama replied sternly but without risking the provocations to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine with the economical sanctions and the implementation of NATO’s eastern flank.

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