Bridging Divides: Obama's Second-Term Foreign Policy Agenda

As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to begin his second term on Jan. 21, America’s strategic challenges include striking new balances in Asia, securing red lines in the Middle East, shoring up old ties in Europe and capitalizing on potential partnerships in Latin America and Africa. Throughout all these regions, trade offers a common thread of opportunity. Amitav Acharya, Matthew Duss, Mark Leonard, Hans Kundnani, Christopher Sabatini, Richard Downie and Edward Alden discuss Obama's second-term priorities in foreign policy.

Articles in this feature

Why Two Asias May be Better Than None

By Amitav Acharya, , Feature

The idea of an Economic Asia and a Security Asia in a seemingly irreconcilable relationship makes for a fashionable sound bite, but it misreads the nature and implications of the emerging economic and political order in Asia. Even if a “two Asias” scenario materializes, greater regional instability will not necessarily ensue. In fact, there would be advantages to Asia’s security and economic relations being dominated by two different great powers. more

Confronting Iran in a Changing Middle East

By Matthew Duss, , Feature

As President Barack Obama begins his second term, it is safe to assume that events in the Middle East will continue to occupy a considerable amount of bandwidth for the administration, even as Washington continues to manage a rebalancing of U.S. security investments toward Asia. Chief among the president’s Middle East agenda items will be Iran. It is important, however, to understand how other regional dynamics relate to and impact U.S. policy. more

Obama and Europe: Beneath Affinity, a Growing Gulf

By Mark Leonard, Hans Kundnani, , Feature

In many ways, Barack Obama is the kind of U.S. president that Europeans have always said they wanted: a pragmatist who is willing to change course when plans fail, and who is inclined to work with any power that shares his objectives. Yet this pragmatic worldview, which Europeans welcome, is actually loosening the bonds holding Europe and the U.S. together -- and may even be contributing to the hollowing out of the liberal order itself. more

In Latin America, Creative Focus Could Pay Off

By Christopher Sabatini, , Feature

While Latin America may never figure on the list of the U.S. executive’s top concerns, several innovative pushes across the U.S. foreign policy apparatus would not only dramatically help advance U.S. relations and leadership in the region, they would also set the tone for relations for decades to come, while making sure the region never gets what many have wrongly longed for: the president’s urgent attention. more

For U.S. in Africa, Benign Neglect No Longer an Option

By Richard Downie, , Feature

Many Africans had big expectations about the amount of attention they would receive from the U.S. during President Barack Obama’s first term. Yet, the administration’s approach to Africa was relatively low key compared with the Bush presidency’s flurry of big-ticket initiatives. Looking ahead to Obama’s second term, new administration will have to work harder than ever to advance its objectives, and think strategically about what it can offer Africans that others cannot. more

Opportunity Knocks for Obama on Trade

By Edward Alden, , Feature

The trade agreements under negotiation in 2013 could produce the biggest negotiated liberalization of trade since the early 1990s, when NAFTA and the Uruguay Round of world trade negotiations were completed. These new moves are not the result of any grand strategy by the United States or any other country, but instead are the flowering of initiatives that have either been under consideration or moving forward slowly for many years. more

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