When Barack Obama became president of the United States in 2009, few would have guessed that he would be followed by an administration touting nationalism and protectionism. Yet eight years later, with Donald Trump as president, the United States appears to be abandoning Obama’s vision of America as a global partner and the leader of the liberal international order. What happened? World Politics Review has compiled 24 articles that trace Obama’s foreign policy legacy and what it means for the Trump era.
The following 24 articles are free to nonsubscribers until Feb. 16.
Where It All Began
Sworn in during the Great Recession and inheriting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama set out to rebuild America’s tarnished image abroad after eight years of George W. Bush. Although the international community responded with optimism, many remained skeptical of the impact Obama would have in an emerging multipolar world.
Obama’s Global Footprint
Obama’s policies heralded some major shifts in America’s global positioning. A central tenet was his strategic “rebalancing” away from interventions in the Middle East and toward economic engagement with a rising Asia. In Latin America, Obama emphasized a practical approach based on mutual self-interest; in Europe, he was popular with some, but disappointed others.
From Iran and Cuba to climate change, Obama left office with a praiseworthy record on international diplomacy. But the Trump administration has already jeopardized some of his accomplishments. Only time will tell whether his signature deals survive.
Where He Fell Short
At home, Obama’s pragmatic approach to foreign policy drew criticisms from all sides. Hawks accused him of weakness, whether it was in Syria or Ukraine, or over cybersecurity. Doves considered his controversial drone policy and limited human rights agenda equally shortsighted.
The contrast between Obama’s foreign policy doctrine and Trump’s nationalist agenda could not be more stark. With the Trump administration determined to unravel many of Obama’s policies, is the vision of a free and open world under threat?