The Foreign Policy Legacy of Barack Obama

The Foreign Policy Legacy of Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama departs the East Front of the U.S. Capitol after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Washington, Jan. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

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: Wilsonian Idealist or Progressive Realist?

Obama and U.S. Strategy: A New Beginning
The Obama Bubble: Buying Time for Renewed American Engagement

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.

Obama and Europe: Beneath Affinity, a Growing Gulf
Time for Obama to Make a Play in Africa
Obama’s Pragmatism Worked in Latin America. Now It’s Time to Support Democracy
Will Obama Re-Link U.S.-Israel Security Relations With Palestine Peace?
Has Obama’s Pivot to Asia Been a Success or Failure?
Down Havana Way: The Promise of Obama’s Cuba Visit

International Diplomacy

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.

Why 2015 Was a Good Year for Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy
Obama, and the U.S., Unbound: The Potential for a Transformational Legacy
For Obama-Ban Odd Couple, Farewells but No Victory Lap at U.N.
Is COP21 Climate Change Deal Multilateralism’s Swan Song?
As a Nonproliferation Agreement, the Iran Deal Has Been a Success

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.

Sidetracked: Obama’s Cybersecurity Legacy
Why Obama’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Commitments Fell Short
Is Obama’s Transparency on Drone Policy Too Little, Too Late?
Will the Battle for Mosul Validate Obama’s Counter-Extremism Strategy?
How to Revive America’s Human Rights Agenda Around the World
Why Obama’s Foreign Policy Gamble Fell Short

Looking Ahead

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?

Will Obama Be America’s Last Free-Trade President?
Which Trump Will Cuba Have to Contend With, the Hard-Liner or the Dealmaker?
Globalization Was Already on the Ropes. It’s Only Going to Get Worse
An Open World Is in the Balance. What Might Replace the Liberal Order?