President Obama’s Foreign Policy Essay

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

Obama stirred different opinions during his candidacy and after becoming the president. President Obama’s foreign policy went through various transformations, from an initial assurance of changes to situations of increasing optimism to practical realism.

During his campaign, candidate Obama had made a promise that change would occur in America’s foreign policy and restore the moral basis of how America interacts with the rest of the world. One of his promises with regard to foreign policy was to create better relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

Thus, Obama wanted to establish a foreign policy to change how the U.S. was perceived by the Muslim world and improve the relations. The Bush administration had tried to deal with this issue without success. This was a period when the U.S. had a preference for war rather than diplomacy and peace when dealing with anti-Americanism in the Muslim world (Rajaee & Miller, 2012).

There are various American foreign policy (AFP) logics that were evident in Obama’s behaviour during his candidacy and after clinching the presidency. One of the logics was how the U.S. views the rest of the world with regard to its national interests. Logic also relied on ethical considerations and morality, strategies in foreign policies, and how power is considered depending on its nature and understanding.

One of the logics that describe President Obama’s administration is liberalism. President Obama wanted to initiate change in America’s foreign policy to seek expansion of liberty around the world after taking office.

This was evident from Obama’s intention to ensure that the American foreign policy considered international law during its application. For Obama, it is a moral duty for the U.S. to ensure that they promote liberty around the world (Rajaee & Miller, 2012).

Free trade is an important aspect under liberalism. Liberalism is within the U.S. national interest for it to exist within a free trade world economy. It can be seen that the U.S. depends on other countries for its imports. Thus, the U.S. will only consider other countries where it is assured of cheap labour. Under liberalism, the U.S. considers political and civil rights as important.

These important factors can facilitate peaceful co-existence within the world. In pre-2008, the U.S. had a preference towards Israel than Palestine. Obama was aware of the fact that Palestine had been ignored.

Thus, in line with ensuring liberty, President Obama saw the need to assist Palestine as well (Rajaee & Miller, 2012). He stated that, “… humiliation Palestine faces is intolerable.” For him, the political rights of Palestine are important and should be considered within the U.S. foreign policy.

President Obama maintained a tough stance on Israel during his first year in office. His government also wanted Israel to withdraw from West Bank and Gaza. President Obama’s first decision after taking office involved visiting the Muslim countries. This was done to assure them that the U.S. was not at war with Islam or the Arab world. This was an important strategy for the U.S. to begin applying its foreign policy.

Although both Obama and Bush tried to solve the issues that existed in the Middle East, President Obama used a new strategy that was seen as advantageous in comparison to the policy applied during the Bush administration. President Obama was successful initially, but his initiatives failed and were abandoned in the long run (Rajaee & Miller, 2012).

President Obama enjoyed support from Muslims during his initial years in office, but views about his policies began to change during his third year in office because some of the promises made that affected Muslim countries had not been delivered. One issue that led to the fading trust in Obama’s administration is that he had failed to establish peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

The American foreign policy during Obama’s first term was also characterized by liberal internationalism. This was based on the realization that Obama’s administration could not work alone without the assistance of other states in the world. One such problem was the al-Qaeda, which has an international impact.

With the growing threats of terrorism, it became important for the U.S. to work together with other countries to solve this problem. This logic considered military power as unnecessary. Thus, Obama’s administration intended to withdraw the U.S. troops from Iraq.

President Obama’s foreign policies were regarded as effective, although they did not result in significant changes on how the Muslim world viewed the U.S. Thus, his policies only avoided an increase in negative feelings that the Muslim world would have towards the U.S.

A survey carried out between 2009 and 2010 showed that Muslims viewed Israel as the biggest threat to Arabs, followed by the United States. Thus, solving the issues with Muslims would be a difficult task for Obama.

Isolationism was also among the logics evident in the American foreign policy. This logic was based on the belief that the U.S. society would be negatively affected if it took part in foreign matters. President Obama’s administration had begun to reduce its influence in Middle Eastern states.

This was attributed to the de-Americanization of the Middle East. Thus, isolationism was seen as a preference for the larger American citizenry. A few politicians also share this belief. Thus, during Obama’s presidency he has tried to meet the wishes of the public with regard to isolationism.

The U.S. began to reduce its influence within the Middle East following the withdrawal of the military in Iraq and reduction of troops in Afghanistan. In many cases, the presence of its security forces was only to ensure national security to curb the threat of terrorism. Isolationism had also been seen in Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Hegemony was also evident, where the U.S. maintained close ties with Israel for the benefit of its national interests. This can be seen in President Obama’s statement that, “Those who threaten Israel threaten us.” Initially, Obama wanted to establish a peaceful co-existence between Israel and Palestine, but the foreign policy had to go through changes to ensure its hegemony.

For instance, the U.S. made an agreement to provide aid to Israel at the cost of $30 billion. In effect, this would ensure that Israel had a military advantage (Rajaee & Miller, 2012). Thus, the policy is characterized by the tendency to have extensive power when it comes to matters that are occurring abroad.

This can be seen in the case of Israel whereby the U.S. will only interact with other Arab countries if Hamas retains its power. Thus, the US has influence on many countries abroad, a situation that has existed for a long time. Obama’s administration can be compared to Bush’s administration as far as hegemony is concerned.

Hegemony is also seen in America’s over reliance on international affairs. Obama’s foreign policies went ahead to establish interest of the U.S. abroad. These were matters ranging from politics to economic issues. Terrorism and war on Iraq were international matters that the U.S. considered important and in need of a solution.

The U.S. is also guided by altruistic policies. Thus, many of its policies are based on the idea that they are intended to establish world peace and security. For instance, the war on terrorism is seen as a decision that will be for the benefit of all countries within the international system.

There exists a difference in behaviour and logic between pre-2008 and post-2008 Obama, although the difference is minimal because Obama made only a few changes. The opinion that the U.S. shared about the Muslim world was still the same. President Obama became popular within the Muslim worked because of his promises to establish a different foreign policy in comparison to what was applied by his predecessor.

It is for this reason that the Arabs were seen to have the highest confidence in Obama in early 2009, just after his election. This confidence began to fade in the preceding years as Arabs realized that many of the changes promised by the President were not occurring.

Candidate Obama was considered as a leader who would bring change in the U.S. He was regarded as a unifying force, reaching both to America’s foreign enemies and to opponents at home. His policies were seen as a correction to all issues that arose during the Bush administration.

Obama was also able to awaken political responsibility in America. Thus, he had a greater influence on international matters based on diplomacy after taking office in comparison to the pre-2008 period.

Realism is also logic that can be seen in the U.S. foreign policy. Realism is whereby the state seeks to retain a powerful role within world affairs. In the case of the U.S., Obama’s administration established policies to ensure it had significant influence within the Middle East.

This was done through its ally, Israel, to facilitate security within the region. States also use international bodies as instruments to stamp their authority. In the case of the U.S., President Obama intended to use the United Nations (U.N.) in defending Israel (Rajaee & Miller, 2012).

Realism as logic explains the U.S. foreign policy behaviour on why it tries to prevent the rise of other powerful states. The U.S. has gone through trouble to protect Israel, which is strategically located in the Middle East. Being a powerful country, the U.S. still wants to increase its strength and prevent the rise of other powerful states within the Middle East.

Israel is located in a region that ensures the U.S. controls the various states in the Middle East. Thus, the best strategy for the U.S. is to attract more allies and resources. It is for this reason that Obama’s administration is at the forefront in establishing diplomatic ties with the U.S. enemies abroad. This is important in attracting more allies.

In conclusion, the U.S. foreign policy is characterized by various differences when the Obama administration and the Bush administration are considered. In Obama’s case, his initial days in office were characterized by improved international relations, especially in the Middle East. This was the case for some time, until Arabs became dissatisfied that President Obama did not fulfil his promises.


Rajaee, B. M., & Miller, M. J. (2012). National security under the Obama administration. 1st ed. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

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