What to Make of Obama’s World
US President Barack Obama has ten months left in office, but the contest over his legacy has already begun. In a detailed article in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg has fired an early salvo in what will certainly be a long drawn out intellectual battle over Obama’s foreign policy. This is not simply a partisan or academic debate. Whether Obama leaves behind a world that is fundamentally safer, more stable and better off is a matter of global interest. The answer will not be apparent for some time.
The single biggest contribution made by Goldberg’s article is that it removes the ambiguity, if ever there was any, about Obama’s realist instincts. A note of explanation is perhaps required here. The central divide in Washington foreign policy circles is not between Republicans and Democrats, but between liberals and realists. There is a little confusion about the terminology, but it is helpful to think of all American foreign policy thinkers and practitioners as falling somewhere along a liberal-realist continuum.