The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World
On Tuesday, June 21, 2016 GMF Counselor and Senior Advisor for Security and Defense Policy Derek Chollet launched his new book The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World. As a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Chollet’s experiences within the Obama Administration framed the arguments in his book and the conversation, which he described as a “first-cut” of the history of President Obama’s eight years of foreign policy leadership. The Washington Post columnist and member of GMF’s Board of Trustees David Ignatius moderated the discussion.
Ignatius began by offering that Chollet’s book attempts to answer the question of whether or not Obama’s foreign policy has “strengthened or weakened” the U.S. position in the world. Chollet firmly believes the former, but said he understands why the foreign policy establishment today often frames the discussion differently. Chollet argued that whereas President Obama’s foreign policy is geared toward achieving “long-term payoffs” for the U.S. in the world, the media and foreign policy commentators are geared toward earning short-term benefits like numerous “retweets” or aiming for an article to be repeatedly shared online. Chollet indicated that while Obama attempts to make foreign policy decisions for the long-term in the manner of a value investor, the foreign policy debate is “populated by day-traders.”
Throughout the discussion Chollet iterated the core messages of his book. He argues that one of President Obama’s major projects has been to vigorously ask the question: “How do we define strength?” Chollet believes that the President’s frequent dialogue regarding the need for restraint and the limits of American power do not stem from a place of weakness, as the President’s critics often claim. Rather, Chollet argues that Obama seeks to articulate a more “thoughtful” vision for American global engagement, one that prioritizes balance, sustainability, and long-term positioning over short-term headlines and over-extensions.