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Quick Take: Obama’s Foreign Policy One Year In

President Obama’s first year in office was marked with global summits, a Nobel peace prize, and attempts to reach out to the Muslim world and enter a dialogue with Iran.

He withdrew troops from cities in Iraq and increased troops in Afghanistan. He tried to defibrillate the Mideast peace process.

Four analysts took a look at the state of U.S. foreign policy a year into Mr. Obama’s term:

Douglas PaalDouglas Paal

Vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Now that a year has passed, “we’re starting to enter a kind of crunch period where we’re going to find out whether a new diplomatic approach is enough to change the calculations of the actors in Moscow, Tehran, Pyongyang, Jerusalem, and in Palestine to a new approach to accommodate the attempts of the Obama administration to make change,” said Paal. “That looks less likely to happen than likely, although we might get lucky somewhere — for example, in Iran. And in Asia, I think we’re going to find that some of this will prove to have been a period of reconsolidation of American influence in the region, which is a good thing but not an avenue to solution of a lot of big problems which will persist as they did under the Bush administration.”

Hear more of Paal’s response:


Walter Russell MeadWalter Russell Mead

Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations

“Some things the president has done very well. His speech in Cairo, I think, has reshaped American relations with the Islamic world in ways that are still paying dividends. I think his leadership at Copenhagen was extraordinary,” Mead said. “Now there are some problems. The relationship with Iran is in serious trouble. That is, the president spent his first year trying to open to Iran. Iran basically has turned him down. … The Israel-Palestine issue was probably his biggest failure in that he set a target, a very ambitious target publicly asking the Israelis to stop all settlement activity in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. This was more than he could get from them.”

More of Mead’s answer:


Reginald DaleReginald Dale

Senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

“There’s been an interesting inversion in Europe in that at the end of the Bush administration, President Bush was loathed by many Europeans in public opinion but was getting on pretty well with the governments. Whereas what’s happened now is that Obama is still very popular with the European public, but that there are quite a few tensions with the governments,” said Dale. “Generally, in his approach to the world as a whole, the so-called multi-polar world, including his approach to Muslim countries, President Obama has shown a great deal of deference to the point of view of the others, but has not led to any progress.”

Dale describes his reasoning here:


Peter BeinartPeter Beinart

Senior fellow at the New America Foundation

“I think President Obama was dealt an unusually bad deck of cards to start. He inherited a series of military commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq … and a set of ideological commitments in terms of essentially a Bush administration’s strategy of regime change and movement elimination in Iran — vis-a-vis Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban — that was very, very difficult to actually fulfill,” Beinart said. “And I think the image that he has presented to the world, which is a much more positive image than George W. Bush did, an image of America that recognizes it is fallible I think has helped to expose the ideological weakness of our enemies.”

Beinart explains here:


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