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Elizabeth Alanís Bendeck A01610698 Perspectiva Internacional 31/08/16 Barack Obama´s Foreign Policy How do elements of the

Elizabeth Alanís Bendeck


Perspectiva Internacional


Barack Obama´s Foreign Policy

How do elements of the different International Relations theories reflect on Barak Obama´s foreign policy with regards to Iraq, Libya, and Russia?

The history of the United Stated changed forever on the 20 th of January of 2009, when Barack Hussein Obama became the first black American president of the world´s most powerful country. The main purpose of this essay is to analyze what happened when a new president, representing a whole new generation, took his own vision of a new world order and tried to apply it in a world that was resistant to his will.

But before we deepen in the three points this essay is going to focus, we have to know what his policy is about.

Obama´s foreign policy already had an activist vision that had already been marked for history, he wanted to change and renew USA´s image around the world, principally in the Middle East; end the two wars in which USA was involved; developing significant cooperation with China on both regional and global issues; reset relations with Russia (for the hostilities left by the Cold War) as a step toward vanishing the nuclear weapons of the world; and setting peace in the Middle East. The forty-fourth president of the United States sought nothing more, nothing less than to right the wrongs of history in the direction of justice, and a more peaceful, stable global order.

As far from now we can clearly see that Obama´s policy is very different from any other policies we have seen in the last decades, mainly to George W. Bush´s foreign policy, his antecessor, in fact we can say that his policy was “anything but Bush”. Mainly highlighted in the war on Iraq, Bush was sure of what he did when we declared war to Iraq, he believed the country was a threat to the world, while on the other hand Obama wanted to end this war since day one. However, both had something in common, they ensured the safety of Americans and were firm to their posture against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Generally, Obama´s foreign policy was perceived as an idealistic one, tough he was praised by the people and it was his policy which granted him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

So, back to the question, how do elements of the different International Relations theories reflect on Barak Obama´s foreign policy with regards to Iraq, Libya, and Russia?

We have two elements to discuss in here, realism and liberalism. Realism refers to the relations between states, and according to this theory, these relations revolve

around power. And liberalism, perceived as a factor of progress and change, liberals emphasize the notion of power against power and insist on the role of the

people, law and international institutions, which come to limit the power of States.

Let´s analyze the withdrawal of US troops in Iraq, beginning in 2007 started by the Bush administration, but completed by Obama in 2011 bringing an end to the Iraq War. He wanted to end this war in order to reestablish peace between the two countries, this is where realism highlights, he knew the situation between the two nations and the reason why the war stated, “power”. Bush and his allies believed that Iraq had in its possession mass destruction weapons and that Saddam Husein had been secretly cooperating with Al Qaeda. But what´s interesting is that the major reason why the war ended and the US troops withdrawal was public opinion, 55% of Americans believed that the Iraq War was a mistake, and 51% of registered voters favored troop withdrawal from Iraq in 2007. This fact illustrates perfectly the liberalism.

As he reduced the number of troops in Iraq and incremented troops in Afghanistan to stop the Islamic State, the main objective was to find the leader of al-Qaeda “Osama Bin Laden” and overthrow him, which was accomplished in 2011 by an American operative. This is one of the biggest asserts why the Obama administration is praised.

The same year, the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) coalition began a military intervention in Libya to stop leader Muammar Gaddafi from using violence to suppress popular demonstrations in his country. 10 countries helped enforcing a no-fly zone and naval blockade and giving military logistic assistance, of course the United States was one of those countries. Although at the end USA helped overthrow Gaddafi, Obama himself considers this event as the worst mistake of his presidency. ¿why? Because it left the country completely unstable. But again liberalism is shown as the public opinion was suppressed and the countries acted but not quite as well as they should, as they should have thought of a more realistic way to intervene without leaving the country in a crisis.

And finally, of course we need to discuss the situation with Russia. As we know this two countries couldn´t quite recover their relationship after the hostilities caused by The Cold War. Nevertheless, President Obama called for a reset between both nations, “The Russian Reset” in 2009. He announced that the US will not build the missile defense shield in Europe, as the Bush Administration planned to do, the Russian president Vladimir Putin responded by reducing Russia´s nuclear arsenals.

Although many people think that far from improving these countries relations, US has conceded just too much to Russia.

“A realistic policy is to accept that Russia has historic national interests in the region and that these should be considered, especially if the United States decides not to embark on another conflagration like Iraq”.

In conclusion, both elements, realism and liberalism reflect in almost every event caused by Obama´s foreign policy, because he merely based his policy around these two elements, he knew the position of the US in the world, and how his nation was seen from other countries, and he wanted to changed that image because Americans didn’t want to be in war anymore. He reflected liberalism when he thought about the public opinion of his country, and he reflected realism by knowing the relation of the US and countries like Iraq, Libya, and Russia, and the origin of the conflicts between the nations and how to approach and resolute each one of them.


Martin S. Indyk,Kenneth G. Lieberthal,Michael E. O'Hanlon. (2012). Bending History: Barack Obama's Foreign Policy. Washington D.C: The Brookings Institution.

Stephen M. Walt. (2016). Obama Was Not a Realist President. 31/08/16, de FP Sitio web: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/04/07/obama-was-not-a-realist-president- jeffrey-goldberg-atlantic-obama-doctrine/

Dominic Tierney (2016).The Legacy of Obama´s Worst Mistake. 31/08/16, de The