chapter  11
18 Pages

Barack Obama

ByThomas Carothers

Upon taking office, President Barack Obama faced a daunting array of inherited foreign policy challenges – a war of course in Afghanistan, a diminishing but still difficult military engagement in Iraq, a moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, a collision course with Iran over that country’s nuclear programme, a broken relationship with Russia, a dysfunctional counter-terrorism partnership with Pakistan, and blocked negotiations with a belligerent and nuclear armed North Korea. Complicating this picture was a severe economic crisis, both at home and abroad, the harshest since the Great Depression. If this troubling international policy landscape was not enough, a further foreign

policy problem also awaited the new president – the seriously damaged legitimacy and credibility of American democracy promotion. President George W. Bush raised greatly the profile of American democracy promotion. He tarnished that profile badly, however, by closely associating democracy promotion with the American-led invasion of Iraq and forcible regime change more generally. The Bush administration also hurt the United States’ standing as a global symbol of democracy and rights through its serious abuses of human rights associated with its war on terrorism. The negative consequences were manifold: an international backlash against democracy assistance in many regions, with suspicion about democracy promotion especially high in the Arab world; efforts by European and other international democracy supporters to disassociate themselves from American democracy policies and programmes; and a marked decline in support from the American public for democracy promotion as a priority of their country’s foreign policy.2