Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 02/2009

Barack Obama's foreign policy what can NATO expect from the next U.S. President?

Patrick Keller

November 2008

NATO Defense College


Barack Obama was elected to the presidency of the United States on the promise of “hope” and “change.”2 Although somewhat vacuous, these promises worked because the people in America – and across the globe – overwhelmingly long for an end of the Bush era which stands for wrong wars (or at least wars gone wrong), hubris, and an overall decline of U.S. economic power, political influence, and moral standing. All presidents seek to leave their lasting imprint on foreign affairs, their doctrine. Most of them, however, merely oscillate between continuity and change: in the absence of major interfering events such as 9/11, institutional inertia, political constraints, and the wisdom of tradition most often push presidents to maintain the status quo while only tinkering with the edges. Revolution, in democratic systems, is a very slow process.