When President Obama first entered into office in 2009, he was riding a huge wave of hope. He was going to engage other nations rather than confront them, work closely with allies rather than rush ahead unilaterally, restore the good name of the United States across the word and win over the Arab “street.”
In the following years, whatever success this strategy of engagement did yield, it did not measure up to the original expectations. Iran did not engage, North Korea continued its intransigent ways, the “reset” of the relationship with Russia did not stay reset, and the Arab street curved in many different, unexpected ways. True, the U.S. is more popular than it was before Obama first took office; true, U.S. allies carry more of the burden (especially in Libya) than they have previously. However, compared with the unrealistic expectations generated by President Obama’s first election, these achievements seem rather limited. Moreover, this stage — between 2009 and 2012 — was dominated by criticism from the left (e.g., “too many drones,” “too much leniency granted to the CIA” and so on) and the right (e.g., “too soft on Russia, China and Iran”).
As it tends to go with such progressions, the stage now is set for realistic idealism.
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