The Atlantic has a long and interesting article about Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
It discusses the use of chemical weapons in Syria; Obama’s take on Churchillian rhetoric; Obama’s appreciation for elements of the George H. W. Bush foreign policy; disagreements within the Obama foreign policy team; Obama’s views on Israeli security; Obama’s “secret disdain” for the Washington foreign policy establishment; his limited respect for foreign leaders (aside from Angela Merkel); a bit of his perspective on climate change (a “comparatively slow-moving emergency” and “a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it”); Obama’s views on ISIS (which he compares to the Joker in The Dark Knight); his perspective of the central role of U.S. leadership in international cooperation; the use of drones with “near-certainty of no collateral damage”; Pakistan as a “disastrously dysfunctional country” and questionable U.S. ally; the impact of tribalism and misogyny in the Middle East; America’s misunderstanding of Reagan and the Iran hostage crisis; America’s overblown fear of terrorism (“Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs do”); his frustration with “free rider” allies who don’t contribute to the costs of U.S. foreign policy objectives they support; and his views on the scope of executive power in foreign policy.
It describes the resentments which Obama had developed by 2013:
He resented military leaders who believed they could fix any problem if the commander in chief would simply give them what they wanted, and he resented the foreign-policy think-tank complex. A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as “Arab-occupied territory.”
On climate change, Obama is quoted saying:
“As I survey the next 20 years, climate change worries me profoundly because of the effects that it has on all the other problems that we face,” he said. “If you start seeing more severe drought; more significant famine; more displacement from the Indian subcontinent and coastal regions in Africa and Asia; the continuing problems of scarcity, refugees, poverty, disease—this makes every other problem we’ve got worse. That’s above and beyond just the existential issues of a planet that starts getting into a bad feedback loop.”
The article also includes some interesting analysis of how Obama adjusted his strategy in response to particular events, as well as interpersonal disagreements among his key advisors.
Another interesting comment is that Obama sees the Middle East as “soon be of negligible relevance to the U.S. economy” “thanks to America’s energy revolution”. It would be interesting to know if he means the noble course of improved efficiency and the deployment of climate-safe energy sources, or the massive expansion of oil and gas production which he has helped drive.