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Inside Story
How militarised is US foreign policy?
As Barack Obama wins a second term in office, we ask what the US foreign policy will look like going forward.
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2012 12:54

Barack Obama has won a second four-year term in office after a victory in the US presidential election. 

He recorded a clear win despite bitter exchanges over domestic issues, including lingering dissatisfaction with the economy and a hard-fought challenge from Repubican Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile, on foreign policy issues, a poll released in September notes that over half of retired military officers think that the US relies too much on the threat of force.

"We could be seeing the beginnings of more of a bipolar world where the big story is of America facing off against China. But so far the actual resources involved have been very modest and it is a much more complicated question. China is America's banker, it is a completely inter-dependent relationship."

- Mark Leonard, European Council on Foreign Relations

It is said that a US president has a bit of a freer hand in a second term because he does not have to worry about re-election.

And if that is true, how militarised will foreign policy be going forward?

In his first term, Obama oversaw the withdrawal of most US troops from Iraq and he is vowing to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2013.

But in Africa, the US department of defence announced earlier this year an increase of roughly 3,000 soldiers by 2013.

And in the Far East, Obama's 'pivot to Asia' policy also promises to beef up the US military presence there.

In the Syrian crisis, Obama is wary of either direct military intervention or arming the rebels, unlike what happened in Libya.

And on dealing with Iran and its nuclear programme, he prefers sanctions before considering military strikes.

"This US administration is looking for a strategic shift in a pivot to Asia, but the Middle East has a habit of coming back and getting people's attention. There are key interests the US has."

- Salman Sheikh, Brookings

Regarding the Palestinian issue, the Obama administration stalled on a push to freeze Israeli settlements. However, the peace process has not moved much since.

In his first term, the president vowed to end the use of torture in interrogations. He did manage to shut down CIA “black site“ prisons but outsourced detainees so rendition continues in another form.

In 2008, he campaigned heavily on closing Guantanamo Bay, which he has failed to do.

So, what will foreign policy look like in Obama's second term?

To answer this question, Inside Story, with presenter Sami Zeidan, is joined by guests: Mark Leonard, the executive director of the European Council on Foreign Relations; Salman Sheikh, the director of the Brookings Doha Centre; and Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the Military Transformations Programme with Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Barack Obama on Iran:

"The clock is ticking ... we want to make sure that if they don’t meet the demands of the international community then we’re going to take all options necessary to make sure they don’t have a nuclear weopon."

Barack Obama on Afghanistan:

"We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11 and as a consequence al-Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated. In addition we’re now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible way making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security and that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats."


THE US FOREIGN POLICY:

  • In his post election victory speech, Barack Obama spoke about moving away from war to peace
  • The US election coincides with change of China's leadership 
  • Political and economic relations between US and China have proven uncertain 
  • Romney accused Obama of being too easy on China on currency and trade 
  • Obama said at the UN that time for talks with Iran was not unlimited 
  • The US has vowed to back Israel in armed conflict with Iran 
  • Obama argues the US should not be premature in arming Syrian rebels 
  • The US provides humanitarian support for rebels in Syria 
  • Relations between the US and Pakistan have been strained over many issues 
  • The US criticised Pakistan for soft action in the war on rebel groups 

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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