Inside Story Americas

Directing Obama's foreign policy

As the US president prepares to select a new cabinet, we ask what the global implications of his appointments will be.
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2012 08:30

US President Barack Obama is preparing to select his new cabinet.

But what do his rumoured choices suggest about foreign and economic policy in his second term?

"As soon as he is elected, the first thing [Obama] does, and his plan before-hand, is to go to Asia, to go to countries that China cares deeply about, and to go there are to goad China to take the United States on. We are putting more troops into Asia, we are pushing the Chinese in ways that have no strategic logic."

- Hillary Mann Leverett, former White House official

Obama has indicated that he will announce the new members of his cabinet after Thanksgiving week.

Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, is on her way out. And the most controversial name being mentioned to replace her is Susan Rice, the current ambassador to the UN. 

Rice's handling of the Benghazi attacks - which killed the US ambassador to Libya and three others - has placed her in an uncomfortable light.

Meanwhile, John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential candidate, is widely reported to be in line for the post of secretary of defence.
And the sudden resignation of the CIA chief, David Petraeus, earlier this month has also left another key post for the president to consider.
These appointments will suggest the direction of Obama's foreign policy in his second term. But some argue that the last few weeks have already provided the world with a glimpse of what is to come.

So, what are the foreign policy implications of Barack Obama's upcoming cabinet appointments?

"We are not hearing the names of economists and economic players who would be serious proponents of a 'we take care of our own' progressive political message. The tragedy of it is that these people do exist ... the kinds of folks that you could put in this position who a) send a very strong signal but b) also have somebody who knows the economy and has good ideas about how to act."

- John Nichols, The Nation

To discuss this Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by former White House official, Hillary Mann Leverett.
Another big decision for Obama is who will take over as secretary of the treasury. 

The appointment of the outgoing secretary, Timothy Geithner - who has close ties to the financial industry - was widely criticised by those who were hoping that Obama would break Wall Street's hold on the position.

But if the rumours of his potential successor are true, they are set for yet more disappointment.

The odds are on favourite Jack Lew, Obama's current chief of staff, who was a former executive of Citigroup, the Wall Street giant.

Also mentioned for the post is Erskine Bowles, the co-chair of the Simpson-Bowles commission on the US deficit.    

Joining Inside Story Americas, to dicuss the implications of the treasury appointment, are guests: Richard Wolff, Emiritus Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and John Nichols, the Washington Correspondent for The Nation magazine.

"Every president likes to understand themselves as having a doctrine. So crudely put, the Bush doctrine was 'Either my way or the highway' and he would use American power willy-nilly to make that come true. The Obama doctrine in the first term seemed to indicate that it was largely a continuation of the Bush doctrine, but with a much lighter touch. He promised, in a sense, a much more robust liberal agenda in the second term; his surrogates were talking about how America was going to come in now in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and how there was going to be an engagement with Asia, etc. But what we have seen in just the first weeks after the election is a different kind of aggressiveness, not a liberal aggressivness but a new kind of imperial aggressiveness."

Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College in Conneticut, discussing the "Obama Doctrine"


  • Changes are expected in President Barack Obama's second-term cabinet 
  • Many Republicans oppose a potential nomination of Susan Rice as secretary of state
  • Republicans criticise rRce over her account of the Benghazi attacks 
  • All cabinet appointees have to be confirmed by the US senate 
  • At least 60 out of 100 senate votes are required for confirmation 
  • Defence secretary Leon Panetta is expected to leave the cabinet 
  • Obama is to appoint a new CIA head after David Petraeus's resignation
  • Timothy Geithner will be leaving the post of treasury secretary 
  • Geithner is expected to stay on during talks to avert a 'fiscal cliff' 
  • Congress has to reach a deal by year-end to avoid tax hikes and budget cuts 


Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.
join our mailing list