Centre for International Law Research and Policy
Having served the Obama administrations for six years, the author offers his reflections on Obama’s ‘efforts to redefine America’s role in the world’, by examining ‘the intellectual foundations of Obama’s foreign policy’ (pp. xixf). He makes a plea for the long-term view in foreign policy. He anchors his reflections in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the Ukraine and Libya, in Iran, and in US-China relations. While weakened by its defensive tone – calibrated for contemporary US bipartisanism – Chollet’s narrative is clear and permeated by common sense. Obama has ‘redefined the purpose and exercise of American power for a new era’ (p. xiii), basing his ‘Long Game checklist’ on eight qualities: balance, sustainability, restraint, precision, patience, fallibility, skepticism, and exceptionalism. Obama champions American exceptionalism – that America is best positioned to lead – but the author warns against ‘how easy it is for the United States to lose its way. America has the power to act, but the challenge is how it should do so while heeding the lessons of the past’ (pp. 137f). It is about bringing 'the world together in common cause’ (p. 200). ‘Strength’, the author insists, ‘is using all of our assets – diplomatic, economic, and military – to build a global coalition to solving a problem’ (p. 201), while accepting that policymaking is ‘the collison of apirations and limits’ (p. xxi). The US faces fewer diplomatic, economic, and military limits than other states, but Chollet leaves us wondering about its longer-term aspirations. Are they only about solving common crises? Or should America lead a process to enhance the effectiveness of our common UN collective security system?