In four important areas, the White House set new foreign policy priorities: nuclear non-proliferation with the objective of ridding the world of nuclear weapons; a shift in emphasis from the traditional, Atlanticist orientation of the United States to a recognition of the growing importance of China as a potential collaborator; a reversal of the hostility felt by Muslims in the Middle East toward the United States; and progress in the wars on terror by quitting Iraq and surging in Afghanistan. In each of these areas, the president made important addresses and initiated policy approaches; and in each area, he was disappointed while the diplomatic overtures of the last four years have been generally quite positive, indeed more positive than at any time in the last decade.
Non-proliferation. This subject played out in two principal arenas, US-Russian relations and the effort to stem the development of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability. With respect to Russia, the White House inaugurated a “re-set” in the hope of overcoming Russian hostility in the aftermath of NATO enlargement in central and eastern Europe and the promise of defensive ballistic missile technology to former Soviet clients. The result has been disappointing as the Russian regime has moved studiedly in the direction of anti-US propaganda (anyone watched the RT channel lately?), attempting to lead a motley coalition of anti-American states, ratcheting up anti-Washington rhetoric and defining its own claim to leadership in Moscow by its resurrection of a distinctly Russian, vaguely paranoid anti-Western profile. We are, I am not sorry to say, quite a ways from worldwide nuclear disarmament. At the same time, however, the New START Treaty was smoothly negotiated and skillfully shepherded through Senate consent. Although it eventually led to resentment, US diplomacy did win Russian approval for the Security Council resolution that served as the basis for intervention in Libya.