President-elect Barack Obama’s 300 member foreign policy team already moved from campaign to transition mode weeks ago, and now the challenge begins in earnest to prepare his administration for the various wars and other foreign policy challenges it will face after the inauguration.
The world may be looking forward to a “less arrogant American,” but in practice the foreign policy of an Obama Administration is likely to feature a more compliant set of allies in the west, a more Afghan-centric view of foreign policy, and more of the same elsewhere.
According to former Assistant Secretary of State Edward Walker, “the basic difference is going to be style.” Obama’s campaign may have been based around a theme of multilateralism and diplomacy, but in practice the US policy from Russia and China to the Middle East are unlikely to see anything but the most superficial changes from the Bush Administration’s.
Even in Iraq, which Obama made the centerpiece of his primary campaign, his position became increasingly indistinguishable from the current administration as time went on. He declared that “the surge succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,” and he began predicating his pullout on recommendations from the military commanders. The chief of Iraq’s presidential cabinet too believes that “US policy will not change,” only the approach.