Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 06:40 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 06:40 | SYDNEY

Obama not going back to the future


Michael Fullilove


25 June 2008 10:31

Sam touched on the outlines of a potential Obama Administration foreign policy the other day. The interview that kicked off Sam’s musings was revealing in a couple of ways. I suspect a President Obama would appoint a senior Republican to his Administration, perhaps on the national security side of the shop – notwithstanding that it would upset many liberals.

Such an appointment would send a welcome message of centrism to an exhausted American electorate. I’ve also heard the specific speculation about Robert Gates, who is well-regarded across the spectrum here. (If Obama needs any cover to appoint someone from the GOP, he need look no further than the liberal icon Franklin D. Roosevelt, who appointed Republicans Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox to the positions of Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy after the defeat of France in 1940.)

Furthermore, I think Sam can be reasonably optimistic that his plea for modesty will be answered. It is likely that the prevailing international circumstances (and George W. Bush’s many and diverse mistakes) will make for a somewhat constrained grand strategy regardless of who wins in November – although that has been the case for the last four years.

On the other hand, I don’t think that Obama’s foreign policies would closely resemble those of President George H.W. Bush. On the contrary, the two strategies would look very different, for reasons of ideology, personality and partisan politics – not to mention the fact that the international system has changed so much in the last two decades. It’s true, of course, that Bush pere was a much more impressive statesman than Bush fils, but I suspect there’s also a bit of gamesmanship involved in Obama’s praise for the former over the latter. (A 2004 article in the Atlantic by Joshua Micah Marshall similarly quoted advisers to John Kerry comparing the visions of their candidate and Bush Sr.)