US Foreign Policy Will Not Change

The enthusiasm about the victory of Obama is huge throughout the whole of Europe. The alacrity is, above all, based on the assumption that president Obama will achieve a far reaching revolution in American foreign policy. The latter remains to be seen.

Obama became the preferred candidate with his message of change not only in the U.S. but also outside. Obviously we all assume that Obama’s policy will be very different from that of his rival McCain, let alone the policy of Bush. After the trail of destruction the latter left, the world indeed wants the promised change and especially in the foreign policy of the U.S.

Is it correct however to say that Obama will bring these far reaching changes? A glance at his election program and public statements suggest otherwise. Obama became known for his call to withdraw the American troops from Iraq. In this way he represented the opinion of the large majority of the American people. Gradually this position was moderated. Obama did indeed write in the New York Times that the U.S. must withdraw from Iraq, but not until 2010 and with an abandonment of a force for the hunt on Al-Qaida and the training of the Iraqi Army. We are not talking about a small group here: this summer the Democrat Richard Danzig, who probably will become the minister of defence, was talking about a force between 30,000 and 55,000 men.

By the way, it is not intended that the released troops will go home. They are intended for deployment in Afganistan, where Obama wants quickly to increase the number of fighting forces to overcome the insurgents. This however will not be enough. Under president Obama, the field army, seriously degraded because of the war, will be expanded by a further 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines. These extra troops will be desperately needed when the new administration further expands the front against Pakistan, opened by Bush. Obama has already, in August 2007, stated his readiness to invade that country.

The new Democratic president will look for rapprochement with his allies, albeit at a price: Obama and his vice president Biden will insist that the Nato-member states will deliver ‘more troops for collective security operations’. It is inevitable that there will be pressure on the Netherlands to maintain their forces in Afganistan.

Maybe these soldiers will also be necessary when Obama hangs on to his promise to adjudge Georgia becoming a membership candidate of NATO. In the next round of fights with Russia the entire alliance will be sucked drawn into the fight.


Obama’s support for Israel showed a remarkable similarity with that of his rival McCain: Obama thinks that the security of Israel should be the first goal in American Middle East policy. This point of view corresponds with that of McCain, who stated that the U.S. and Israel always must act together. By the way; that was also the starting point of the former president.

Maybe it is not that strange that Obama and McCain both promoted in their campaigns a robust foreign policy. Among the American voters there is a large majority of more then 80% in favor of the improvement of the image of the U.S. in international opinion. But at the same time 57% wants to maintain military superiority. The programs of both men reflected these two main elements of public opinion.

Furthermore it must be feared that wars of intervention will also be possible under Obama. The rabid neo conservative ideologist Kagan already wrote in 2007 that he considered Obama a co-interventionist. Anyway, let us hope that Obama will not be a follower of interventionism as opposed to diplomacy.

The big change that the presidency will bring will mainly concern domestic issues, like healthcare and income distribution. You cannot blame the Americans for considering these issues as more important than foreign policy. Usually European voters do the same. At the same time it shows the weakness of the American two party system. Fortunately we have more choices.

Harry van Bommel

Harry van Bommel is spokesman for foreign affairs of the “Tweede kamerfractie” of the Socialist Party (SP)

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply