Professor Henry R. Nau

With an established reputation in the study of international affairs, the Elliott School of International Affairs and its faculty of staff are well qualified to make judgements on the actions of the politicians that the School’s students study so closely.
Professor Henry R. Nau delivered a somewhat damning assessment of incumbent President Barack Obama in his contribution to the Hoover Institute’s Policy Review. Nau commented on the foreign policy of the United States to be like a pendulum, swinging wildly from one extreme to the other as successive Presidents took office, each creating problems that now Obama must deal with. Clinton for example essentially blessed the unregulated growth of the banking industry (one of the main causes of the global economic downturn) and George W. Bush “made a virtue out of unilateralism” and “lost worldwide credibility” in the process.
He also posits that the “chances are good” that Obama will not be the one to stop the pendulum swing of U.S foreign policy. To Nau, after a year in office , “Obama continues to blame Bush shamelessly” for each new problem that he encounters” and portends that in the first year of his presidency Obama tried to tackle too much – resetting relations with Russia, visiting China etc. – his style “oriented towards “fixing” the world rather than “shaping” it”.
Nau concludes that Obama’s presidency will be defined not by how far or by where the “pendulum” stops , but by whether and where he decides to stop it. His multilateralism appears to be succeeding at the moment, but Nau posits that “sovereign principles of free peoples matter much more than shared interests with despots who espouse very different principles” and Obama needs to be careful whether his pursuit of global co-operation may end up hurting America more than helping it if he pushes the course of action too far over the next two or three years.

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