“A Promised Land” by Barack Obama (6)

Large sections of the last 250 pages of the book are devoted to different areas and aspects of foreign policy. In so far as it is fair to summarise Obama’s approach in a single sentence, that would be his assertion that: “I was determined to shift a certain mindset that had gripped not just the Bush administration but much of Washington – one that saw threats around every corner, took a perverse pride in acting unilaterally, and considered military action as an almost routine means of addressing foreign policy challenges”.

As well the issue of climate change, he takes the reader through relations with Iran, Russia and China followed by discussion of the Middle East and the Arab Spring. As his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does in her memoirs “Hard Choices”, he explains some of the many conflicting considerations in any decision. “The world was messy”, he writes, and “in the conduct of foreign policy, I had to constantly balance competing interests, interests shaped by the choices of previous administrations and the contingencies of the moment”.

After the soaring expectations of Obama’s election, he concedes that “For most of my second year in office, we were in the barrel”. The reason was clear: “The economy still stank“. He refers to “the cumulative effects of exhaustion” and acknowledges that “Everybody was sleep deprived”. The mid-term elections are usually bad news for the party holding the presidency, but this time it was a disaster: “The Democrats had been routed, tracking towards a loss of 63 House seats, the worst beating the party had taken since sacrificing 72 seats at the mid-point of FDR’s second term”.

However, this volume of memoirs concludes with a chapter on the killing of Osama bin Laden, an action which was very popular with the US electorate. It is a dramatic conclusion to the book, but it is only two and a half year’s into the first term of the Obama presidency. So the second volume of these fascinating and eloquent memoirs will have to cover the next five and a half years.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>