The U.S. embarked on Obama’s second term in office with Israel’s assault on Gaza. Obama, who had avoided commenting on the attacks in Israel during his first term with the excuse of not having been yet inaugurated, began his second term by supporting Israel’s new round of attacks on Gaza and by trying to postpone recognition of Palestine’s statehood in the United Nations. Speeches delivered both by Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton during the voting of Palestinian statehood appeared to have been a new page in America’s book on foreign policy. What neither of the speakers recognized was that in calling the vote “unfortunate” and “counterproductive,” they were in fact summarizing the foreign policy U.S had followed in the Middle East for decades. Can we in fact recall one U.S policy in the Middle East that was not “unfortunate” or “counterproductive”? The answer to this question is not all that difficult. The United States that had actualized the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe at the end of the Second World War, today, with the Marshall Islands vote, trapped the Middle Eastern politics between a political rock and a hard place.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the neocon administration was forced to hand over a seriously damaged government to the democrats. Obama, instead of trying to mend fences and repairing the damage had to “focus on America”. In this sense, Obama’s first years in office were years in which discourses of “post-America”, “global mission”, “equilibrium of new powers” and “the end of the empire” peaked. The developments taking place in Obama’s first term in office also intensified the discussions on U.S ‘s global role.
Clearly, this situation is not simply the result of U.S’s political stance in the world. Even more crucial than the political standing were the economic conditions. It was not only the lack of a “constitutive political rationale” that stood behind America’s policy to “stand back”, which was perceived as “American reticence” or “indecisiveness”. It was also the need to borrow forty cents on the dollar for every proactive intervention it undertakes. Obama’s second term in office that was won on the platform of “more America” and “less world” does not prepare a realistic political ground for the 2016 elections to run on a world oriented politics platform. Therefore, in the days to come we will see an administration that has to prioritize domestic problems.
In a scenario in which Obama does not focus on domestic issues, a complicated Mediterranean he did not touch in his first term in office, the still ambiguous structure of the Asian Pivot policy and a Europe in crisis await the United States. In a scenario in which complete withdrawal from Afghanistan is achieved, there is no real political ground for the United States to follow a proactive policy that requires funds. It is still vague whether the United States—which is signaling a policy preference of more ‘standing back’ with its new security team John Brennan, Chuck Hagel and John Kerry, compared to Obama’s first term in office—will quietly withdraw similar to Britain right before the Second World War. The U.S. still has the opportunity to capitalize on the next few years a period to restore and rebuild. The United States, which has turned into an exporter of energy with the natural gas revolution and which still has a lively economy compared to Europe still has a chance to become a determinative force, on the condition that it overcomes the trauma of an absent constituent political mind.
One of the most controversial topics of Obama’s foreign policy with drones. A U.S., whose only intervention in world politics reduced to drones, will remain stuck between its realist “observational politics” and Republican &