Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

2009’s story of the year

Peter Feaver In foreign policy terms, it has to be President Obama’s evolution from Afghan hawk to Afghan dove back to Afghan hawk (we think). This evolution will have a lasting impact on the president’s first term. On the one hand, the tortuous course raised doubts (confirmed fears?) about the Obama’s war-time resolve. On the ...

By , the executive director of the Clements Center for National Security and the author of The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink.
Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images
Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images
Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

Peter Feaver

In foreign policy terms, it has to be President Obama's evolution from Afghan hawk to Afghan dove back to Afghan hawk (we think). This evolution will have a lasting impact on the president's first term. On the one hand, the tortuous course raised doubts (confirmed fears?) about the Obama's war-time resolve. On the other hand, the president's decision to escalate means that when push came to shove, he ignored advisors who said he could protect American national security on the cheap.  

William Inboden

Peter Feaver

In foreign policy terms, it has to be President Obama’s evolution from Afghan hawk to Afghan dove back to Afghan hawk (we think). This evolution will have a lasting impact on the president’s first term. On the one hand, the tortuous course raised doubts (confirmed fears?) about the Obama’s war-time resolve. On the other hand, the president’s decision to escalate means that when push came to shove, he ignored advisors who said he could protect American national security on the cheap.  

William Inboden

President Obama embracing the role of a war-time president. For much of his first year, Obama seemed more interested in domestic policy (the economy, health care, etc) than foreign policy, and in particular seemed ambivalent about the role of being a wartime president (cf. the inexplicable delays in the Afghanistan strategy review). Yet in the past month — first with Obama’s decision to adopt a strategy for victory in Afghanistan, and then with his Oslo speech defending the use of American power and the concept of a just war — he has shown a new embrace of his role as a commander in chief leading his nation during a time of war.

Phil Levy

The recovery from the financial crisis. That does not mean we’re out of the woods by any means, but we can be thankful that we have so far avoided catastrophic breakdowns of the trade and banking systems.

Michael Singh

The most remarkable foreign policy story of the year has been Iran. The past year has seen dramatic developments in two intertwined story lines — the growing discontent and unrest of the Iranian people, and the increasingly tense showdown between the Iranian regime and the United States and its allies over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The former raises one’s hopes for Iran’s future and the latter serves as a reminder of the obstacles to the realization of those hopes.  2010 will likely witness a deepening of these crises, and the United States will face the formidable challenge of crafting a policy which is effective in halting Iran’s nuclear weapons progress, sufficient to maintain an international coalition, and true to our democratic values.    

Dov Zakheim

President Obama’s slow conversion to a realist foreign policy. He learned the hard way: he was frustrated in his attempts to engage enemies such as Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea; he was unable to bully the Israelis into shutting down all settlement activity on the West Bank; and he recognized that to be serious about winning in Afghanistan required far more troops than the Bush administration ever envisaged. But he did learn. In so doing, he now seems determined to squeeze Iran financially. The president has won the grudging respect of even his European allies, who finally have stepped p with pledges of troops for Afghanistan that no one could have predicted a year ago. And, amazingly, Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered an unprecedented — for him or any other Israeli prime minister — freeze on settlement construction.

Will Inboden is the executive director of the Clements Center for National Security and an associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, both at the University of Texas at Austin, a distinguished scholar at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, and the author of The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink.

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