Is Obama this century’s Wilson, Nixon, Kennedy or Carter?
When Barack Obama swept into power in 2008, his eloquence, international appeal and charm was compared to John F. Kennedy’s. As President-elect, he promised to pursue a prudent and pragmatic foreign policy that was in America’s best interest, in the tradition of the practical and ruthless statesmanship of Richard Nixon who was the first American president to recognise the People’s Republic of China. But one year later, with few foreign policy achievements and suffering the steepest fall in popularity in his first year of any US leader over the past century, Obama is being compared to either Woodrow Wilson – the idealistic president who became disillusioned having put his faith in the failed venture of the League of Nations – or else Jimmy Carter, a one-term President who achieved little beyond the loss of American confidence and morale on the world stage during his time in office.
Like Obama, Wilson and Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize. But both past leaders, although genuinely cerebral, are condemned by history as presiding over failed and ineffective foreign policies grounded on naivety and the poor appreciation for the realities of power. Is this the fate of Obama, or is there hope for American foreign policy?
Ted Galen Carpenter, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, will give his perspective on this issue. Carpenter received his Ph.D. in US diplomatic history from the University of Texas. He has written eight and edited 10 books on international affairs and is also the author of more than 350 articles and policy studies. He is a frequent guest on radio and television programs in the US, Latin America, Europe, East Asia, and other regions.