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The Obama Moment: European and American Perspectives

When Barack Obama became president of the United States in January 2009, expectations were unprecedented. Although Obama had proven his ability to inspire the world, still at the end of 2009 the President said that “change…takes time.” Since this book was written last year the world has witnessed unexpected global crises and ongoing conflicts: the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti, the BP oil spill, a stalled Middle East peace process hampered by substantial diplomatic rifts between regional powers, and America’s war in Afghanistan becoming its longest in history.

 

When Barack Obama became president of the United States in January 2009, expectations were unprecedented. Although Obama had proven his ability to inspire the world, still at the end of 2009 the President said that “change…takes time.” Since this book was written last year the world has witnessed unexpected global crises and ongoing conflicts: the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti, the BP oil spill, a stalled Middle East peace process hampered by substantial diplomatic rifts between regional powers, and America’s war in Afghanistan becoming its longest in history.

The Obama Moment presents a wide-range of American and European perspectives. The authors analyze facets of Obama’s foreign policy and national security strategy and strive to make sense of Obama’s multilateralism. The book also highlights strains within the US-EU relationship, differences among allies on the world stage that stand in the way of reform of international institutions, and finally suggests how the strategic transatlantic US-EU relationship can be revitalized.

To provide a critical look of the Obama Moment, I compare the analysis presented in the book related to the US National Security Strategy (NSS) released in May 2010. The themes that run throughout this book remain but with added complexity, despite some breakthroughs on the NPT front, the signing of the START treaty, the vote on Iran sanctions at the UN, and the global economic recovery. The parallel between the NSS and the book adds a tool to examine the book—to what extent the analysis in the book was in line with objectives laid out in the NSS, and what themes we are likely to see in the coming years.

The 2010 NSS begins with a realist strategic concept: a lens that American foreign policy must accept “the world as it is.” The strategy also emphasizes “smart power” concepts, where the US must more skillfully manage cooperation among allies, adversaries, and emerging powers. Delinea

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