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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Obama and the Middle East

The End of America's Moment
Fawaz A Gerges
Palgrave Macmillan


While he reversed some of the worst ideological excesses of the George W Bush administration’s foreign policy, he only brought the United States back to the cautious middle; he did not implement his own ambitious rhetoric. Measuring Obama's Middle East policy against his predecessor, and his damage control duties, Obama moved the United States from its underwater position. His Turkey policy has shored up ties with a rising geostrategic power, his outreach to Muslims has been, largely positive, though harmed by inconsistencies; his Israel-Palestine policy is a dismal failure; his Iran policy an uncertain gamble; his counterterrorism strategies technically successful; his goal of removing US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan has borne fruit; and his approaches toward the Arab awakening, a mixed bag.

 Although Obama understands the complex issues of the Middle East on an intel­lectual level, he has shown himself to be too timid when he gets into trouble. He is far from being a. risk taker, and he governs by consensus at home and by the national interest abroad. Given his sensibilities as a decision maker and the advisers with whom he surrounds himself, it is difficult to imagine how Obama’s ambitious promises could have been fulfilled. He was not disposed by sentiment and trainiing to pursue a transformational foreign policy against the wishes of the dorninant foreign policy narrative. It is no wonder then that Obama often retreated when faced with internal and external challenges to his policies.