The upcoming midterm elections are likely to have a significant impact on US foreign policy.
Barack Obama is facing a testing couple of years. If the Republicans do as well as expected, he will have much less room to manoeuvre on Capitol Hill.
He was riding a wave of Obamamania when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo – but even then, things were weighing on the President’s mind:
“I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict.”
The conflict in Afghanistan makes up a large part of Obama’s Bush-era inheritance. Despite a 30- thousand strong troop surge, the situation is worsening. The rethought strategy to tackle the Taliban has not borne fruit and US military losses are on the increase. There is also a growing sense of reluctance among America’s allies, who are conscious of losing troops themselves.
Obama promised to bring US combat troops home from Iraq and this he has done – but the chapter here is far from closed. A 50 thousand strong maintenance force has stayed in Iraq and the future of the country itself is far from certain.
Iran is turning into a major regional player.
At the UN General Assembly in New York, Obama re-emphasised his preference to proffer an olive branch to Tehran.
“Iran is the only party to the NPT (Non-proliferation Treaty) that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program. Let me be clear once more: the United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it.”
US-brokered attempts to encourage dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians may also suffer if Obama finds himself with shaky foundations at home.
If things don’t go his way, he will need the support of the Jewish vote at the Presidential elections in 2012.
As far as the emerging powers are concerned, Obama is accused by his critics of naivety in his relations with China.
If the Republicans do well on November the 2nd, he may be forced to adopt a more circumspect attitude towards Beijing.