Obama’s Mid-Term Report Card: Foreign Policy

Buried in our group post assigning President Obama’s midterm grades is a link to my New Atlanticist post “Obama’s Mid-Term Report Card,” which focuses entirely on foreign policy.

In it, I give the president grades at the two year mark for his handling of Europe, Afghanistan-Pakistan, al Qaeda and global terrorism, Guantanamo and human rights, Iraq, and North Korea.   My bottom line:


Call it a Gentleman’s C.

He began with absurdly outsized expectations, partly of his own making.   He was going to radically transform America’s relations with allies and adversaries alike.   But, while he remains much more admired in most capitals than his predecessor, he has nonetheless pursued essentially the same policies.  Which shouldn’t have surprised anyone:  Like Bush, he’s America’s president and represents American interests.

Further, he inherited a near impossible situation.  The country was engaged in two long wars.  The one in Iraq was winding down but the one in Afghanistan had been neglected.  And the global economic crisis was much deeper than he or most anyone else fathomed.

Then again, he has the luxury of being graded against that backdrop and following an epically unpopular president.

In any case, he’s likely got another twelve to fifteen months to change perceptions at home, else today will mark the halfway point in his presidency, not just this term.   Americans have tended to re-elect their presidents, though, and this one has demonstrated exceptional skills as a campaigner.    Absent a calamity on the scale of the 9/11 attacks, though, Obama’s fate will likely be decided on job growth and other economic issues rather than anything on this list.

Click the link for the rest.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    You and I used almost precisely the same words. We grade presidents neither by aspiration nor on the curve.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Yeah, it comes with the territory. It may not be fair but nobody begs anyone to take this job; just the opposite, in fact.

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I guess you guys do not consider the Brits to be important to our foreign policy. Obama has treated the British in a very poor manner. One that has left him and his wookie without an invite to the social event of the decade. I don’t think I would want Obama at the ceremony where I was marrying Kate Middleton either.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @ZR: While I think the bit about “snubbing” the Brits a tad oversold, I mentioned it in my EUROPE roundup — which was the first thing in my foreign policy report card.