Who wrote Barack Obama's 2012 victory speech

United States

Anjana Shrivastava

Anjana Shrivastava is an American journalist. She studied European history at Harvard University in Boston / USA and wrote as an essayist for the "Wall Street Journal Europe". Today she lives in Berlin / Germany and writes for "Die Welt", among others.

President Obama has already ushered in the end of two wars. On his orders, the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan return to American soil. This inward turn continues to be welcomed by a war-weary US public.

After more than seven years, the US officially ended its combat mission in Iraq at the end of August 2010. (& copy AP)

Incumbent Barack Obama was elected in 2008, among other things, as a critic of the Iraq operation. The war in Afghanistan now lasts longer than any other war in US history. The withdrawal in stages from the wars waged with allies in the Middle East is honored by the majority of US citizens, as is the finding of Osama bin Laden, which ended with his death, under Obama's leadership. Indeed, Americans yearn for any clear ending point when it comes to the September 11, 2001 tragedy and its aftermath.

But in the end there must be no feeling of restored security. The murder of the American ambassador in Libya, carried out by Islamist militias on September 11, 2012 of all places, and at the same time the civil war in Syria and the increasing tensions with Iran, by no means point to imminent peace times in the Middle East. That is why the Republican challenger, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, urges his compatriots not only to be vigilant, but also to continue fighting in the region. But will such calls from the Conservatives be heard by voters on November 6th?

Even if the election campaign has so far mainly dealt with domestic politics, new episodes and escalations in the Middle East could definitely shake the political climate in the USA. And even if, as expected, foreign policy will not be decisive for the outcome of this election campaign, this choice will also be a choice of direction in terms of foreign policy. Depending on who wins, Obama or Romney, the different approaches of the Democrats and Republicans will stand out clearly. The American role in the world of the 21st century is interpreted and shaped differently in terms of party politics.

A reset for the new millennium, which dawned so ominously on September 11, 2001, was the hope of President Obama's foreign policy team in 2008. Wouldn't a new era of American power be able to begin under Obama's steady hand? An era in which a clever, nuanced speech by the US President at the University of Cairo, or a clear commitment to America's role in the world at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo, is politically more effective than military brigades under the leadership of the neo-conservative President George W. Bush or his then candidate successor John McCain ...

Barack Obama's strategy

It turned out differently: Obama was also banking on a new era militarily. The skillful use of special military units or unmanned drones, for example in Pakistan and Afghanistan, should play a greater role now and in the future - despite resistance from the governments in Kabul and Islamabad, and despite the opposition of the American peace movement. The Afghan war should be brought to a successful end with a one-time and temporary "surge", an increase in troops, by the middle of this year. Only after this increase in the number of soldiers did the troop reduction begin in time for the 2012 election.

The continued US military presence in Asia has been increased noticeably to keep economic rival China's great power ambitions in check. The new US naval bases in Australia in particular caused a surprise and impression throughout Asia. America, the victor of the Pacific War in World War II, announces under Obama that it will continue to play a decisive role in the increasingly strategically contested South China Sea in the 21st century. Despite Obama's high popularity ratings in Europe, the White House under his direction never made a secret of it: the continent of the future lies in South and East Asia.

Mitt Romney relies on the tried and tested

Although Mitt Romney, as a former governor of Massachusetts like most presidential candidates, has no foreign policy experience, his campaign speeches and foreign policy advisers suggest a traditional Republican program for an eventual term in office. For Republican voters and leaders, the old conflicts in the Middle East remain of existential importance for the American people and the American way of life. In contrast to the Democrats, for example, they believe that robust handling of Iran's nuclear weapons plans may soon be necessary if international economic sanctions do not induce an Iranian relent. For the Republican Mitt Romney as well as for his predecessor as presidential candidate and today's Senator John McCain, the close relationships with traditional allies are much more important than the rapprochement policy towards traditional opponents.

similarities and differences

As has already become clear: Democrats are by no means the proverbial doves in contrast to the Republican hawks. The strategic differences between the party traditions in the USA are much more subtle than, for example, the mere, instinctive preference for diplomatic means on the one hand or the preference for military strength on the other. Democratic presidents like Obama or Bill Clinton as well as Republican presidents like George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan always use a colorful and changing mix of diplomatic and military measures. Rather, it is their political view and their understanding of international conflicts themselves that can be relatively clearly differentiated in terms of party politics.

These different foreign policy concepts, perspectives and schools of thought can still be found today in their ideal protagonists Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. In this sense, Barack Obama belongs to the Clinton school of international politics, just as Mitt Romney belongs to the Reagan school.

Ronald Reagan had broken with the traditional containment policy of American foreign policy towards the Soviet Union by making American military power clearly superior through his armaments policy. This policy of strength and pressure, flanked by the US-backed guerrilla war in Afghanistan, was not designed for an actual military confrontation. Nevertheless, or precisely because of this, it successfully achieved its goal: the collapse of the USSR.

Moscow's influence was not only contained, it was effectively brought to an end. Even if Mitt Romney would not inherit the same conditions in world politics or the world economy, he is committed to the Reagan line. He has already let the public know that he would put great pressure on Russia to support Iran and Syria. Romney is also apparently planning a tough stance against China. Where Obama first sought consensus on trade issues with China, Romney has promised a confrontation with China on economic issues from the beginning of his possible term in office.

Because Romney thinks the power of the American president is still great enough to achieve meaningful results through unilateral pressure. His constant slogan: "No Apologies" for the USA. For Mitt Romney, this also means a greater, emotional closeness to the military leadership. In an interview with New Yorker magazine he criticized: "We knew that a crucial point in warfare would soon be reached there, but he (Obama) spent almost no time with the military leadership. So he did not know in time, what kind of increase in troops was needed there. So you had to work out the decision and lost time. I think that was a mistake. Obama then decided on 30,000 soldiers instead of the 40,000 that the military wanted. That was another mistake. "

The Clintonian approach, on the other hand, emphasized the need for the US to be involved in international alliances and conflict management processes. Clinton stood for a certain globalization and internationalization of politics after the end of the Cold War.

Obama shows similar approaches, for example with his previous policy in Libya. There he prepared a new form of multilateral cooperation, "leading from behind", in which the American air force only offers strategically important support for European armed forces.

Clinton's focus was on reducing the dangers posed by a state like Iraq. His administration, like Obama's today, was anything but pacifist: under its doctrine of “humanitarian intervention”, it ordered far more military operations than Ronald Reagan! Hardly anyone in Germany knows that, but it remains one of many unpleasant truths for some. Nevertheless, it shied away from direct confrontation with opponents such as Iraq or North Korea in the course of a large-scale strategic measure. In a second term of office, Obama's behavior towards Iran or China would very likely also be shaped by such caution.

Two schools of thought - one country

There are important differences in America's Democratic and Republican traditions. Many critics always warn against any "Presidential War". The term presidential war evokes memories of Vietnam in the United States. Because it was above all the result of a long series of decisions made lonely by the presidents. Obama's close foreign policy advisor, Vice President Joe Biden, was, like Obama, a clear critic of the Iraq war in 2003 when Biden chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He argued at the time that such a momentous enterprise as a war against Iraq could only succeed with broad national support and a lively public debate. The Vice President has argued similarly in the Obama cabinet in recent years. He warned that there was not enough popular support for an American escalation in Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, US-waged wars have an inherent "presidential" component, despite the constitutionally clearly defined prerogatives of Congress to formally declare war. The President is the military commander in chief and thus has the advantage of being able to take the initiative for the first time. From his experience as governor in Massachusetts, one can assume that Mitt Romney would incorporate a strong presidential aspect into his foreign policy.

Different traditions establish different points of view

Behind these different approaches between the modern Democrats, the globalization politicians like Clinton and Obama, and the neo-conservatist modern Republicans like Bush Jr. and Romney, of course, have very different worldviews.

Clintonists avoid a policy of confrontation that puts friends and enemies abroad under pressure. The supporters of the Clinton School tried to avoid criticism of Bush's war plans by America's actually friendly countries, such as Turkey and Jordan. Behind this was the great concern that the war, which began as a war on terror by Al Qaeda, could escalate into a “clash of civilizations”. Such a struggle would ultimately be a triumph for Osama bin Laden and the end of the globalized, free trade world that emerged with Russia after the Cold War.

The opposing school has far less abandoned or distanced itself from the thought patterns of the Cold War. Conservatives see Clinton's view of the world as an infantile illusion. They believe that only a unilateral, goal-oriented policy of strength and pressure can guarantee peace in the world. Here one favors the polarizing rhetoric of the "axis of evil" or lightning war-like blows against Iraq or Iran, if one thinks that they can effectively prevent the opponent's war plans and armaments programs.

A leading neoconservative thinker, Paul Wolfowitz, addressed this conflict between the schools of thought while Clinton's tenure was still in office in an essay entitled “Fin-de-Siècle Again”, which appeared in the conservative magazine “National Interest”. There he describes the optimism prevailing in Europe at the turn of the last century that global prosperity and peace were within reach. But then the bloody 20th century began! Wolfowitz draws parallels to Clinton's reign with its rhetoric of globalization and unprecedented growth, enthusiasm for arms control and the feeling that the "end of history" has been reached. In terms of growth, however, Republicans believed that Clinton was only reaping the fruits of Reagan’s economic policies.

Under the motto "Fighting to win" - the group around the Republican Wolfowitz reflected on the need to redefine the global order after September 11, 2001. The doctrine of containment, which only wanted to banish concrete dangers, was rejected, and it aptly characterized the "fire-fighting style" which is derived from the arguments of containment - namely to only intervene where there is a danger. Obama's policy in the Middle East has elements of this very cautious pragmatism.

The supporters of Obama's policy, on the other hand, declare that half-baked actions such as the war in Iraq or even a poorly prepared and unpopular attack on Iran only stab wasp nests and ultimately generate even more terror and “asymmetrical warfare”. Reagan students find such objections naive. Romney follows this tradition. The Clinton students, on the other hand, accuse their opponents of ultimately creating "self-fulfilling prophecies" with their policies.

Example Syria

The civil war in Syria seems to provide the first test case of the specific differences between Obama and Romney. In a foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute in early October 2012, Romney argued for significantly increased military aid to the Syrian rebels so that the "Free Syrian Army" would have a chance to survive against the Syrian Assad regime, which was massively supported by Iran. Obama, on the other hand, tried to "contain" the conflict by putting pressure on Saudi Arabia and Qatar to limit their military aid to the Sunni rebels to small arms.

With regard to the deployment in Afghanistan, Romney explains that he does not feel bound by the 2014 withdrawal date named by Obama. These republican approaches are not a mentor for a return to the foreign policy of Bush Jr., at the same time a clear warning against all thought games of a withdrawal from the Middle East.