Nearing the last year of his presidency, Barack Obama and his foreign policy remain an enigma. At times, he seems to be the “realist,” working constructively with other nations to achieve positive solutions, as with the Iran nuclear deal and his rapprochement with Cuba. Other times, he slides into line with the neocons and liberal hawks, provoking ugly crises, such as his “regime change” tactics in Honduras (2009), Libya (2011), Syria (over several years) and Ukraine (2014).
Yet, even in some of those “regime change” scenarios, Obama pulls back from the crazier “tough guy/gal” ideas and recognizes the catastrophes such schemes could create. In 2013, he called off a planned bombing campaign against the Syrian military (which could have led to a victory for Al Qaeda or the Islamic State), and in 2014, he resisted a full-scale escalation of Ukraine’s war against ethnic Russian rebels resisting the new U.S.-backed political order in Kiev (which could have pushed the world to the brink of a nuclear war).