An American Contribution to the Revival of a Hobbesian World

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When Barack Obama won the presidential elections back in late 2008, the entire world took a sigh of relief. US foreign policy practices under George W. Bush’s administration had caused strong disappointment and anger across the globe. By resorting to the use of brute force in an attempt at masterminding regime changes in the Greater Middle Eastern region, supporting democracy promotion as a security strategy, side stepping multilateral diplomacy in favor of unilateral diktats, dividing the world into two by labelling those who did not support noble American claims as existential enemies, the Bush presidency tarnished the US image abroad and diminished the credentials of American soft power. Subscribing to the formula of ‘unilateral if we can, multilateral if we must’, Bush and his associates harmed the credibility of international law, international institutions, universal values and humanitarian concerns. Stated somewhat differently, the word turned out to be more Hobbesian than Lockean during the Bush presidency.

 

Against this background, the entire globe felt extremely happy when Democrat Obama defeated the Republican candidate in the presidential elections held in late 2008. Obama adopted the view that the United States, under his presidency, would behave ‘multilateral if it can, unilateral if it must’. Obama promised that he would construct a new relationship with countries in the Muslim world, as well as other regional and global players, based on mutual respect and common strategic interests. Accordingly, the US would give up democracy promotion exercises at the point of a gun; lend support to democratization processes in other countries so long as they originate from internal dynamics; withdraw US soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan; establish a working relationship with Russia and China; take the opinions of traditional allies in Europe and Asia into account to the highest degree possible; value multilateral regional and international organizations, such as the United Nations, European Union and NATO, in the management of global issues etc. Extrapolating from the initial gestures of the Obama presidency, many pundits and observers concluded that the world would become a more peaceful and stable place than it was during the Bush years and we would, in time, end up in a more Lockean than Hobbesian security environment.

 

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