A Hundred Days after the Election: Where is the US Heading?

A Discussion of American Foreign and Security Policy

07/02/2013 | 18:00 - 19:30 | Konferenzraum der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung Frankfurt a.M. | Young DGAP Members only

Discussion

Category: United States of America

Six months ago Barack Obama won his second bid for the White House. In light of ongoing economic problems, however, it is unclear whether American foreign and security policy will stay on the same course. Susan McManus, professor at the University of Southern Florida joined Josef Braml, resident fellow and US expert at the DGAP’s Transatlantic Relations Program, for a discussion moderated by Thomas Gutschker, political editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS).

The current economic difficulties in the US, from its enormous national deficit to its high (by American standards) unemployment level, are substantial. How will these factors impact the country’s foreign policy? The participants were of divided opinion. Susan McManus predicts a decrease in support among her countrymen for America’s presence abroad, at least temporarily. Many Americans are at the moment more concerned with “bringing their own house in order.” Josef Braml, on the other hand, was convinced that the US would continue to pursue a globally active foreign and security policy guided by its own interests – despite its strained budgetary situation and economic difficulties, which have even required cuts to military spending. The strategic importance of the Middle East, for example, is not going to diminish significantly. Washington will want to maintain its influence in the region despite the high costs, not least in order to ensure the supply of affordable oil to the local economy.

McManus and Braml were in agreement with regard to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The US will continue its efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, especially because of the importance of this for the security of Israel.

When moderator Thomas Gutschker brought up the subject of US-Chinese relations, both guests in agreement here as well, noting that Americans cannot ignore Peking. After all, the People’s Republic of China remains the US’s largest creditor. McManus ruled out a military conflict between the two states.

On the question of whether the Obama administration’s new Asia-Pacific strategy would damage US-European relations, McManus explained that this was highly unlikely in light of the significant cultural consensus on both sides. Across the world, Europeans remain the most reliable partners for Americans.

As for creating a transatlantic free trade zone, Josef Braml explained that it would not come to this for the time being (despite Vice President Joe Biden’s renewed support for it at the Munich Security Conference) – first because of the US Congress’s siege mentality vis á vis the president and second because of America’s even greater economic interest in the Pacific region.

Report by Ferdinand Abbate

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