U. S. Foreign Policy
June 15, 2013
Will Obama be forced to use military force in some global hot spots?

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended or winding down, President Obama has been reluctant to engage the United States in direct military action to solve ongoing crises in Syria, Iran and North Korea. Instead, he has pursued diplomacy and international sanctions while holding out the option of using military force. But sanctions do not appear to have convinced Iran or North Korea to discontinue their nuclear programs, which potentially threaten the United States and its allies. In Syria, the United States had resisted arming insurgents trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, but reports that Assad has used chemical weapons against his people have forced Obama to change his position. Meanwhile, the president’s growing use of unmanned drone aircraft in the war on terror is raising questions at home.

On his first visit as to Israel as president, Barack Obama greets
            a student audience in Jerusalem on March 21, 2013. (Getty Images/Moshe Milner) On his first visit as to Israel as president, Barack Obama greets a student audience in Jerusalem on March 21, 2013. Among other security issues, Obama and Israeli officials reportedly discussed Iran’s refusal to halt its nuclear program, which the Israelis say could be used to attack their country. The Iranians say the program is for peaceful purposes. (Getty Images/Moshe Milner)

President Obama repeatedly has said that “all options are on the table” when confronting adversaries, a reminder that he’s willing to use military force if diplomatic efforts fall short. Adopting a policy that has become known as the Obama Doctrine, he has tried to keep the United States from getting involved in another war, using diplomacy, including economic and political sanctions, rather than force when necessary. U.S. combat operations have ended or are in the process of ending in Iraq and Afghanistan since Obama took office in 2009. He has shown little inclination to engage the United States in new direct military action, even as his administration faces threats of nuclear attacks, power struggles in the Middle East and a shape-shifting terrorism menace.

Nuclear Challenges

North Korea and Iran — countries that continue to defy U.S. and international pressure to end their nuclear programs — present dangerous foreign policy challenges to the Obama Doctrine.