This article examines the interplay of discourse and practice in American grand strategy under President Obama. A particular focus is the trajectory of military intervention, from the ‘surge’ in Afghanistan to the campaign against DAESH, and how competing discourses of hegemony, engagement and restraint have informed U.S. national security policy and the application of military power. The paper analyses how President Obama followed a post-American vision of hegemony intended to lower the financial and human cost of American primacy through burden sharing and ‘leading from behind.’ This strategy resulted in a recalibration of American military power that shifted its emphasis to covert operations, and the use of drones and Special Forces in combating terrorism, while ultimately prioritizing the Asia-Pacific over the Middle East as region of vital strategic interest to the U.S. Oscillating between limited engagement and extraction from the latter region however, undermined America’s leadership position both at home and abroad.
- Perceptions Spring-Summer 2019
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