The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World

Derek Chollet. PublicAffairs, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61039-660-8
Chollet (coauthor of America Between the Wars), a “card-carrying member” of “Washington’s foreign policy establishment” and former Obama Administration staffer, sets out a lucid but not wholly persuasive case for the president’s foreign policy. Identifying a paradox where right-wing critics see Obama as weak and left-wing critics see him as overbearing, Chollet contextualizes the foreign affairs environment that the president inherited, describes his early diplomatic actions, takes the reader through a series of recent international incidents (Syria’s use of chemical weapons, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iran’s nuclear program, the rise of ISIS), and makes a checklist of qualities of Obama’s “long game,” including precision, restraint, and balance. Chollet only intermittently describes his own experiences, primarily taking an analytical approach. To supplement his memory and support his case, he pulls from the memoirs and speeches of Obama and his cabinet (most notably Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates) and analysis from recent articles in the popular press. Chollet provides cursory admissions of mistakes and alternative approaches but never thoroughly engages with criticisms or examines controversial aspects of Obama’s approach, such as the increased reliance on drone strikes. The conclusions feel like a predetermined defense of Obama against his critics. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/16/2016
Release date: 06/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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