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Pragmatism or what? The future of US foreign policy

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Abstract

This article discusses the intellectual sources of the presidential candidates' foreign policies. In the case of Barack Obama, the article examines the formation of his worldview, his intellectual inspirations, his most significant foreign policy appointments and the diplomatic course he has pursued as president. Mitt Romney's foreign policy views are harder to identify with certainty, but his business and political career—as well as the identity and dispositions of his advisory team—all provide important clues as to the policies he will pursue if elected in November 2012. The article finds much common ground between the two candidates; both are results-driven pragmatists, attuned to nuance and complexity, who nonetheless believe—in agreement with Robert Kagan—that US geostrategic primacy will continue through the span of the twenty-first century. The gulf between the candidates on domestic policy is vast, but on foreign policy—Romney's bellicose statements through the Republican primaries served a purpose that has passed—there is little between them.

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