The introductory phase of Barack Obama's foreign policy ambitions concluded on July 11 before the Ghanaian Parliament, when a solo trombonist sounded
a few ceremonial notes. Obama had just finished his fourth major address on international affairs in as many months, and a few hours later, he would
depart home to Washington from his fourth overseas trip.
All the i's had been dotted and the t's crossed. In sometimes exhaustive, often repetitive detail, Obama has now traveled the world, from
Riyadh to Cairo and from London to Moscow — he plans to travel to China and other parts of Asia in the fall — offering up his international
vision, a hodgepodge of classic realpolitik, diplomatic determination, community-organizer idealism and charismatic leadership. He has presented what
he hopes will become a new public identity for the U.S., less global leader than global facilitator, less savior than responsible partner.
(Read "The Five Faces of Barack Obama.")
The effect of this change in tone, style and message will not be known for some time. What's more, it can be difficult to measure results in
international affairs — to say conclusively, for instance, that Russia's cooperation on nuclear-weapon reductions could not have happened under the
Administration of President John McCain or that the willingness of China to increase pressure on North Korea is anything more than a response to the
rogue nation's increasing belligerence.
(See pictures of Obama's meeting with the Pope.)
What is known now, however, is the outline of Obama's operating philosophy of world affairs, a set of principles and assumptions that were only
hinted at during the protracted presidential campaign. So what is the new Obama Doctrine? Here are five of its central pillars:
1. Biography Matters
During the campaign, Obama told American voters that his election as the first black President of goatherd ancestry and foreign upbringing could
itself change geopolitical dynamics. Since his election, he has been working hard to make good on that promise, aggressively marketing his background.
In Africa, he spoke about the colonialist mistreatment his Kenyan grandfather faced, and in Cairo he talked about his childhood in Indonesia, the
world's most populous Muslim nation. He presents himself internationally as he does domestically, as an embodiment of meritocratic achievement that
can happen in free and open societies. "I have the blood of Africa within me," he said in Ghana. "And my family's own story encompasses both the
tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story." His message was hard to miss: If I can do it, so can you. It was a message targeted directly at
the people of the world, not their governments.