The United States' foreign policy has changed dramatically since Sept. 11, 2001. Some ISU political sciences professors agree that the terrorist attacks have had a serious effect on both military and diplomatic efforts. 

"The Obama administration came into office with the intention to restore American prestige in the world," said political science chairman James McCormick. "It has made the United States more attractive, but has not turned the tide in terms of policy agreements."

Ten years ago, the world looked much different than it did today. Propped up by a very strong economy and a military, the United States appeared to be at the height of its power. However, with the attacks on Sept. 11, the nation was drawn into Afghanistan and later an invasion of Iraq.

Coupled with an economic recession in 2008 and the fast economic rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China, President Barack Obama came to power at probably the nation's weakest and least-respected times in recent memory and, because of that, many expect him to take a new approach to American foreign policy, McCormick said.

Much of the reason for Obama's popularity throughout the world is because many, especially in Europe, see the president as a definitive step up after the interventionist years of George Bush.

However, McCormick said the substantial policy differences between Obama and his predecessor have yet to emerge. Since taking office, Obama has sent more troops to Afghanistan, expanded drone attacks in Pakistan and even launched operations to Libya and Yemen, which are reminiscent of the approach taken by the Bush administration.

However, Obama has made efforts to set himself apart from Bush. First, he essentially withdrew most combat forces from Iraq. Second, the recent NATO intervention in Libya showed the world the United States was still a strong military force even though its European allies took more of a leadership role in securing a no-fly zone over Libya.

"Obama is a multilateralist," said Richard Mansbach, professor of political science. "The Libyan conflict is a good example of the way he thinks. When he went in [to Libya], he was only willing to go in with NATO support."

Mansbach said another main difference between Obama and Bush is that Obama views terrorism as a "law enforcement issue" while Bush declared it a war on terrorism. This may very well be the deciding factor in distinguishing himself from Bush.

Furthermore, the recent uprisings in the Middle East, known as the "Arab Spring," have presented a new way for the United States to present itself in the region. First starting in Tunisia, citizens in authoritarian countries in the Middle East and North Africa began to protest against their dictatorial rulers until many of them finally stepped down or were forced out. As of today, Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans have seen an ousting of the rulers who controlled their lives for decades. Syria and Yemen also have seen protests that threaten the rule of their leaders.

Because of the Arab Spring, many see this as a perfect opportunity for Obama to improve the United States' relations with the Muslim world because it is embracing the potential for liberal democracy to develop in these countries that have just overthrown their dictatorial leaders.

"When President Obama made a speech in Cairo, Egypt, in June 2009, he tried to appeal to the Muslim world ... and if there is an emergence of a democratic institution [because of the Arab Spring] we may see a shift in world perception," McCormick said.

While domestic issues including the financial crisis and the 2012 reelections dominate the political landscape in the United States, Obama still has the opportunity to make a strong statement on his foreign policy, a foreign policy that is different from Bush, but it all depends how he approaches the matter.

"He's cautious," Mansbach said. "He is less ideological in every respect he is non-ideological, but his weakness is he has never administered anything."

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