Campaign Promises

Cabinet/Departments -> State -> Foreign Policy

Foreign PolicyGrade
The Promise: "Obama will personally lead diplomacy efforts beginning with a speech at a major Islamic forum in the first 100 days of his administration."
When/Where: Obama's Plan: "The War We Need to Win" dated 07/31/07.
Status:President Obama found his "major Islamic forum" when he addressed the Turkish Parliament on 04/06/09. According to the CIA World Factbook, Turkey is nominally 99.8% Muslim and Obama's speech was reportedly monitored by a majority of the worldwide Muslim and Arab community as broadcast by the Al Jazzera and Al Arabiya news networks.

A speech at the University of Indonesia Jakarta on 11/9/10 was branded by local observers as repetitive and redundant to a similar speech he delivered in Cairo, Egypt on 06/04/09. Indonesia's population of 240M is reportedly 90% Muslim.

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "We'll establish a program for the Department of Energy and our laboratories to share technology with countries across the region."
When/Where: Obama Plan "Renewing U.S. Leadership in the Americas", dated 06/06/08.
Status:During the 2009 Summit of the Americas at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on 04/17-19/09, President Obama announced the creation of the "Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas".

On 04/19/09, President Obama and his Mexican counterpart (President Calderon) established the US-Mexico Bilateral Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change, a key tenet of which is "...expanding our extensive bilateral collaboration on clean energy technologies to facilitate renewable power generation...".

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "Barack Obama and Joe Biden...will significantly increase funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other nongovernmental organizations to support these civic activists."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Strengthening Our Common Security by Investing in Our Common Humanity", dated 09/11/08.
Status:NED funding is usually under an appropriation provided by Congress to the Department of State largely for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The FY2008 budget allocation for the NED was $99.190M, but this amount was funded under the Democracy Fund, not under the conventional State/USAID route.

The enacted NED budget for FY2009 was $115M. Under President Obama, the NED enacted budget for FY2010 was $118M, the same amount appropriated under Continuing Resolution procedures for FY2011. For FY2012, President Obama requested that the NED's funding be reduced to $104M but the budget enacted by Congress remained at $118M. For FY2013, President Obama again requested a reduction to $104M.

Despite this early trend of trying to reduce NED funding, the Obama Administration regrouped and by FY2015, NED funding was increased to $148M and in FY2016 to $185M.

It's interesting to note that in CY2015, NED became the first Non-Government Organization (NGO) to be banned in Russia under a law against "undesirable" international nongovernmental organisations.

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "Restore U.S. leadership on space issues by seeking code of conduct for space-faring nations, including a worldwide ban on weapons to interfere with satellites and a ban on testing anti-satellite weapons."
When/Where: Obama Campaign Document "A 21st Century Military for America" dated 11/26/07.
Status:While there may be some intent to address this issue by the U.S. National Security Council, this is an issue involving all nations capable of interfering with any other nation's satellites through the development of anti-satellite weapons.

On 06/28/10, the Obama Administration released its "National Space Policy of the United States of America." This new policy failed to address the main thrust of this promise, as it does not include any statement supporting the notion that the Obama Administration is seeking "a worldwide ban on weapons to interfere with satellites and a ban on testing anti-satellite weapons."

On 09/27/10, The European Union (EU) presented an updated version of its "Draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities" to potential signatories for preventing harmful interference with space objects and refraining from intentional damage to satellites.

In 01/12, the State Department announced the Obama Administration's position that instead of signing the EU's proposed Code of Conduct, the USA would work with the EU and other nations to develop an "International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities." Yet on 02/17/12, Secretary Clinton endorsed the EU Code on behalf of the United States (joining Canada, Australia, Japan and India) while recognizing that the code was not legally binding and had no enforcement mechanisms.

As of end-CY2016, a finalized EU Code of Conduct was not yet in place. There are a total of nine countries with launch capabilities and more than 50 countries that have assets in space (space-faring nations) that would have to endorse the Code before it would be considered effective. If/when this happens, it will be impossible to monitor and enforce the Code's provisions.

It is clear that the EU, not the USA, exercised leadership in the drafting and finalization of the Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. Secondly, the USA has not been effective in introducing a worldwide ban on anti-satellite weapons.

As recently as 05/16, Russia tested its Nudol anti-satellite (ASAT) capability, joining China and the USA in their own development and testing of ASAT capabilities.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "He will open "America Houses" in cities across the Arab world...America Houses would offer state-of-the-art English-language training programs, discussions, and a wide selection of current periodicals, newspapers, and literature. They would offer free Internet access and moderated programs that promote direct exchange with Americans through the use of modern information technology."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "The War We Need To Win" dated 07/31/07.
Status:On 12/02/10, an "America House" was opened at the Pacific Place Mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, a non-Arab country in which the majority is of the Muslim faith. Opened with corporate support provided by Microsoft, Google, Cisco and others, this high-tech outreach center (known as "@america") was the first American cultural center of its kind in the world.

This promise was to open America Houses "in cities across the Arab world". Other than Indonesia, not considered an "Arab" country, another America House was established at the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem in CY2010. Notwithstanding upgrades to existing cultural centers in non-Arab countries and the operation of pre-existing America Houses (i.e. Munich), the promise as has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Obama also would launch a new "America's Voice Corps" to rapidly recruit and train fluent speakers of local languages (Arabic, Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa, Farsi, Urdu, and Turkish) with public diplomacy skills, who can ensure our voice is heard in the mass media and in our efforts on the ground."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "The War We Need To Win" dated 07/31/07.
Status:There has been no known initiative to provide any funds, either in President Obama's FY2010 thru FY2016 Department of State budget proposals, for the creation of the promised "America's Voice Corps."

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "They will work to double the IAEA budget in the next four years (increasing the U.S. annual share to about $225 million)."
When/Where: Obama -Biden Plan: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 09/23/08.
Status:The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) total budget for CY2009 was 350M Euros ($503M at the exchange rate prevailing on 12/31/09), meaning that to double its budget in four years required a commitment by the 151 member states to fund the IAEA by approximately $1B by CY2013. By end-CY2013, IAEA's total budget was 409M Euros ($560M at the 12/31/13 exchange rate).

The USA contributes to the IAEA via four separate appropriations:
(1) Direct Contributions to the IAEA's Regular Budget
(2) Voluntary Contributions to IAEA
(3) $10M per year for IAEA's Peaceful Use Initiative
(4) An average of $18M per year for IAEA contributions within the budgets of the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Agriculture.

The State Department's FY2009 budget for the U.S. portion of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s budget was about $200M, an amount maintained for FY2010. Ensuing year contributions were as follows:
FY2011 - $213M
FY2012 - $219M
FY2013 - $224M

First, the IAEA's budget did not "double" during the four years of President Obama's first term in office. Second, the funding goal of $225M reflected in this promise was not met. Still, the U.S. FY2013 contribution represented about 40% of IAEA's total budget. T only conceivable way IAEA's budget could have been doubled during the period CY2009-CY2013 would have been for President Obama to encourage the other 159 IAEA member nations to increase their contributions.

By end-CY2016, IAEA's total budget was 500.6M Euros ($526M at the exchange rate of 12/31/16). In dollars, this was only slightly above the original CY2009 total budget.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will lead a multilateral effort to address the issue of "odious debt" by investigating ways in which "loan sanctions" might be employed to create disincentives for private creditors to lend money to repressive, authoritarian regimes."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Strengthening Our Common Security by Investing in Our Common Humanity", dated 09/11/08.
Status:"Odious debt" is debt incurred by a repressive government for spending that is not for the benefit of its people or debt incurred to finance the repression of those people. Repressive regimes exist in Africa, South America, Middle East and elsewhere. This promise was intended to be an an international initiative, led by the United States, with global application.

As of end-CY2016, no significant political progress had been made on this promise since President Obama raised the odious debt issue during his initial election campaign in CY2008. While loan sanctions were imposed on a selective basis (such as on North Korea, Central African Republic, Yemen, Syria Iran), this was not the "multilateral" intent of this promise.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will take the lead at the G-8, working with and leveraging the engagement of the private sector and private philanthropy, to launch Health Infrastructure 2020 - a global effort to work with developing countries to invest in the full range of infrastructure needed to improve and protect both American and global health."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Strengthening Our Common Security by Investing in Our Common Humanity", dated 09/11/08.
Status:The 35th G-8 Summit held in Italy in 2009 did not include the establishment of a "Health Infrastructure 2020" as an agenda item. Neither was this topic addressed at the following summits:
- 36th G-8 Summit (dubbed the "Muskoka Summit") held at Huntsville, Ontario on 06/25-26/10,
- 37th G-8 Summit at Deauville, France on 05/26-27/11,
- 38th G-8 Summit at Capt David, Maryland on 05/18-19/12,
- 39th G-8 Summit at Lough Erne, Northern Ireland on 06/17-18/13,
- 40th G-7 summit at Brussels, Belgium on 06/04-05/14 (Russia was disinvited from the G-8 Summit due to its invasion and annexation of Crimea. The summit became a G7),
- 41st G-7 summit at Schloss Elmau, Germany on 06/07-08/15, and the
- 42nd G-7 summit at Kashiko Island, Japan on 05/26-27/16 where some international health issues were discussed but not the Health Infrastructure 2020.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will extend opportunities for older individuals such as teachers, engineers, and doctors to serve overseas. This effort will include a Global Energy Corps to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions overseas and promote low-carbon and affordable energy solutions in developing nations..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Helping All Americans Serve Their Country" dated 09/11/08.
Status:This promise, had it been fulfilled, would have been an extension of U.S. foreign policy much like the Peace Corps run by the State Department.

The creation of a "Global Energy Corps" did not materialize during President Obama's two terms in office.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will establish a Shared Security Partnership Program to invest $5 billion over three years to improve cooperation between U.S. and foreign intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This program will include information sharing, funding for training, operations, border security, anti-corruption programs, technology, and the targeting of terrorist financing."
When/Where: Obama Plan: "The War We Need to Win" dated 07/31/07.
Status:On 05/08/09, the State Department presented its FY2010 budget proposal. In it, State requested $90M to launch the "Shared Security Partnership" (SSP) to help address the "wide array of threats posed by terrorist organizations by building on previous law enforcement and counter-terrorist efforts to create a regional and global information-sharing and coordination infrastructure."

The Congressional authorization for FY2010 SSP activities included:
- $21.2M for Central America/Caribbean cross-cutting initiative to coordinate regional and global law enforcement and anti-terrorist efforts;
- $49.4M for border security, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, anti-corruption and anti-terrorism efforts;
- $9.4M for cross-cutting initiatives in Africa to coordinate regional and global law enforcement and anti-terrorist efforts;
- $3.3M for the Trans-Sahara SSP.
- $10M for SSP air and maritime equipment, training, and command, control, and communications (C3) equipment for the Caribbean;

The "National Security Strategy" presented by President Obama On 05/27/10 addressed the fact that the U.S. was "strengthening our partnership with foreign intelligence services and sustaining strong ties with our close allies." To that end, the SSP program was funded to the level of at least $93.3M in FY2010, as outlined above.

Since the FY2010 budget, there has been no specific mention of the SSP program in subsequent presidential budget submissions except as a subset of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) budget line item. Even if SSP program funding was sustained at $90M-$1000 for FY2010-FY2012, it is evident that the investment of "$5 billion over three years" in the SSP program did not occur.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will work for the release of jailed scholars, activists, and opposition party leaders such as Ayman Nour in Egypt."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Strengthening Our Common Security by Investing in Our Common Humanity", dated 09/11/08.
Status:- Egyptian Aymasn Nour was released from imprisonment for alleged electoral fraud on 02/18/09 reportedly on "medical grounds," but whose release within a month of President Obama's inauguration was viewed as an attempt by President Mubarak to repair relations with the USA that had been strained during the Bush Administration because of Nour's incarceration.

- Nobel Peace Prize laureat Myanmarian Aung San Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner in Myanmar, was released from house arrest on 11/13/10 by the oppressive military's proxy political party that was replaced by a nominally civilian government in 03/11. On 04/01/12, she was elected to the lower house of the Burmese parliament.

- Under pressure caused by President Obama's 05/22/16 visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Vietnamese Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, a human rights campaigner, was released from jail on 05/19/16.

- Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his associate Platon Lebedev received an initial sentence of nine years in 05/05 for fraud, plus another three years on 12/30/10 for embezzlement and money laundering. U.S. Senate Resolution #65 on 02/16/11 stateed in part that the conviction of the above individuals "constitutes a politically motivated case of selective arrest and prosecution that flagrantly undermines the rule of law and independence of the judicial system of Russia." Primarily due to the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev imprisonments, President Obama decided not to send any high level Administration delegation to the Sochi Winter Olympic games. This snub led President Vladimir Putin
to pardon Khodorkovsky, releasing him from jail on 12/20/13 while Lebedev was released by the Russian Supreme Court on 01/23/14.

- Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate, democracy advocate and writer Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in jail and 2 years deprivation of political rights on 12/25/09. The charge: "inciting subversion of state power." This was his fourth prison term. President Obama called for Liu Xiaobo's release on 10/08/10 and again on 12/10/10 when Liu Xiaobo was honored in absentia in Oslo as Nobel Peace Prize winner. As a Nobel Peace Prize winner himself (2009), it would have been inappropriate for President Obama not to recognize his fellow laureat in this manner. There were no formal demarches to the Chinese Government on this matter since then and Liu Xiaobo remained incarcerated for the remainder of President Obama's tenure in office.

- Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was originally sentenced to be executed for refusing to renounce his Christian faith in accordance with Sharia law. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) received assistance from the State Department in its efforts to secure Pastor Nadarkhani's release with a plea from Secretary Clinton on 12/10/11 that called for his "immediate and unconditional" release. He was released from custody by the Iranian Government on 09/08/12 as a face-saving measure.

The above are but very few, high-visibility examples where the Obama Administration attempted to influence the release of jailed scholars, activists, and opposition party leaders -- sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will increase support for the building blocks of durable democracies -- strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, and the rule of law."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "To Secure America and Restore our Standing," undated.
Status:This promise was headed toward non-fulfillment when the Obama Administration failed to support the popular uprising in Iran in CY2009. This was an excellent opportunity to influence the Iranian people's deep desire for democracy. On this matter, the Obama Administration hit the "mute button."

In early 08/10, future leaders from 46 African countries gathered in Washington, D.C. as guests of the U.S. Government to participate in conferences with American businesses and nongovernmental organizations. The conference themes included youth empowerment, good governance, and economic opportunity. When President Obama addressed this group on 08/04/10, he stressed his belief that good governance is at the center of economic development on the African continent and that there needed to be a "clear sense of the rule of law" for growth and opportunity to flourish. This was a key lesson for Africa's future leaders, a lesson that was heard throughout the world.

In 02/11, the people of Egypt took matters into their own hands, demanding the cessation of the 30-year Mubarak autocratic government. The Obama Administration' supportive reaction was commendable. Mubarak quit. In comments made during a press brief on 02/15/11, President Obama stated that governments in the Middle East "can't maintain power through coercion" and that "you have a young, vibrant generation with the Middle East that is looking for greater've got to get out ahead of change - you can't be behind the curve."

Despite President Obama's governing approach of "leading from behind," the campaign promise was to "increase support" for fledgling democracies. The above serve as examples where President Obama voiced that support early in his Administration.

Tangible (i.e. funds) to support this promise was also provided to fledgling democracies such as Iraq, Aghanistan, Myanmar, Egypt, Tunisia and others during the Obama Administration on condition that they respect the building blocks for attaining durable democracies.

This promise was fulfilled.