Magazine article Foreign Policy , No. 182
Nearly two years ago, Obama swept into office promising to defeat terrorism, withdraw "responsibly" from Iraq, make peace in Afghanistan, forge "greater cooperation and understanding between nations," pursue a world without nuclear weapons, and "roll back the specter of a warming planet." And that was just one paragraph of his inaugural address.
"Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions--who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans," the new U.S. president declared. "Their memories are short."
If Obama's optimism wasn't immediately tempered by his predecessor's daunting legacy--two inconclusive wars, an economy in free fall, soaring deficits it soon became evident that his vision might have exceeded his grasp.
Twenty-two months later. Obama has notched a few significant achievements, and he remains popular around the world. But he faces rising discontent at home and a much less supportive Congress after midterm elections as economists warn ominously of a "double-dip" recession. Progress on issues ranging from climate change to Middle East peace to Iranian nukes has been scant--and it's hard to find an autocrat who has unclenched his fist. …