Barack Obama's Presidency

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In what ways could President Obama be considered a nationalist?

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In general, Barack Obama has not been characterized as a nationalist. In fact, Obama has frequently denounced nationalism.

Political ideologies and approaches, however, are generally classifiable only by human interpretation. As such, strains of any idea can be identified in any person given the right perspective.

Barack Obama has been criticized by some as a neocolonialist. This criticism has been leveled by President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, the African People's Socialist Party, and by a handful of other sources.

Neocolonialism is a form of post-colonial domination of the developing world by the developed nations that rely on indirect means of coercion such as foreign aid, loans, and dependency on multi-national corporations linked with the power structures of developed nations. It is, of course, an outgrowth of colonialism, and colonialism itself is often seen as interlinked with nationalism. Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University explains this phenomenon:

Some historians argue that colonialism was an outgrowth of nationalism. Once the people in the leading industrial powers started to strongly identify as British, French, German, American, or Japanese, they fell in love with the idea of planting their national flags all over the map. Hence, “empire.”

Therefore, if we accept the critique of Barack Obama as a neocolonialist, we may also be able to accept him as a nationalist, or a crypto-nationalist.

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It would be generally fairly difficult to call President Obama a nationalist.  If anything, he has been criticized roundly for not being sufficiently nationalist.  The Republicans have denounced what they call his “apology tour” because they say he did not stand up enough for the United States.  They denounced him for saying that the US is a special country but that the people of other countries typically think their countries are special as well.

If we are to say that Obama is a nationalist, we would need to look at things like his statements about China.  Obama has, at times, taken a fairly tough line on China.  He has tried to use things like statements about their trade practices to make it look as if he is being aggressive towards them.  He has also embarked on a well-publicized “pivot” towards Asia to try to put the US in a more powerful position in that region. 

On the whole, though, President Obama has not seemed nearly as nationalistic as many other presidents have been.

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