Princeton University Library Catalog

Unprecedented Power: The Obama Administration and Light Footprint Foreign Policy

Hasler, Daniel [Browse]
Senior thesis
Cameron, Chuck [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
97 pages
Summary note:
President Barack Obama inherited a nation exhausted from prolonged conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq and keenly aware of the physical and monetary costs of not only the initial offensives, but the nation building campaigns that followed. Accordingly, the President altered the U.S. approach. By expanding and developing Bush era prototypes in drone and cyber technology, the Obama Administration reoriented U.S. foreign policy to a light footprint strategy based on minimal costs, maximal benefits, and limited liability. In doing so, though, the President morphed the way this nation goes to war into a constant, low grade campaign waged at the sole discretion of the executive branch. There is a robust debate regarding how much power the Constitution affords the President in wartime, but most contend that the Framers never intended for decisions of war to be made by only one branch of government. This thesis analyzes how, with the help of light footprint technology like drone and cyber weaponry, the President has upset the war time partnership between the executive and legislative that the framers envisioned. Through historical analysis I will frame the classic debate between executive supremacists and constitutionalists, and illustrate how this executive’s overreach is unique even among a presidential tradition of executive supremacy. Next, through two case studies I will explain how the expediency and covertness of light footprint weaponry have lent themselves to executive abuse, outpacing not only constitutional checks and balances, but other legislative attempts to increase executive accountability. Finally, I will make analyze various methods of restoring the executive-legislative balance, in particular decentralized modes of accountability like journalism.