In his first inaugural address, US President Barack Obama informed those regimes "on the wrong side of history" that the United States "will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."1 This bold offer was Obama's opening gambit in his signature effort to pursue rapprochement with America's longstanding adversaries. The new turn in US policy led to a much touted "reset" with Russia (that recently has become "unset"), helped transform relations with Myanmar and produced progress, albeit halting, in ties to Cuba. Obama's readiness to talk to adversaries has not yet borne fruit with Tehran, but it is the basis for Washington's efforts to find a negotiated solution to the stalemate over Iran's nuclear program.
Although not explicitly stated, Obama's pursuit of rapprochement with America's foes can be seen as an effort to advance international stability through trust-based co-operation among nations rather than competition based on the logic of power balancing. And even though critics on the right have attacked him as "the great appeaser and the groveler-in-chief," in the words of conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, Obama is not an isolated, starry-eyed idealist in pursuing this agenda. Indeed, despite America's reputation for deploying hard power in the service of maintaining hegemony, the US has actually been one of the modern world's main purveyors of a transformational, trust-based brand of international politics.