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As President Barack Obama prepares to deliver his seventh and final State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Foreign Affairs offer resources on relevant topics.
What to Watch for in the Address
In their weekly podcast, CFR’s Director of Studies James M. Lindsay and CFR.org Editor Robert McMahon preview the president’s address. In his latest blog post, Lindsay also shares seven interesting facts about the State of the Union.
Get Up to Speed With CFR’s Primers
CFR’s Backgrounders explain major domestic issues and international developments such as the role of the U.S. federal reserve, currency crises in emerging markets, the Russian military, U.S.-Cuba relations, international sanctions on Iran, and more.
CFR.org also offers a reading list on the topics that President Obama is expected to address.
Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy
“Obama will likely pass on to his successor an overall foreign policy agenda and national power position in better shape than when he entered office,” writes Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose in the September/October 2015 issue of the magazine, which assesses President Obama’s foreign policy record on a range of issues.
In “What Obama Gets Wrong,” Wall Street Journal Columnist Bret Stephens disputes that President Obama’s inheritance was uniquely worse than that of his predecessors. In Stephens’s view, Obama supporters have claimed credit for ending the war on terror while “evading responsibility for the resurgence of jihadism in the two years since then.” Evaluating Obama on his “ability to deliver what he promised, weaken the country’s foes and strengthen its friends, elaborate a concept of the American interest that is persuasive and true, and pass on a world heading in the right direction,” Stephens argues that Obama has failed.
“For the most part, [President Obama] has stayed true to the template of his Nobel address, keeping sight of the big picture as others have gotten lost in the shrubs,” writes Slate Columnist Fred Kaplan in an article about the decision-making process behind the president’s foreign policy in the January/February 2016 issue of Foreign Affairs.
“Far from being ‘contained’—as President Obama said in an interview that aired the morning of the Paris attacks—[the self-proclaimed Islamic State] is using its operational base in Iraq and Syria to mount an increasingly dangerous terrorist offensive,” writes CFR’s Max Boot in a New York Times op-ed. “In the past few weeks alone, the group has been tied to attacks in Paris, Sharm el-Sheikh, Beirut and Baghdad. Like previous totalitarian movements, ISIS, if left undefeated, will continue to expand its reign of terror.”
In an effort to end a “seemingly endless war on terrorism,” President Obama pledged to make his counterterrorism policies “more nimble, more transparent, and more ethical than the ones pursued by the George W. Bush administration,” writes Harvard University’s Jessica Stern in Foreign Affairs.
The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a militant movement that has conquered territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria. This CFR Backgrounder examines U.S. strategy against the Islamic State. CFR also offers Backgrounders on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, and other terrorist networks.
In November, CFR’s Richard N. Haass, Steven A. Cook, Philip H. Gordon, Farah Pandith and Graeme Wood discussed the attacks in Paris, violent extremism in Europe, and connections to the self-proclaimed Islamic State and terrorist movements around the world.
The Middle East
In a Foreign Affairs article about the Middle East, George Washington University Professor Marc Lynch writes that the Obama administration has “gotten the biggest issues shaping the region right. It avoided any deep military commitments in Syria and extricated U.S. forces from Iraq, secured a nuclear deal with Iran, and endorsed the Arab uprising.”
Sectarian conflict is one of the forces threatening to fracture Iraq and Syria. This InfoGuide explains the roots of Sunni-Shia tensions and how they could reshape the Middle East.
Of all the destabilizing developments in the Middle East, none is more consequential than the war in Syria. CFR’s Philip H. Gordon outlines the best chance for de-escalating the conflict and achieving a cease-fire.
The nuclear deal inked by Iran and major powers has implications not just for proliferation, but Middle Eastern security as well. Five experts weighed in on what the deal means for regional powers in this Expert Roundup.
The ongoing conflict in Syria and terrorist attacks in France and the United States have further stoked the immigration debate in the United States. This interactive timeline outlines the evolution of U.S. immigration policy since World War II, and this video from CFR’s Campaign 2016 series offers a primer on the issue.
The Economy and Trade
CFR’s Renewing America initiative offers research and analysis on the areas of economic policy that are important for reinforcing the United States’ competitive strengths—including infrastructure, innovation, and education.
The Obama administration recently concluded one of the largest trade deals in history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and is pursing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Hear what U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman had to say about the TPP agreement, and read this Backgrounder on the future of U.S. trade policy.
Climate Change and the Environment
Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessed the domestic and international implications of the Paris climate agreement and the future of U.S. climate policy and diplomacy in a recent CFR discussion.
This CFR Interactive explores climate change’s causes and effects, as well as U.S. policy options to deal with the issue. The Global Governance Monitor also offers issue guides on climate change and oceans.
This comprehensive Foreign Affairs anthology gathers twenty-eight of the magazine’s most influential articles on various environmental issues.
The growth of renewable energy and distributed generation is placing the aging U.S. energy grid under pressure at a time when concerns over its reliability are on the rise. This Backgrounder looks at options for modernizing the U.S. energy grid.
Fuel economy standards are a central element of U.S. energy security and climate change strategy. CFR’s Varun Sivaram and Michael A. Levi explore the case for maintaining stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in this report.
CFR’s Energy, Security, and Climate blog examines the science and foreign policy challenges surrounding climate change, energy, and security.
CFR’s Scott A. Snyder outlines steps the United States should take to lead coordinated multilateral action opposing North Korea’s nuclear status, while still leaving a denuclearized North Korea a route for regime survival.
Talks over Iran’s nuclear program have concluded with a deal that will limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for relief from economic and financial sanctions. Before the sanctions are lifted, Iran must show that it has implemented agreed-upon restrictions explains CFR Senior Fellow Philip H. Gordon.
President Obama recently outlined a series of executive actions intended to curb gun violence, including measures to expand federal background checks to most gun buyers. This CFR Backgrounder, U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons, compares U.S. laws with gun policy around the world.
Despite President Obama’s stated goal of closing Guantanamo Bay, the prison continues to hold detainees. CFR’s John B. Bellinger III argues that facility has outlived its purpose and that its costs to U.S. national security now outweigh its remaining benefits.
Phillip Carter of the Center for a New American Security, Marc Thiessen of the American Enterprise Institute, and CFR’s Matthew C. Waxman joined CFR President Richard N. Haass for a discussion on what to do about Guantanamo Bay.