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Boston College Expert: President Obama's European Trip

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Jonathan Laurence

Jonathan Laurence
Associate Professor of Political Science
office: 617.552.8991
cell: 617-230-0387
Faculty website

Laurence is nonresident senior fellow in Foreign Policy studies at the Brookings Institution. His research interests are transatlantic relations, Islam in the West, European politics, and North Africa/Turkey. He is the author of two critically acclaimed books; Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France (Brookings Institution Press, 2006) and  The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims: The State’s Role in Minority Integration (Princeton University Press 2012). Prof. Laurence’s research has been featured in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio, and his articles have been published by European Political Science, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Crisis Group, Le Monde, The New York Times, Perspectives on Politics, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel  and other US and European periodicals and think tanks. He is completing a new book comparing the evolution of state-Islam relations in Turkey, Morocco, and Western Europe.


June 5, 2014

President Obama has used his four day trip to Europe to dispel some his critics' representations of American foreign policy, reminding a domestic audience and allies of the U.S. commitment to the region in the wake of the crisis in the Ukraine.

“President Obama’s foreign policy is more effective than he is credited for,” says Jonathan Laurence, an associate professor of political science at Boston College and nonresident senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. “There has been a lot of Republican criticism of the President because of his supposed abdication of American leadership in foreign policy. This trip gives President Obama the chance to demonstrate otherwise, and to show that his approach has consolidated alliances while standing up to international bullies — albeit without reaching reflexively for the U.S/ military arsenal. The de-escalation by Vladimir Putin is a reaffirmation of this administration's diplomatic approach towards crisis resolution.”

Last week, the President addressed graduates at West Point where he said when it comes to American leadership in the world, the use of military power would take a backseat to diplomacy, multilateral action, and economic pressure.

“Avoiding direct military threats from the E.U. or the U.S. during the Ukraine crisis lends support to Obama’s argument that the threat of military force should be used after other alternatives have been exhausted,” says Laurence, a past Berlin prize fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

In the wake of Ukrainian elections occurring last month with minimal incidents and Russia softening its hardline stance over the protection of ethnic Russians living in that region, the crisis in that part of the world appears to be easing. And the timing of this European trip is fortuitous for a president who has taken his share of lumps on the world stage.   

“It’s a chance to illustrate his grasp on foreign affairs at a time when the accusation being leveled against him is that he’s indecisive and weak,” says Laurence, who spent last summer as a guest researcher at Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin, a social science research center. “So this is a chance to showcase his ability to deliberate and to find middle positions of compromise in situations that we don’t want to exacerbate.”

Media Note:

Contact information for additional Boston College faculty sources on a range of subjects is available at: /offices/pubaf/journalist/experts.html


Sean Hennessey
Associate Director
Office of News and Public Affairs
Boston College

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