When Barack Obama was elected president, many commentators predicted a reversal of the ideologically charged foreign policy of George W. Bush. As the years unfolded, descriptions of President Obama's foreign policy diverged significantly. However, whatever label was applied, many scholars and commentators were quick to emphasize President Obama's pragmatism and prudence.

In an article published by the Presidential Studies Quarterly, Associate Professor Brendon O'Connor and co-author Daniel Cooper question this interpretation, arguing that it does not do justice to the role of ideology in the conduct of foreign policy during Obama's presidency. The pair make the case for seeing ideology as an ever-present influence on the conduct of American foreign policy, as all presidents draw on ideologies. In Obama's case, O'Connor and Cooper label his foreign policy “liberal-realist” due to its reliance on a combination of liberal and realist ideas.