Obama’s leadership style: enabling transatlantic allies in Libya and Mali

With Jonathan Paquin and Philippe Beauregard


This article assesses President Obama’s transatlantic leadership style with regard to foreign crises and it contrasts it with the style of the previous Bush administration. It argues that the Obama administration exercises what we call enabling leadership, which implies that the US does lead, but that it does not feel the need to project ‘leadership from the front’. The article first analyses the diplomatic aspect of leadership by focusing on the ‘speaking order’ among the United States and three of its core allies, namely the United Kingdom, France and Canada. It presents a computer-assisted content analysis of the 482 official statements issued by these four states in response to the crisis in Libya in 2011 and Mali in 2012–2013. The paper then performs a detailed analysis of the financial and military contributions of the US and its allies to confront these crises. It provides qualitative and quantitative evidence suggesting that the Obama administration consciously adopted enabling leadership, a strategy that is consistent with the worldview of the president and his foreign policy entourage.


Paquin, J., Massie, J., Beauregard, P. (2017). « Transatlantic Leadership Style Under Obama: Or How to Enable French Leaders in Libya and Mali », Journal of Transatlantic Studies, vol. 15, no 2, p. 184-206. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14794012.2016.1268793

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