Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Foreign Policy President

Obama's foreign successes may help little in 2012.

No, they will help a lot.

After almost 3 years, the reality is that Obama has enough foreign policy successes to rival any Cold War president. He can say that his policies had a direct affect on:

The killings of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al Awlaki.
Trade pacts with Colombia, South Korea and Panama.
The fall of Muamar Ghaddafi.
Ending the war in Iraq.
Bringing the troops home by the end of the year.

The world is most definitely still a dangerous place, especially for people who carry an American passport, and terrorist plots are being hatched at this very moment. The military prison at Guantanamo Bay is still open for business despite the president's campaign promise to close it. Our drones have killed innocent people. WikiLeaks has uncovered the less savory side of foreign diplomacy.

But as we stand here today, the United States is safer because of Barack Obama's foreign policy. He has been candid about our place in the world and the speech he gave in Cairo in 2009 was a contributing factor to the uprisings in the Middle East. He appointed a Secretary of State who has run the State Department with energy and imagination. In short, he has been a success.

When he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama was subjected to ridicule by Hillary Clinton and a Republican machine that had run successfully on national security since 2002. Clinton said that Obama would not be able to answer the 3:00am wake-up call. The McCain campaign and the RNC  said that electing a Democrat would invite terrorist attacks and make us vulnerable because Obama was possibly in league with foreign terrorists (remember the terrorist fist bump?). The depths of the Republican's resentment over Obama's success can be seen in their reactions to his policies. Only John McCain has congratulated Obama on the events in Libya. The Republican contenders this year have said virtually nothing.

The 2012 election will not turn on foreign policy, but given the unpredictability of events, it could be the tie breaker, especially if the economy improves (and it will). It will also be the focus of at least one presidential debate in the fall.  For now, those on the right seem to be moving in a more isolationist direction, though Mitt Romney has a more expansive view of how America should involve itself it foreign affairs. The other candidates are more interested in fighting over who will build the highest border fence, or whether an illegal immigrant cutting Romney's lawn constitutes a national emergency.

Obama has had a hand in eliminating 3 really bad guys from the world stage without gloating or raising a banner to his accomplishments. He shepherded an arms treaty with Russia through the Senate last December. He has work to do, but at this point he has a winning record.

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