Grading Obama's Foreign Policy
Touted claims of major foreign policy accomplishment by the Obama administration include:
1. Iraq: ended the war in Iraq (U.S. troops out of Iraq).
2. Afghanistan: stabilized Afghanistan and began drawing down troops.
3. Al-Qaeda: attrited al-Qaeda (Got rid of al-Qaeda leaders bin Laden, al-Awlaki, al-Rahman).
4. Arab Spring: established democracy in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia (got rid of brutal dictators Mubarak, Gaddafi).
5. U.S. prestige: restored America's prestige abroad.
On the surface, these claims seem to have some legitimacy. An examination, however, reveals otherwise.
1. Iraq One of the primary messages of Obama's presidential campaign concerned the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. President Obama and America's military were able to implement this promise, as more than 90,000 combat troops were withdrawn out of Iraq by August 31, 2010. Last troops left on December 18, 2011.
The fact is, however, that Obama strongly opposed Bush's successful surge which demolished al-Qaeda and Sunni resistance. But even he had to admit (Sept. 4, 2008, Bloomberg) that the surge of American forces in Iraq has "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams'' and that "[t]he surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated." The Bush surge stabilized Iraq to the point where elections could be held and a government established. The Bush surge enabled the pull-out. Moreover, the Republican administration had urged that the U.S. maintain a back-up military force as an added stabilization factor to make sure that al-Qaeda and other resistance forces would not make a comeback.
That warning describes exactly what is now happening. Al-Qaeda is returning with a vengeance. Not only does Obama not get credit for the stabilization of Iraq, but his total withdrawal policy threatens to undermine the progress made by the surge.
Grade: F for opposing the surge, F for losing what was gained by the surge.
2. Afghanistan From a peak of 101,000 troops in June 2011, U.S. forces are now down to 91,000, with 23,000 slated to leave by the end of summer 2012. According to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the combat mission there will be over by next year. However, even the Washington Post questioned Obama's claiming "mission accomplished" in Afghanistan:
The president's speech had a ring of "mission accomplished" to it. The real test will come when Afghan forces begin to fully replace the U.S. troops who are leaving. That test will come soon enough, though given the timing of the troop withdrawals, the full impact of this announcement may not be apparent until after the 2012 elections.
And a leaked NATO report has already predicted failure.
The Obama plan merely puts off failure -- past the election, he doubtless hopes.
Grade: A for deception, F for result.
3. Al-Qaeda In 2011, Obama ordered the special forces raid of bin Laden's secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which the terrorist leader was killed and a trove of al-Qaeda documents were discovered. Also in 2011, Abd al-Rahman, al-Qaeda's no. 2 leader, was killed during a missile strike in the tribal region of Waziristan, Pakistan. Al-Rahman's death further weakens the terrorist group and brings "the strategic dismantling of al-Qaeda a step closer," according to CIA director David Petraeus.
It is hard not to come to the conclusion that Obama had to be pushed, prodded, and cajoled into giving the go-ahead to assassinate bin Laden. He even postponed three previous dates proposed by the Defense Department (claim contested by White House). Hardly the actions of the bold leader that the Obama team would have us envision in the Oval Office. Moreover, the government's Awlaki story hardly passes the laugh test. And finally, as noted above, al-Qaeda is making a comeback big-time in Iraq. And now Obama is protesting that he is being "swift-boated" by a new documentary critical of Obama taking credit for the bin Laden operation.
4. Arab Spring Unfortunately, here the issue devolves into what lies ahead. If the Muslim Brotherhood turns out to be the moderate, tolerant respecter of human rights that the Obama-Clinton team claim, then the entire populace from the Maghreb to the Nile valley will have benefited. That supposition is looking more tenuous by the week. Moreover, the pretense that the Obama-Clinton team acted as a catalyst for the Arab Spring is completely false. Here are some early indications that the "tolerant" version of the Muslim Brotherhood is foundering and that behind all the civility talk that seduced Obama-Clinton is the face of a bloody sharia-minded organization.
The Red Cross has been attacked with rockets and grenades in Libya.
Since Morsi became president of Egypt, there has been systematic persecution of the Copts.
Morsi is successfully purging secular forces in the military and seems on the path to implement sharia, as he promised in some of his campaign speeches. Moreover, he is closing down independent newspapers.
Grade: Incomplete, unsatisfactory to date.
5. Restored US prestige abroad.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama claimed that the influence of the United States of America is greater now than in many years. He said:
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about. That's not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That's not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they've been in years.
Let us first make a distinction between popularity (favorable opinion) and influence. Pew popularity polls do not necessarily translate into political influence or the projection of power. Let us also turn to the foreign press for some estimation of the relative status of U.S. influence. Here are some headlines from foreign-based news sources.
Latin American Unity Takes Center Stage as U.S. Influence Declines
US Influence Declines In Middle East
The Decline of American Influence
Moreover, Russia routinely snubs the U.S., with China beginning to follow suit. Or how about Russian attack submarines patrolling U.S. coastal waters? Does that not about sum it up as regards smart diplomacy fostering mutual respect among nations?
Grade: Incomplete, unsatisfactory to date.
It seems that the "smart" diplomacy of the Obama-Clinton team failed to grasp the basic power maxim: nature abhors a vacuum. That vacuum is being filled by China, Russia, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Clinton-Obama team also needs to read up on taqiyya and muruna.