Monday, April 14, 2014

Obama in Foreign Policy Trouble

On October 21, 2012, candidate Barack Obama was a confident defender of his foreign policy. From mocking his opponent’s claim that the navy had been weakened under his watch, to his ridiculing Mitt Romney’s observation that Russia is the U.S.’s number one geopolitical foe, Obama was in a comfortable position on foreign policy and judged to have won the foreign policy debate.
This is not the usual position for Democrats, especially those perceived as liberal as Obama, but he had pursued a strategy from the start of the administration to protect against the charge of weakness, all the while pursuing a policy of military withdrawal and international restraint.

He retained Robert Gates, G.W. Bush’s defense secretary; he stepped up a targeted drone strategy against Al-Qaeda suspected terrorist leaders; and he permitted a 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan, even while doubtful about the policy’s chance of success.

But today that confidence is gone as the President and his team manage a host of problems with no clear solutions and aggressive, despotic rulers in Syria, Iran and Russia who ignore his preference for negotiation and adherence to international norms.

President Obama’s foreign policy job performance is now rated lower than his overall performance (36% to 43%, CBS, March 2014), and Americans believe the country is weaker, its image worse and Obama less respected today than when he came into office.

It has been an extraordinary fall for Obama, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in his first year in office, largely for promising to not follow President Bush’s foreign policy. Unfortunately for Obama, his foreign policy is in trouble at the very moment his political capital is mostly spent.


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