It’s election season in America. President Obama should therefore expect that anything he does is going to be criticised by the Republican opposition. But even on foreign policy, the president can’t win for losing. Only the killing of Osama bin Laden got him a grudging credit from across the aisle – and his bump in public opinion was shortlived in a country mired in economic crisis. He must be wondering whether he actually has to walk on water to get his approval rating back up.
Take Libya for example. Obama talked up the death of Muammar Gaddafi as an example of “the strength of American leadership across the world”, that had brought down al Qai’da, wound down the war in Iraq and started a transition in Afghanistan. The Republicans objected that a) the Libyan intervention was down to Britain and France, b) Obama’s dithering at the outset meant that the war took longer than it would have if he had been more resolute from the outset, and c) chaos could still ensue.
There was more to come after Obama announced the withdrawal of all the remaining 39,000 US troops from Iraq in time for Christmas. The Republicans charged that the decision was a) forced upon Obama by the failure of negotiations with the Iraqi government on maintaining a residual force and b)storing up trouble for the future. Naturally, the Republicans neglected to mention that it was George W. Bush who had signed an agreement with Iraq providing for the troop withdrawal deadline in the first place.
Of course Obama’s own presentation in each case is carefully crafted in the electoral context, highlighting his leadership, and his reliability in fulfilling his own election promises. But it goes to show that even in an area like foreign policy and national security where he appeared unassailable, he remains vulnerable to attack from Mitt Romney and the other Republican presidential contenders. As we saw last week with the bizarre plot in which, according to the Obama administration, elements of the Iranian government approached a Mexican drugs cartel with a view to assassinating the Saudi ambassador to the US, there will be plenty more foreign policy challenges for the president in the next 12 months. Including some that you couldn’t even make up.Tagged in: gaddafi, iraq, obama, republicans
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