Obama Deprives Republicans of Foreign Policy Cudgel
President Barack Obama’s foreign policy successes — most recently, the toppling of the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi — are of only marginal value to his re-election struggle.
The corollary is that Republican hopes earlier this year of a 1-2 punch against Obama — a soft economy and softness on national security, which were determinant in unseating another Democratic incumbent in 1980 — are diminishing. This time, they can only count on a one-punch, the economy.
The administration’s stepped-up drone strikes and the killing of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and a host of lesser al-Qaeda operatives makes an “easy on terrorism” charge a tough sell. Qaddafi’s demise after a U.S.-backed air campaign ties the bow on that campaign issue.
Moreover, most of the Republican presidential candidates, apart from libertarian Ron Paul and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, are in the camp of the neo-conservatives, the architects of the Iraq war. These advocates of an aggressive and expensive foreign policy are out of sync with U.S. political opinion and economic realities.
The Republican foreign policy traditionalists on the model of Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker seem absent.
Witness the reaction to the president’s decision to withdraw all forces from Iraq by year’s end. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney called it “an astonishing failure” that risked all the gains of the past decade; Texas Governor Rick Perry accused Obama of putting political expediency ahead of sound military security and “judgment.” Herman Cain simply said it was “dumb.” They all insist on keeping a residual force.