Yet I think there is a still more general pattern: President Obama may have made himself better off, but not made American foreign policy better off. In a few instances (as with the Bin Laden strikes) the pursuit of the former has also happened to help with the latter. But in general, it is hard to look across the globe and say American interests are better secured today than they were a few years ago. His backers tout “ending” wars, but if we are ending (or perhaps only suspending) our involvement without achieving lasting success, what have we really gained?
Feaver keeps running into the same problem hawkish Republicans have for the last three years. None of them can fully acknowledge that the war in Iraq was a massive drain on and colossal waste of American resources that served no American interests. This same is true to a somewhat lesser extent for the war in Afghanistan. Ending U.S. military commitments in these countries is necessary damage control. There was never any question of gaining anything from the Iraq war. What “lasting success” could there have been? The U.S. has finally stopped hemorrhaging lives and wealth there. What might have been gained in Afghanistan already has been, which is why a continued presence there also makes no sense. Despite this, the standard Republican attack is that Obama “failed” to keep U.S. forces in Iraq* and won’t keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan indefinitely. Just on Iraq, it is hard to say that Americans interests are not better secured today than they were four years ago.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t failures and mistakes that one could point to as proof that Obama’s foreign policy is seriously flawed. The Libyan intervention has not been all that good for Libya, it has been a calamity for Mali, and it has flooded the arms market with weapons stolen from Gaddafi’s arsenal to the detriment of regional and international security. The deterioration of the relationship with Pakistan may be one of the most significant, least criticized aspects of Obama’s record. The administration has put unnecessary strains on the relationship with India over Iran, and its Iran policy is badly misguided in its obsession with the nuclear program. Administration policies for combating cartels in Latin America are a menace to the stability of several countries. Despite real improvements in U.S. Russia policy, the administration’s position on missile defense continues to be an unnecessary and useless obstacle to better relations. Unfortunately, the administration won’t be challenged on any of these points by its main opposition. Romney has already invented his own “simple pattern” to describe Obama’s foreign policy, and it doesn’t have much to do with the actual record.
* In fact, Obama did try and fail to keep a residual U.S. presence in Iraq, and we should all be glad that he failed.