Peter Beinart’s account of Obama’s foreign policy record is extremely skewed:
The itinerary of Barack Obama’s 2008 foreign jaunt didn’t perfectly mirror global realities either. But Obama has gingerly acknowledged the new realities of a world in which American resources are dramatically more limited and in which the countries of the North Atlantic no longer tell everyone else what to do. He has scaled back Bush’s recklessly expansive war on terror. He helped the G20 supplant the overwhelmingly European G8, thus creating a forum that includes developing powers like China and Brazil. And his top advisers have spoken in Eisenhoweresque terms about keeping America’s military commitments from undermining its economic strength.
This outdoes Brooks’ panegyric in its unmerited praise. The “war on terror” claim is the most absurd and unfounded. If there is one area of Bush-era policy that Obama has continued and expanded, it has been the heavily militarized approach to counter-terrorism. The use of drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia has measurably increased since Obama took office.
Some may claim that the “war on terror is over,” but there isn’t much proof that the “war on terror” has been scaled back in practice. Obama’s line that the “tide of war is receding” sounds great as long as you don’t live in western Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, northern Mali, or Afghanistan. Obama ordered the increase in troop levels in Afghanistan because Afghanistan was supposed to be the so-called “central front” in the “war on terror,” which involved a dramatic expansion of the U.S. military presence there. The only overseas commitment that Obama has scaled back has been in Iraq, which was only tangentially related to the “war on terror” in that jihadists took advantage of the U.S. occupation of the country to wreak havoc.
Helping to supplanting the G8 with the G20 is fine as far as it goes, but the G20 has been famously unable to agree on very much and has consequently done very little. The expanded membership of the G20 certainly better represents the rising economic and political power of non-Western states, but expanded membership creates that many more divergent sets of interests to balance and coordinate. Obama’s advisers might speak in such “Eisenhoweresque” terms, but in practice the administration is committed to maintaining an absurdly bloated military budget that exceeds military spending at any time during the Cold War. There is no evidence that the administration is concerned to reduce the growth of military spending, much less return it to its pre-Iraq levels. Beinart’s praise for Obama here is as unmoored from reality as Romney’s criticism.