Conservative hawks may have underestimated the damage to their national security credentials wrought by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (and the failure to defend both), but the left is racking up quite a list of policy gaffes and misjudgments.
President Obama’s two main accomplishments — finding and killing Osama bin Laden and the use of drones — were both endeavors begun under the Bush administration and fully endorsed by conservatives. (The far left had trouble with both.) But when there were disagreements and controversies, when the answer wasn’t clear to an international challenge, how did the Obama team do? Can it actually say it had a sound take and solid judgment over the last few years?
The answer I think is obvious. Here are the top dozen Obama positions, many of which have been implicitly or explicitly rejected by the Obama team in its fifth year in office, which aptly demonstrate why the Obama team has proved how abysmal the left’s foreign policy judgments remain.
1. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the most important element in the Middle East and the key to unlocking a more peaceful era.
2. Libya’s leading from behind is a new model for national security strategy; and the killing of Osama bin Laden disabled al-Qaeda.
3. China could be engaged and thereby convinced to be a responsible partner on the international stage and a means of restraining North Korea.
4. Missile defense is an expensive fantasy.
5. Russian reset could provide benefits to the United States in the Middle East.
6. Big cuts in defense have no serious national security implication.
7. Failure to secure agreement to leave troops in Iraq would have no significant downside for the United States.
8. Israeli settlement activity was the significant stumbling block in the “peace process.”
9. Bashar al-Assad was a “reformer” who could be weaned away from Iran.
10. Sanctions and diplomacy would end Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
11. We did the Green Movement in Iran a favor by not strenuously endorsing it because that would only have tainted its image domestically.
12. If we relaxed sanctions on Cuba, the Castro brothers would moderate.
Each of these was a serious error with hugely negative consequences for the United States, its allies and the causes of peace, stability and democracy around the world. Collectively it has been a horror show. And interestingly, conservatives opposed the Obama team on each and every one of them.
So after the Obama presidency is over, which party will have established a more credible track record on the issues we confronted since 2009? (Remember both the Iraq and Afghanistan operations had overwhelming bipartisan support at the onset.)
Moreover, what accomplishments unique to the Obama team (sorry, bin Laden’s killing doesn’t count) can it and its leftist gurus point to that are as impressive as removing Saddam Hussein, turning over to the next administration a stable and pro-America Iraq and saving millions of lives in Africa?