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President Obama’s foreign policy leadership

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By Rick Howell

    If President Obama’s critics have any fairness about them whatsoever, even they have to admit that the foreign policy of his administration has largely been a stunning success.

    George W. Bush was full of swagger, bluster and a strong pro-war bent. “I’m a war time president,” the “Decider” used to remind us. He could politicize and propagandize the “war on terror,” he just couldn’t get results.
    Failing to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, Bush decided instead to stay and do something he’d said he wouldn’t do back in 2000: “nation building.”
    In March, 2003, he started what he’d wanted all along: a war against the man who tried to kill his father; a war against a nation that had never threatened or attacked us, and had absolutely nothing to do with Sept. 11.
    If there was ever a war we’ve fought that was unnecessary (and, sadly, there have been several), the one in Iraq stands out. It’s been up to Bush’s successor to put an end to it, and he has kept his campaign promise and ended that war.
    The president announced last week that the war in Iraq would finally conclude, with all U.S. troops coming home by the holidays. While a clear majority of the American people support this (most voters turned against the war in 2005), the Republican presidential field was aghast, and clueless.
Back in May, the president was able to do what Bush couldn’t. He put Osama bin Laden out of business, without the loss of a single American life. Just weeks ago, the same thing happened to the American-born cleric who apparently wanted to be Bin Laden’s successor.
    There should be a serious debate about the policy of drone attacks, but it’s clear that they don’t involve the loss of American lives. Obama has found that foreign policy objectives can be achieved without military invasions.
    He’s had yet another policy triumph in Libya, where his action was again criticized by the GOP presidential field. Some Republican congressmen even tried to sue the president for supposedly violating the War Powers Act (since when do they support that?), a case that was thrown out by the judge.
    Many of us had doubts about the NATO actions in Libya, and I still don’t believe that we and NATO intervened there to “prevent a massacre.” But the bottom line is, a homegrown rebellion has been assisted and has succeeded without the loss of one American life.
    We know the foreign policy views of most of those who would like to win the president’s job next year (with the exception of Ron Paul). They have no problem with “wars of choice,” they always prefer military over diplomatic solutions, and they see no reason to cut a seriously bloated military budget.
    This president has kept us safe, has ended one war, is in the process of ending another, has eliminated two top terrorist leaders and many terrorist fighters, and has supported and encouraged the democratic movements in the world we know as the “Arab Spring.”
    He’s done so without starting new American wars, a decision that has surely kept many an American soldier alive for their families and their communities. It’s called effective leadership; that’s what Obama has demonstrated as Commander in Chief, and he should get credit for it.
    One of the criticisms of Obama in 2008 was “he has no experience whatsoever in foreign policy.” That was true. But given his impressive track record, experience doesn’t matter as much as having the right vision and the will to prefer peace over war.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.