Sunday, October 23, 2011

Successes Overseas Are Unlikely to Help Obama at Home

Not only will there be little gain politically, but we could be witnessing a weakening strategic situation in the Middle East. Lots of instability across the region combined with a declining U.S. presence. This is a major transformation in international politics, but the concerns are at home, and Obama needs some successes on that front. See NYT:

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s announcement that the last American soldiers will leave Iraq by the end of this year capped a momentous week in which he could also take credit for helping dispatch one of the world’s great villains, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Conventional wisdom holds that none of this will matter to Mr. Obama’s frayed political fortunes, which will be determined by the economy rather than the notches he is piling up on his statesman’s belt.

Yet Mr. Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq — a campaign pledge kept — and the successful NATO air campaign in Libya — with no American casualties, and at a tiny fraction of the cost of Iraq — allowed him to thread a political needle: reaffirming his credentials as a wartime leader while reassuring his Democratic base that he is making good on the promises that got him elected.

This one-two punch may also strengthen the president’s hand against his eventual Republican opponent, according to Mr. Obama’s supporters, by depriving Republicans of a cudgel typically used on Democratic presidents, that they are weak on national security. The swift and fierce criticism of his Iraq decision by the Republican candidates shows how reluctant they are to cede this advantage to him.

“There is an aggregate effect to all the president’s foreign policy successes,” said Bill Burton, a former White House aide who is a senior strategist at Priorities USA Action, a political action committee backing the Obama campaign. “The notion of who is a stronger leader will be deeply influenced by the promises the president kept.”