Steven Walt writes that Obama is likely to be zero for four on big foreign policy goals going into 2012, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Israel:
Obama didn't get us into Iraq, and he's doing the right thing to get us out more-or-less on the schedule that the Bush adminstration negotiated back in 2008. But it's now clear that the much-vaunted "surge" was a strategic failure, and Iraq could easily spin back out of control once U.S. forces are gone. Even in the best case, Iraq can only be judged a defeat for the United States: we will have spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in order to bring to power an unstable government that is sympathetic to Iran and unlikely to be particularly friendly to the United States. Americans don't like losing, however, and Obama is going to get blamed for this outcome even though it was entirely his predecessor's fault...
Obama's fundamental error was to run try to run a very conventional foreign policy -- one that turned out to be not very different from the second Bush term -- in a situation that called for far more creative thinking and a willingness to try new approaches and stick with them even if it alienated some domestic constituencies.
I think it's far too early to judge. If you view Iraq and Afghanistan as FUBAR, then finding some face-saver to get out of both places will be some achievement. Iran's isolation is as about as acute as at any time in recent history. On Israel, Obama was simply crushed by the pro-Israel lobby, and is now reduced to acting as Netanyahu's puppet. Marc Lynch differs on Iraq:
Obama is on track to deliver on his campaign promise to withdraw from Iraq --- something which voters might begin to notice next month when they discover that he has also met his promise to get down to 50,000 troops. He's already almost there, without anyone really paying attention, and he has admirably resisted all pressure and temptation to relax the timeline in the face of the political paralysis of Iraq's political class. What's more, Iraqi security forces and state institutions have proven quite robust during the extended political crisis, and the general security trends are not nearly as dire as the headlines would suggest. Iraq should be a major positive for 2012 if Obama makes the case, as I'm sure he will: he kept his promise on his signature policy initiative and it has worked out pretty well.
And the GOP alternative is.... staying longer? I don't see that as a political winner.
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