Given the harrowing experience of President Barack Obama and the debt-ceiling fight, the emphasis has been on the economy, yet the biggest threat to his re-election may come from the continuing struggle in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. With the loss of 22 members of an elite SEAL team outside of Kabul, reminders of endless conflict remain.
If Obama has been unimaginative in running domestic policy, Hillary Clinton has shown little spark in the conduct of foreign policy. Her persistence on Libya has shown she is very close to the Bush doctrine. Suddenly the United States is responsible for the welfare of all people, even though it cannot assure the prosperity of its own people. The embrace of David Petraeus' constant surge approach, which manages to boost American military prospects temporarily while doing next to nothing in improving the political situation.
Obama's first error was not correcting George W. Bush's foreign policy. Instead he adopted it as his own and essentially erased a key element of his own campaign. By not quickly closing out the fool's errands abroad, Obama advertised that his administration was merely a change in style, not of substance. These could have been quickly done and would have signaled true "change you can believe in."
The appointment of Clinton to the State Department brought back the years of Madeleine Albright. Remember Bill Clinton kept going a war in Somalia, commenced by George H.W. Bush. What did he get for his trouble? Constant carping by Republicans that he was not conducting the war to their exacting standards. In 2000, Bush campaigned that Clinton had not been "humble" enough in his dealings with others on the world stage. Now George W.'s foreign policy, that was humility for you, war galore.
However, Obama did a repeat of Bush campaigning for an enlightened approach before reverting to foreign policy as usual. Let's see what he received from his opponents, carping about his speech in Cairo. Even killing Osama Bin Laden won't protect him from criticism for a moment of rhetorical insincerity. But in fairness to his persistent detractors, they did not make Obama carry out Hillary's recommendations. He stuck with conflicts without end, a nasty opposition, and has no one to blame but himself.
From the beginning Obama has regarded himself as a cultural figure promoting amity and consensus. Give Republicans and tea partiers credit; they knew what they were about. Ideology over any other consideration, from Afghanistan to taxes, they were a party of anti-Obama, staying a step ahead of the president's efforts to agree with them. It is not unnatural for parties to want to thwart the other party's president. Especially when that president's success may mean 20 years in the political wilderness.
Obama's foreign policy indicated very early that he would not differ much from Bush on anything. He happily adopted his plan, pushed the surge in Afghanistan, and even for a moment gave lip service to "drill baby drill." Even George Wallace would be surprised that his comment of "there was not a dime's worth of difference" in the two parties has played out since 1968. They simply cannot agree, when at the same time waiting to shift positions when their opponents win. Same policies but interchangeable dissents.
Despite all, Obama still has a chance to make it right, and he must begin on foreign policy. End the comedy in Libya, finish withdraw in Iraq and speed up the Afghan withdrawals. No doubt we could keep our opponents at bay indefinitely, but only at a mounting cost of blood and treasure. This might begin to justify to those who had faith in Obama that their vote was merited.