On the campaign trail this week, Republican presidential candidates tore into President Obama's foreign policy record, saying, for instance, that they would take a far more aggressive approach to stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Despite these criticisms, Obama is able to point to a string of successes abroad, from the toppling of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi to the killing of Osama bin Laden. While the GOP has traditionally defined itself as the tough party that protects Americans — and scares our enemies — will Obama's foreign-policy edge put him over the top in a tight 2012 election?
Yes. Obama's tough-guy image could save him: In an economy like this, foreign policy won't be the first thing on voters' minds, says Michael A. Cohen at Foreign Policy. But none of the GOP candidates has convincingly passed the "commander-in-chief test" yet, and they're going up against an incumbent Democrat who has made huge strides in wiping out the top echelons of al Qaeda. "Not since the 1940s, has foreign policy performance or acumen been seen as a Democratic advantage. This year it is."
"The new national security party"
Are you kidding? Obama is a weakling: The president has demonstrated nothing but "self-abasement and weakness" with his foreign policy, says Michael Filozof at The American Thinker, apologizing for Americans at every turn. The trouble is, the Republican candidates have failed to point out his failings, such as the "illegal war in Libya" that America led from behind. If the GOP field wises up, it can paint Obama as the "Second Coming of Jimmy Carter."
"Prepare yourself for Obama's second term"
But GOP promises to do better aren't credible: Republican candidates pledge they'll have more successes abroad, says James M. Lindsay at Council on Foreign Relations. They say they'll get Iran to buckle, and convince Pakistan to stop supporting terrorists. They'd also supposedly bring regime change to Syria, and force China to "end its predatory trade practices." But the truth is that Obama's failures reflect the world's complexities, not his own weakness. Republicans can't credibly promise anything better.
"The 2012 elections and the Republicans' foreign policy"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- How Israel's hawks intimidated and silenced the last remnants of the anti-war left
- 10 things you need to know today: August 21, 2014
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- Why your employer should clean your house and do your laundry
- The fascinating political evolution of Paul Ryan
- It's time for the police to rethink 'shoot-to-kill'
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- The big policy question libertarians can't answer
- What you need to know before you support the police in Ferguson
Subscribe to the Week