Beyond the economy

The president’s successes overseas deserve notice

It probably won’t have much impact on his re-election prospects—Americans seem to care only about the economy these days—but President Obama has had quite a run in the foreign-affairs realm lately. Last week saw the death of Moammar Gadhafi and the end of his brutal 42-year dictatorship, thanks in part to NATO’s finely calibrated air campaign, and this week the president announced that he was withdrawing all American forces from Iraq by Christmas, just as he’d promised during his campaign.

These successes come in the wake of others, including the killing of Osama bin Laden earlier this year and the destruction of the upper echelons of the Taliban and, especially, al Qaeda command cadres. America is safer because of the president’s careful but determined responses to overseas challenges, and its relationship with emerging democracies in the area has benefited from his thoughtful encouragement of the Arab Spring.

But you wouldn’t know that by the rhetoric flowing from his potential Republican challengers. Herman Cain, whose knowledge of foreign affairs is less than gnat-sized, seemed to dismiss the whole subject when he declared that knowing the name of the leader of “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” was of no importance to him. In fact Central Asia, of which Uzbekistan is a part, is of vital interest to the United States.

Mitt Romney, the man most likely to be the Republican nominee, wants to return us to the muscular, assertive, “spend whatever it costs” posturing of the Ronald Reagan and G. W. Bush eras. He wants to bulk up the Pentagon’s budget (now twice what it was before 9/11), reconsider the reduction of troops in Afghanistan, and project the kind of fighting potency that makes no sense in a world where the greatest threat is from suicide bombers and terrorist cells.

We hope voters will remember the president’s foreign-affairs accomplishments, but we’re realists: After all, it’s the economy, stupid.