1) I think it's safe to say that Obama has accomplished this very well. I'm not a big fan of drone strikes or special forces assassinating people, but I take a 'least worst option' look on this issue. IF Obama is serious about taking out AQ bases and leaders in Pak/Afgh - which it seems he clearly is - THEN, what is the least destructive way to do this? Which method causes the least social unrest in the ME and here at home? The least loss of life? Keep in mind that the govt's of these regions will provide no help (and in large part actually assisted AQ in hiding from us!).
I agree that the use of drones is one of the best ways to minimize loss of life while prosecuting this war but disagree about it being the best way to minimize social unrest.
I think you underestimate the social unrest these attacks cause, and the core reasons for it. Have a quick look at this: http://www.google.com/search?q=pakistan+drones+protest&tbm=isch
The main qualm they have is that we've corrupted their government into lying to them about sanctioning the drone use and have undermined their sovereignty in ways that Pakistanis generally find very humiliating. It is hard to predict what threats, if any, might emerge to the west from this but it's pretty safe to say that we've lost the hearts and minds in Pakistan (culminating last year, at which point we reached the point of no return for a while).
But like I said, the tactics aren't as objectionable to me as the strategy. If you are going to decide to keep killing the insurgents (and let's be clear that the majority of the targets are cross-border insurgents) then drones aren't a horrible way to do it but that doesn't say much about whether we should still be trying to kill the insurgents in the first place.
It's been clear for years now that we weren't going to defeat them and that we were going to have to make a political peace with them and I think accelerating that process and winding down the targeting of them should have been a process that begun two years ago.
From a personal viewpoint, I am very anti-AQ and think that taking out Bin Laden was essential for the US to move on from this last decade. Without doing that, we would have always had this dude hanging around out there, either causing trouble or at the very least being used by actual warmongers to start further trouble. I don't believe history will judge Obama all that poorly for his decision to do this.
Personally I don't really care about Osama either way. I don't mind him dead but him being alive hadn't been relevant (except symbolically) for some time. It made little strategic difference (except in that the way it was done, without cooperating with Pakistan undermined future cooperation greatly).
2) Iraq has been wound down on schedule, which is fine with me. Obama didn't do much to facilitate an earlier leave of the country, but he also ceased actual combat operations for the last year leading up to the withdrawal. But we've really fucked that country, no two ways around it; I have a friend who is over there right now trying to help get all the Depleted Uranium that we left there cleaned up and she says the place is still pretty wrecked and will be for a long time. Not much talk about that in the media.
First of all, he withdrew on Bush's schedule, not his promised one, and was trying to negotiate an extension with the Iraqis up to the last minute.
He campaigned on immediate withdrawal that would conclude
in 2009 (or as early as March 31 2008 in some campaign speeches) and said he's start it on "day one".
He gets no credit here, he campaigned on getting us out right away and once taking office tried to stay longer than even Bush had agreed to.
He completely failed to extract the diplomatic concessions needed (and that he campaigned about) the entire time as well and right now depleted uranium is the least of their concerns, the collapse of the political system and the re-ignition of sectarian violence mean we are leaving that place much worse than when we found it.
He gets no cookie on Iraq, he did not make it one bit better than when he inherited it.
Re: Afghanistan, this is one of my biggest gripes with Obama: the 'surge' there was politically motivated and ineffective. I wish Obama had worked harder in 2009 to reject the advice of his military leaders (Echoed by the GOP) and had instead announced that we were leaving soon, and - if we ever have to come back - we won't be so kind next time as to not level everything, so please, police your own citizens appropriately.
This is my core qualm with him. He's terrified of being seen as soft and has bowed to pressure from hawks on nearly every issue he has faced.
Instead, they decided to give it 'one last shot,' which did apparently nothing at all. At least Obama and Pannetta have been talking about wrapping the whole thing up in 2013 for good, we'll have to see what happens.
I think that the one last shot included the final straws for Pakistan. This didn't do anything positive but helped ensure a generation of Anti-Americanism in the region. Thankfully it should subside greatly when we leave but Pakistan will be a hotbed of Anti-Americanism for quite some time and repeatedly slapping the Pakistani government in the face severely limits both their willingness and their political ability (with the current government facing a strong possibility of a military coup) to cooperate with us in the future. And when we are gone having their cooperation would have been useful.
3) This is both an interesting and tough one, in the face of the recent revolutions and uprisings we've seen in the ME. How much support should the US give to countries' rebels? Should we provide active military support in Syria the way we did in Libya? Does our pursuit of objective 1 mean that we won't be able to accomplish objective 3? What about the belligerence from our ally Israel, how do we handle this?
There is currently no military solution for Syria at all, as for Libya it was a big mistake to sell the regime change as a "no fly zone" and promise no boots on the ground. That created a vacuum of power and Libya's current lawlessness (with the rebels now fighting and torturing each other while the central government stands completely helpless) may degenerate to be a worse situation that under Gaddafi's rule.
The prevarications in getting the resolution are also a big reason why China and Russia are putting their foot down on Syria. Unfortunately Syria is a problem that the US can't solve, Obama has had this one right so far.
As for Israel, he just bent over and took it. Bibi has totally outmaneuvered him and the only way he can fix this is for him to care less about being re-elected and more about achieving his goals. But you and I both know he cares more about being president than doing the right thing there and has punted that issue out of this term entirely once he got his nose rubbed in it by Bibi on the settlement freeze.
Obama (and some other nations) chose to intercede in Libya, and I had great reservations about that (I'm sure you saw them here on A2K), but luckily for him it turned out pretty well for the 'good guys.' But, the real game in the ME is Iran, and everyone knows it... I think Obama has to carefully avoid provoking a larger conflict with Iran while maintaining a tough posture, which is why you see statements on his part that sound tough.
Obama only has to do that if he cares about being re-elected enough to. If he were willing to just swing for the fences without worrying about being president longer he could have ignored these war drums but he'll beat them along with the others just so that Republicans can't contrast against him this way.
These statements are just as politically motivated as the ones the GOP contenders throw out; but, Obama's actions have shown him time and time again turning away from possible points of contention with Iran. When the Iranian uprising occurred in 2009, Obama did not support them, other than with the blandest of encouragement.
Bending over because of the GOP is an excuse that does not resonate with me as well as it does with you. I think his priority of political survival is not worth the compromises he makes and this is a big reason I do not want to see these enormous compromises rewarded.
When Israel repeatedly (per leaks from Wikileaks and reports from the media) asked the US to green-light attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, the US refused each time.
This is nothing new, Bush said no too the US would have to be batshit insane to say yes (it's not just green-lighting the strike but basically joining the subsequent war).
Obama has been vocal about the fact that our own ally is engaging in actions (further settlements in the west bank) that enrage their enemies and set the peace process back.
You don't get to use present perfect here (which implies a strong connection to the present) and should use the simple past tense. They only make meek statements about the general counterproductiveness of the Israeli settlements but barely pay lip service to this anymore.
Our Navy has been ignoring Iranian aggression in the Straits of Hormuz and even has spent a significant amount of time saving their ships from pirates.
The last part is untrue, they rescued one Iranian ship as far as I know and did not spend "significant" time on it (spending more trumpeting it for political gain than it took to execute) and Iran has done the same without blowing their own horn. Fighting piracy is a global operation and that was just a bit of horn tooting for political gain (horn tooting that I support, by the way, it made Iran say thanks, I'm just not willing to list this as anything remotely significant of an event).
In each of the above cases, ACTUAL warmongers on the right-wing (and some Jewish Dems) were calling for open warfare with Iran - a first-strike, and immediately. They criticized Obama's criticism of our allies' actions. I see a dude who is trying to maintain a peaceful balance - not someone who is pushing for more war.
Sure, and I wish Obama didn't sidle up to them a bit closer each time. The man's governing to win an election and is willing to compromise his ideals far too easily.
The real test for Obama will be to see if the drone attacks ramp down. If not, I'll probably start to agree with you a lot more than I do now.
They already did. Since this thread started a huge amount of things I want to happen have started moving faster that way.
The real test for me is whether he really plans to wait out the election year to really wind it down. I think he will, I think him getting re-elected is what matters most to him and that we won't see him return to any sort of principles till he's achieved that.