The election is over. President Obama was declared the victor. So what now of U.S. leadership in the world?
If you listened only to the political rhetoric of the election, you might think it didn’t matter anymore. After all Bin Laden is dead, Iran still doesn’t have a nuclear weapon and Middle East tyrants are being overthrown, right?
During his inauguration speech in January 2009, President Obama set the tone for his Administration’s foreign policy. Offering regimes an extended hand if they unclench their fists, President Obama placed murderous dictators at the same negotiating level as the leader of the free world.
Under the Obama administration, regimes such a Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism, have been undeservedly rewarded for their continued atrocities. Indeed, when Syria’s opposition rose up against the regime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton naively called the country’s ruthless leader, Assad “a reformer.” It’s now November 2012, approximately 30,000 Syrians are dead, and the United States has done little to prevent such atrocities.
Yet, Syria isn’t the only troublemaker in the region. Despite sanctions and attempts to deter Iran from building nuclear weapons, Tehran is determined to pay the price and its nuclear program remains in good health. While President Obama insists that all options are on the table, as of yet, Iran is showing no signs of backing down.
Likewise, throughout the region the Obama administration has repeatedly declared that al-Qaeda is “on the run.” Yet, Al-Qaeda has proven its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Since the Arab Spring emerged terrorism and extremist activity has proliferated throughout North Africa and the Sahel. The attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi and the death of four Americans exposed U.S. vulnerability and emboldened America’s enemies.
Ultimately, over the past four years, President Obama’s foreign policy decisions have weakened America’s credibility as the world’s superpower. Yet, with his reelection, President Obama has been granted an opportunity to learn from his failed policies and get it right this time. Now more than ever the U.S. must stop leading from behind and rededicate itself to a strategy of peace through strength.
With Iran, a credible threat of military force is necessary for Tehran to halt its nuclear ambitions. While from Africa to the Middle East, America must face the hard truth that while Osama bin Laden is dead, terrorism is not. Playing whack-a-mole with al-Qaeda leadership simply isn’t enough. Instead, the U.S. needs a comprehensive counter terrorism strategy to counter the continued threat of terrorism.
And, in Syria, the time for easy solutions to the crisis has come and gone. Yet by ending its outsourcing of foreign policy to the United Nations and working with likeminded allies to bolster the Syrian opposition, the administration can restore U.S. leadership.
The election may be over, but America still has the chance to reassert its role in the world.
As Ronald Reagan once said, “The reality is that we must find peace through strength."