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A Man With a Plan

Author: Charles A. Kupchan, Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow
September 6, 2012
Foreign Policy

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President Barack Obama heads into the home stretch of the 2012 campaign in an unusual situation for a Democrat. On matters of foreign policy and defense, Obama enjoys considerably more public confidence than his Republican challenger. For decades, the public has seen Republican presidential candidates as better qualified to handle matters of national security. But Obama has bucked the trend and effectively cornered the market when it comes to fulfilling the role of commander-in-chief and conducting U.S. statecraft.

Our colleague and sparring partner Peter Feaver, in rebutting our recent critique of Mitt Romney's foreign policy, also offers a take-down of Obama's diplomacy. While Feaver claims to give Obama credit as due, it is at best stingy, couched, and caveated credit. Sure, he says, Obama did the right thing by orchestrating a surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan -- but he then marred that decision by announcing an "arbitrary" timeline for withdrawal. Feaver gives Obama plaudits for unprecedented sanctions and other coercive measures against Iran -- but then says the White House just "went along with the British and French and the U.S. Congress," who really deserve the credit for the initiatives.

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