As I was getting ready to brag about our President’s national security and foreign policy accomplishments in the wake of Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi’s ouster and death, USA TODAY beat me to it.
So let me take the easy way out and just summarize what they have to say today about how “Obama builds on national security record.”
The article starts with what President Obama said in December 2009, when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize while leading two wars:
I face the world as it is and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.
On the much ballyhooed 3 a.m. phone call:
Belittled during the 2008 campaign by Hillary Rodham Clinton as ill-equipped to handle 3 a.m. phone calls at the White House and by Republican Sen. John McCain for backing “the path of retreat and failure” in Iraq, Obama has built a record on national security that’s proving difficult to attack.
On the success in Libya:
“Without putting a single U.S. servicemember on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end,” the president said Thursday in the White House Rose Garden. (He might have added: without the initial backing of Pentagon leaders and without seeking approval from Congress.)
On taking out al-Qaeda terrorist leaders, again the President:
This comes at a time when we see the strength of American leadership across the world…We’ve taken out al-Qaeda leaders, and we’ve put them on the path to defeat. We’re winding down the war in Iraq and have begun a transition in Afghanistan. And now, working in Libya with friends and allies, we’ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.
USA TODAY adds, “It was ironic that Obama’s 2008 foes were left to applaud Thursday’s events. On Capitol Hill, McCain said, ‘The administration deserves great credit’ for Gadhafi’s demise,” .
And, countering McCain’s criticism after “doling out credit,” Sen. John Kerry:
Though the administration was criticized both for moving too quickly and for not moving quickly enough, it is undeniable that the NATO campaign prevented a massacre and contributed mightily to Gadhafi’s undoing without deploying boots on the ground or suffering a single American fatality…This is a victory for multilateralism and successful coalition-building in defiance of those who derided NATO and predicted a very different outcome.
USA TODAY continues to praise Obama for doing most of what he set out to do on national security, including ending combat operations in Iraq to focus on Afghanistan and al-Qaeda; working in concert with allies when possible and going it alone when necessary —”most noticeably in ordering the stealthy, risky mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.”
Facing intense Republican criticism and sometimes even from his own Party, “… the president’s hard-nosed approach to national security could neutralize any advantage Republicans typically have on that issue and bring him grudging respect — even campaign contributions — from the defense industry.”
On actions speaking louder than words:
But behind the rhetoric, Obama didn’t veer far from the counterterrorism policies of the Bush administration. In fact, U.S. military and intelligence cooperation has led to far more successes against al-Qaeda, including the killings of Osama bin Laden in May and Anwar al-Awlaki in September.
While setting target dates for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, Obama has weathered the worst days of that war. This month, he ordered about 100 U.S. troops into central Africa to help put an end to atrocities by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
And today, the President announced the end to a nine-year war where we lost almost 4,500 brave troops and that he is bringing home the 39,000 remaining troops in Iraq with their heads held high — and in time for the holidays.
So, to sum it up (These are the President’s words today, too late to be included in USA TODAY’s recognition):
… the United States is moving forward from a position of strength. The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year. The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward, and our troops are finally coming home. As they do, fewer deployments and more time training will help keep our military the very best in the world. And as we welcome home our newest veterans, we’ll never stop working to give them and their families the care, the benefits and the opportunities that they have earned.
Well done and well said, Mr. President. And Thank You, U.S. military.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.