Let's be honest - after the terrorist attack on 9/11 this country went on a bit of a freak-out...wars, torture, Gitmo, terror threat levels, TSA, warrantless surveillance, etc. Its easy to simply blame the Bush/Cheney administration. But the truth is, they got re-elected after most of that was underway. So there's plenty of blame to go around.
President Obama had to deal with the legacy of that freak-out from the moment he was first elected. He assumed office knowing that another terrorist attack like the one this country experienced in 2001 could ignite more of the same. And he knew that allowing that to happen would threaten any attempt to wage a lasting peace.
I've always maintained that President Obama has actually had to deal with three wars: Iraq, Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror. He proceeded to end the war in Iraq, and this year will end the one if Afghanistan. But the Global War on Terror was refocused into a War on al Qaeda. While he stopped the use of torture and tried to shut down Gitmo, he used drones to target al Qaeda and the NSA's surveillance programs to track them.
I can understand the arguments the President's critics make against his implementation of a War on al Qaeda. But they are left with either making a case that the threat doesn't exist or offering alternatives to deal with it. I almost never hear either one. That's why a few years ago I began to speak up about the need to end this particular war and to track the Obama administration's signals that they were attempting to do so.
We are now six years into the Obama presidency and not only is Osama bin Laden dead, but there have been zero attacks by al Qaeda on American soil. Last year, with very little fanfare from his critics on the left, the President called for an end to this "indefinite war." Other than preventing another great depression and passing/implementing health care reform - I believe this will be his great legacy.
Not only that, he's responded to the more imminent threats from Iran and Russia by mobilizing the world to respond via partnership rather that simply inflame the situation with bravado. When he did use military intervention, it was in partnership with NATO to stop the massacre of innocent civilians in Libya and his threats to use it in Syria resulted in an agreement to get rid of chemical weapons. Unlike many of his predecessors, President Obama responded to the Arab Spring by encouraging the dictators in those countries to respond to the will of their people rather than coordinate covert coups to prop them up (remember everything from Iran 1953 to Chile 1973).
While President Obama's efforts at peace-making have not always been perfect and some are yet to reach fruition, I challenge anyone to point to a president in our history with a more progressive record in this area. I believe that two years from now he will have laid a solid foundation for peace that his successor can build upon. I hope the country choses wisely.
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