“The death of Colonel Gaddafi came at exactly the right time for President Obama. He has received harsh criticism for what perceived as his reluctant participation in the Libyan campaign. The outcome, however, will make it more difficult for his opponents in the presidential campaign to attack his foreign policy record.
The decision to withdraw US troops from Iraq – following unsuccessful negotiations to reach a satisfactory status of forces agreement – is likely to prove more politically contentious among Republican foreign policy experts, but it is in tune with widespread popular opinion.
As we have reported earlier, President Obama’s political advisers are seeking to position him as more adept in foreign policy terms than his Republican challengers who have shown little engagement with international affairs. To date, they are having some success. Whether this endures in face of other problems is an open question. The most salient of these is Pakistan. The sense of grievance at the very top of the Administration at what is seen as Pakistani deliberate failure to rein in anti-US forces along with Afghanistan is now reaching boiling point. In her article about US policy in Asia, Secretary of State Clinton described Pakistan as a “challenge” rather than as a “partner.” The stage is being set for a sharp escalation in US attacks across the Pakistan border from Afghanistan.
In parallel with Clinton, Secretary of Defense Panetta is also on a trip to Asia designed to underline the continuing US commitment to that region at a time of spending constraint at home. The US “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific has been developing over some years and, senior defense strategists have cautioned us privately, should not be misinterpreted as a shunning of the Atlantic/NATO region. Nuclear policy will, for example, continue to be governed by the US-Russia dynamic. Nonetheless, there is little doubt that China will loom increasingly large in US defense dispositions.
The death of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Sultan, will unsettle Washington Saudi watchers for whom the succession has been a major preoccupation. Although not unexpected, the likely successor as Crown Prince, Prince Nayef, is seen by US policy makers as less committed to reform and therefore as potentially out of sympathy with the pro-democracy movements in the region. He is, however, seen as reliably anti-Iranian.”