I’ll go back to posting about the geothermal project later today, but I’ll take a quick foray into politics again.
In the last two days President Obama has hinted that the US pull out of Afghanistan would be faster than anticipated, suggesting it was time for the Afghans to take control. Secretary of Defense Gates claimed that NATO was close to a decisive blow in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile in Libya NATO forces have pounded Gaddafi targets as the rebels, for awhile in a stalemate with Gaddafi loyalists, now appear to be taking more towns and heading towards Tripoli. This, along with a flurry of diplomatic activity by China, may hint at a Libya end game.
If by the end of the year the US can point to success in Libya and Afghanistan, the electoral picture for President Obama gets brighter in 2012. The economy is still the main issue, but successful ends to those conflicts could help bring down oil prices (which as of today are down below $100 again). Oil price increases helped drag down job creation last month, and maybe one of the most important variables for job growth in the short term.
Iraq saw the deaths of seven American servicemen yesterday, but as bad as that news is, it accentuates the fact that such news has been extremely rare — Iraq is not a vibrant stable democracy, but it’s also not a hot bed of violence and unrest. In the decade since 9-11-01 we’ve seen wars spread, conflicts go in unexpected directions, and unrest emerge in the Mideast. Only a fool would suggest that is all about to pass.
But if the US can manage to end the decade by putting wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya into the past, allowing the President to campaign on a new foreign policy vision, it may be enough to help him overcome a slow paced recovery. More importantly, if the US can finally put these conflicts behind us, it will allow a thorough re-thinking of US foreign policy rather than having to react to circumstances which leave us limited options.
Today the President is meeting with German Chancellor Merkel. They have a lot to talk about. Merkel’s approach to the recession appears to be working better than Obama’s, and perhaps the two of them can coordinate plans to improve the global economy. They will also be talking about NATO, Afghanistan and Libya — Germany was one NATO country very skeptical of military action in Libya. I may be overly optimistic, but I get the sense that we’re nearing the end of a very difficult decade in US foreign policy.