Terrorism: Last year, a U.S. team killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Getting rid of the most wanted terrorist is good and such a targeted assassination, it can be argued, was necessary to work toward peace. But al-Qaeda is still alive, having been taken over by bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. It’s branched out with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more. It’s exploiting revolutions in the Arab world in an effort to gain a foothold in shaky new democracies and citizen rebellions. It’s inspired countless more militants who know that the slaying of an idolized leader is not the end to a war on terror, but another rallying cry to strike against the U.S. and American interests. And another 9/11 attack last month took the lives of four Americans in Benghazi, including the first U.S. ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1988.
Middle East peace: This was one of the goals of Obama upon coming into office — advance the peace process. In a July TV interview, Obama named the failure to do so as one of his personal failures as president. “It’s something we focused on very early. But the truth of the matter is that the parties, they’ve got to want it as well,” Obama said. Problem is, in the process of this push, the White House has pushed stalwart ally Israel further away than ever. Double fail.
Iran: Nuclear weapons aren’t very peaceful. Believing that the Islamic Republic just wants its centrifuges and secret plants and weapons-grade uranium for medical research and energy is naive. Yet the White House has firmly held to its conviction that diplomacy along with sanctions will derail Iran’s nuclear program that has steadily advanced over Obama’s term (see Bibi’s red line speech). Considering how Tehran dances around P5+1 talks, it’s a stretch to say that diplomacy is being conducted. And even though sanctions bite, they’re not proving a deterrent to a messianic nuclear quest. If peace is achieved through strength, where will lukewarm resolve lead?
Arab Spring: The administration was clearly taken aback by how to respond to these grass-roots expressions of people power. Obama has bragged of American support for these democratic movements, and taken a bit too much credit for air support led by the French and British that aided Libyan rebels in overthrowing dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But the White House has been selective in its support. Iranians cried for U.S. help in their 2009 Green Revolution, a memo to Washington that went unanswered. Peaceful (and extremely brave) protests against Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad were treated with kid gloves by a wary White House, and now the security situation has deteriorated to a point where, if there’s no help from the rest of the world, rebels are greater targets to well-heeled extremists who want to weasel in. More than 30,000 Syrians have died from the brutal government crackdown. And a Jasmine Revolution in China? Forget any support of that.
UN Human Rights Council: The Obama administration reversed Bush-era policy on shunning the discredited HRC, which boasts human-rights-abusing nations as members. The pledge was that the U.S. would reform the body from within. Current members of the council include dictatorship Burkina Faso, China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. No reform here.
Russia: The famed “reset” has only led to an emboldened Kremlin that goes after its political opponents with impunity — and in a Washington/Moscow relationship where Czar Vladimir is assured by Obama, “After my election, I have more flexibility.” Obama exercised said flexibility early in his term, though, when he killed the Eastern European missile defense shield hotly opposed by Russia (and Iran). Cozy relations are doggedly pursued despite Russia continually propping up tyrants at the UN Security Council.
Global Zero: The Nobel Committee “attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.” This has manifested in a Nuclear Security Summit and promises to Congress to modernize the nuclear arsenal. Does pushing through a New START treaty with an emboldened Kremlin qualify as peace-generating arms reduction?
Drone strikes and targeted assassinations: Alfred Nobel might appreciate the new weapons technology, but a “kill list” might freak out the Nobel Committee.