Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie's recent article in Foreign Policy urges the Republican presidential aspirants to attack President Barack Obama more vigorously on his national security record. It's a debate that the president and Democrats should welcome.
At the outset, leave aside the source of the counsel -- listening to top aides to President George W. Bush proffer advice on foreign policy is a bit like hearing Mrs. O'Leary and her cow lecture about urban planning, after they've burned down Chicago.
The real problem with their advice is that it badly misreads both the president's record and how the public assesses it. Americans may be sharply polarized on many issues, but they are relatively aligned on their confidence in Obama as commander in chief. Over 60 percent approve of the job Obama is doing handling terrorism -- and this was true even before the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. According to a February ABC/Washington Post survey, voters trust Obama to handle international affairs more than the Republican Party's likely standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, by an outsized 19-point margin.
What explains these strong ratings?
Historically, Americans are fairly non-ideological on foreign policy. Above all, they want results, and that is what Obama has produced.
Bin Laden is dead, along with 22 of al Qaeda's other top 30 leaders, including Anwar al-Awlaki, who encouraged Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of killing U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood. Obama ended America's war in Iraq, as he pledged, while waging the war in Afghanistan with far greater focus and intensity, enabling the United States to plan for a handover to Afghanistan's own security forces.
The president skillfully supported the democratic uprisings of the Arab Spring and helped build a NATO-led force that put an end to Muammar al-Qaddafi's dictatorship. Squarely recognizing the danger Iran's nuclear program poses -- to the United States, Israel, and the entire Middle East -- Obama has persistently worked to put in place the toughest-ever international sanctions on Iran, significantly undercutting Tehran's economic resources and its ability to build nuclear weapons, while also being clear that he is leaving all options, including the use of force, on the table.