Foreign-policy credentials: As president, Obama has taken on a number of major foreign-policy initiatives, including a renewed troop surge in Afghanistan, the negotiation of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, the NATO intervention in Libya, the withdrawal from Iraq, ongoing trade negotiations with China, and of course, the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Overview: Obama is a much different candidate today from the senator who distinguished himself by his opposition to the "dumb war" on his way to the presidency in 2008. Obama has turned out, in many ways, to have pursued a fairly conventional, at times, hawkish foreign policy. He has had some notable successes, such as the bin Laden raid and this year's withdrawal from Iraq -- albeit on a timetable negotiated by his predecessor -- and the successful overthrow of Muammar al-Qaddafi. All the same, "apology tours" and "leading from behind" -- referring to an unfortunate description of Obama's diplomatic strategy by a White House staffer -- have already become buzzwords for Republican candidates. He has also faced heavy criticism on the left for a sometimes inconsistent approach to international law in counterterrorism operations.
But with a significant economic recovery appearing unlikely and fewer domestic achievements to point to than he might have expected, coupled with the international inexperience of his opponents, Obama may make his foreign-policy wins the centerpiece of his reelection strategy.
Advisors: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon.
On the issues:
Afghanistan/Pakistan: "We have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat," Obama announced last June, noting that the 33,000 "surge" troops he sent to Afghanistan in 2009 would be out of the country by the summer of 2012. Although a constant barrage of drone strikes and special operations raids have taken a harsh toll on al Qaeda, it may be difficult for Obama to make the case that Afghanistan has achieved stability or that Hamid Karzai's government can stand on its own without U.S. assistance.
Relations with Pakistan have deteriorated significantly under Obama's tenure, particularly following the bin Laden raid. He has pledged to "constantly evaluate" the relationship between the two countries going forward but says he would be hesitant to cut off aid that could "help the Pakistani people strengthen their own society and their own government."
Military spending: Backed by his then current defense secretary, Robert Gates, Obama announced last April that the Pentagon will lead a "fundamental review" of U.S. military capabilities in order to cut $400 billion in defense spending over the next 10 years. "We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but conduct a fundamental review of America's missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world," Obama said. Of course, major cuts could come sooner than that if the congressional "supercommittee" fails to reach an agreement on deficit reduction by Nov. 23.
Immigration/borders: Obama insists that enacting comprehensive immigration reform, which would likely include a path to citizenship for at least some illegal immigrants already in the United States, is still a "top priority," but with little congressional enthusiasm for such a measure, it has been pushed to the back burner for now. Meanwhile, deportations of illegal immigrants are continuing at a record pace, though the administration touts the fact that a higher percentage of those deported have criminal records.
Obama has substantially increased the number of agents patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, but has also mocked the fence-building enthusiasm of Republicans, saying they won't be happy until there's a "moat with alligators."