The health care reform bill has passed, but domestic issues continue to loom large in the discourse in the U.S. As Sarah Palin rallies Tea Partiers on Boston Common, a new Supreme Court nomination fight looms. Unemployment remains very high, Main Street still hates Wall Street, and everybody hates Congress.
But meanwhile, with relatively little fanfare, President Obama has been racking up foreign policy successes on an almost daily basis. A new nuclear treaty with Russia is hammered out; warming of relations with China lead to talk of cooperation on Iran and hints of currency flexibility; an unprecedented nuclear nonproliferation summit results in a significant agreement by world leaders on protecting nuclear stockpiles.
Obama has not made similar progress in the Middle East. He hasn't been able to convince the Israeli people of a thorough commitment to peace and prosperity for the Jewish state, as his predecessor was. It's worth noting in this context that Obama is president of a country a sizable portion of whose citizens seem willing to entertain the possibility that he is "the Antichrist." It certainly shouldn't shock anyone that a man who spent some formative years in a Muslim country and bears the middle name "Hussein" should have his work cut out for him in the Holy Land. The President and his advisors need to work harder to gain the trust of the Israelis, through both word and deed.
Nevertheless, Obama's recent string of foreign policy successes bodes well for the world in the next few years. The drawdown of forces in Iraq is running more or less on schedule. Afghanistan remains a bed of quicksand beyond the capacity of anyone to escape (or pave over) in the short term, but the President, his Secretary of Defense, and the indefatigable US armed forces keep trying. And Obama has come through well over a year in office without having starting any new wars.
If nothing else, Obama's practice of realpolitik is a breath of fresh air after the previous administration's unfunded wars and pie-in-the-sky talk of exporting democracy…and after months of near-gridlock on health care making us all sick.