Visual source: Newseum
Alicia Cohn at The Hill sets the framework:
In a month where international affairs have taken a larger role in the presidential campaign, this past weekend’s G8 and NATO summits provided President Obama another chance to shore up his foreign policy credentials in the race against presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Romney’s campaign has sought to keep the election focused on the economy, dismissing other issues raised as “distractions” from Obama’s record on jobs. But the president’s talks with world leaders at Camp David and in Chicago, combined with the arrival of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng to the United States, dominated the news cycle over the weekend, demonstrating one advantage of being the incumbent. [...] Overall, the weekend highlighted the challenges facing Romney as polls now consistently give Obama the advantage on foreign affairs, a rarity for Democrats.
Obama led Romney by 20 points in trust to handle terrorism and international affairs in an ABC News/Washington Post survey taken in February, and again held a double-digit lead (51 percent to 38) in a poll taken in early May by Politico/George Washington University in which likely voters were asked who would “better handle” foreign policy. Reports suggest Romney’s campaign may be considering confronting foreign policy head-on with a speech by the candidate within the next month, but the campaign did not respond when asked to comment.
The Washington Post Editorial Board asks why NATO is taking such a hands-off approach on Syria:
If anything, NATO has more of an interest in defusing Syria’s crisis than Libya’s. Turkey, a NATO member, is on Syria’s border and has seen violence spill into its territory. Other nations are threatened, too; Sunday night a cleric sympathetic to Mr. Assad’s opponents was assassinated in Lebanon. Libya is of modest strategic importance, while the fall of the Assad regime, Iran’s major ally in the Arab world, would have strategic benefits for the United States, Israel and everyone else working to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
And yet, at the summit of NATO leaders in Chicago, no leader raised the subject of Syria, Mr. Daalder said. “We are very much concerned about the situation of Syria,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen explained, but the alliance has “no intention whatsoever to intervene.”
Why not? What happened to the “teachable moment,” just one year old? There’s a hint in the Foreign Affairs article: “The United States facilitated this rapid international reaction,” the authors boast. In truth, the leaders of France and Great Britain prodded the United States into action, and a chief goad, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has since been turned out of office. But it is true that the Libyan action would not have taken place without the promise of substantial U.S. support. On Syria, that promise is missing.
David Brunnstrom and Adrian Croft at Reuters analyze the end of the mission in Afghanistan and the future of NATO:
The big question mark hanging over the summit was how will NATO, a 28-nation grouping originally designed for the Cold War, adapt to the world beyond 2014?
In an era where governments are slashing defense spending to cut budget deficits, the United States is increasingly tilting towards defense challenges in Asia while many of NATO’s other members, preoccupied by economic problems, have little appetite for foreign adventures.
That raises the question of whether the United States, which accounts for three-quarters of NATO defense spending, will remain committed to the 63-year-old organization despite its frustrations at European allies’ reluctance to contribute more towards their own defense.
James A. Linsday at the Council on Foreign Relations:
NATO’s twenty-eight member counties wrap up their annual summit today in Chicago. The parting sound bites no doubt will tout this year’s summit for being especially productive—even with a few breaks to throw a football around and to watch a soccer game. And the final communiqué will almost certainly point to progress on critical issues such as Afghanistan, missile defense, and alliance modernization.
But that sunny talk won’t hide a dark cloud that hangs over the most successful military and political alliance the world has ever known—namely, the United States accounts for the vast (and increasing) bulk of the alliance’s military spending. [...]
That disparity is not likely to lessen anytime soon. Not in an era of austerity when most of Europe is looking to cut spending. Indeed, with all the talk of a possible “Grexit” and fears that the financial markets might turn on Spain and Italy, the pressure in Europe to cut defense spending is likely to intensify.
Obama went so far as to tell reporters on Sunday that “The Afghan war as we understand it is over,” and that Afghanistan is entering a “transformational decade of peace and stability and development.”
Military officials are less sanguine. They note that heavy fighting continues in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the birthplace of the Taliban and the focal point of Obama’s 2010 surge of U.S. troops. Enemy attacks in Kandahar have increased by 13 percent over a year ago.
Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, cautioned Sunday against understating the challenge. “The Taliban is still a resilient and capable opponent in the battle space. There’s no end of combat before the end of 2014. And, in fact, the Taliban will oppose the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) after 2014,” he said.
Obama may be overly optimistic in his assessment of NATO progress. But he is right to emphasize that the time has come for U.S. troops to get out of Afghanistan.
Carlo Munoz at The Hill reports that a certain congressman has really gotten on Hamid Karzai’s bad side:
A House Republican who has been an outspoken critic of Afghanistan’s central government has been banned from entering the country, Afghan president Hamid Karzai said Monday.
Appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room, Karzai was asked if he would allow Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, into Afghanistan if the lawmaker requested.
“Definitely not . . . until he changes his stand, shows respect to the Afghan people, to our way of life and to our constitution,” Karzai replied. “It’s is a matter of principle.
Finally, on the CNN wire this morning…
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, is expected to step down this summer after a year in the job, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter told CNN early Tuesday.
Crocker was appointed to the post in Kabul on July 25, 2011. The relatively short length of his service in the Afghan capital is no surprise. In recent history, American ambassadors have served similar terms.