January 19th, 2012
04:14 PM ET

Zakaria: Obama's foreign policy successes

Editor's Note: Be sure to tune in at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST for more from Fareed Zakaria on his interview with President Obama.

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

I spent the last few weeks working on an essay for TIME Magazine on Barack Obama's foreign policy and, in association with that piece, I interviewed the president on Wednesday in the Oval Office.

Let me give you a few of my thoughts and impressions.

Obama seemed relaxed, calm and confident.

I asked him about Mitt Romney's attacks on him as "indecisive, timid, and nuanced." (I don't quite know why being nuanced is a bad thing, but that's what Romney said.)

Obama responded, “Romney and the rest of the Republican field are going to be playing to their base until the primary season is over.”

After that, he said, “I look forward to having a foreign policy debate. Overall, I think it's going to be pretty hard to argue that we have not executed a strategy over the last three years that has put America in a stronger position than it was than when I came into office."

I think Obama has good reason to be confident on this front. He entered the Oval Office with the United States deeply unpopular around the world, with vast commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, with difficult relations with many countries and a large part of the world feeling that it had been ignored by an America obsessed by the “War on Terror.”

Obama was determined to pare down America's commitments and its military footprint and to regain goodwill and trust abroad.

For the most part, he has done so. There were 140,000 troops in Iraq when he came into office. There are zero now. He added troops in Afghanistan but there too a drawdown has begun. He has scaled back the nation-building aspect of American interventions but ferociously embraced the counterterrorism angle - fighting al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Obama ordered more drone attacks in the first two years of his presidency than George W. Bush did in his entire two terms. The results have been noteworthy: Most of al Qaeda's senior leadership has been destroyed. The strategy's crowning success was, of course, the killing of Osama bin Laden.

If the war against al Qaeda is the most visible and dramatic success story, the most significant long-term success might be in Asia, where Obama has pivoted. Asia is the new arena of global wealth, power, and power politics, and Obama decided to expand American presence in the region with a flurry of diplomatic moves over the last six months.

He did so carefully and skillfully so that Asia countries saw it as a response to their requests rather than an unilateral assertion of American power. When historians write about an Obama Doctrine, they might point to his new Asian strategy - his declaration that America is a “Pacific Power” that is here to stay.

All in all, it's a pretty strong record. Which is why you actually don't hear Republicans talking much about foreign policy on the campaign trail.

For more on this, you can read my cover story in this week's TIME Magazine and read my full interview with President Obama. Also, be sure to tune in at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST for more from Fareed Zakaria on his interview with President Obama.


soundoff (522 Responses)
  1. chris

    Foreign policy doesn't make much sense, if people are allowed to move their families based on the fact that they have employment, there needs to be a stricter regulation. I worked in a car factory, out of 20 sponsored people 3 were Australian. The directors of companies need to limit the amount of work related visa's. Take into consideration 17 peoples families the foreign intake would be quite large 50 people or so.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:43 am | Reply
  2. crosswave

    FAREED ZAKARIA REMAINS THE MOST OPINIONATED AND FLAWED SELF STYLED JOURNALIST ON THE PLANET .. HE ALSO REMAINS AN OBVIOUS STOOGE FOR THE OBOZO ADMIN IN PROMOTING ONE FOREIGN BORN MAN'S OPINION FAVORING ANOTHER FOREIGN BORN MAN'S WORK AS BENEFICIAL TO THE USA AND THE WORLD. TOO BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLYING ABOUT AND LEAVING DROPPINGS AS THEY GO, EVERYWHERE EVERYWHERE - JUST LIKE "CHICKEN MAN" .. THE MEDIA, HOLLYWOOD TYPES AND POLS LIKE NANCY PELOSI ALL SHOULD BE PLACED ON SMALL BOATS, SET OUT TO SEA, AND LET PERMANENTLY DRIFT .. One disgusted Vietnam Veteran ..

    January 23, 2012 at 10:27 am | Reply
  3. rcjinvegas

    Obama isn't running anything. He's a teleprompter reading council on foriegn relations/ trilateral commission/ bilderberg stooge like Fareed Zakaria and most of his guests.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
  4. Sarah

    Mr Fareed please open your eyes and look at Obama's policy toward IRan, an autter appeasement policy, in one hand Obama talks about human rights in the other hand he extends his hands toward the dictator of Iran, what kind of human rights he talking about, maybe he uses white house version of human rights. Is human rights good only for Americans, respect to human rights is not just empty words, he has to have spine to show ihe stands up against goverments who do not repect human rights, Open your eyes and see what he has done in Iraq by pulling out American solders from a country which was destoryed by American to begin then leave it in the hands of Iranain regime,if is this a successfull policy then shame on every americans who consider these policy as a successfull policy,Why he keeps the only popular and legal oposition of Iran in American black list, alist that has been used by Iraqi goverment to raid camp of Iranian dissident and kill more than 47 people by using american arms, alist which let Iranian regime to excute oposition member inside of Iran as well as outside orf Iran, are you considering ithis policy a successfull policy, shame on every human being who consider this policy a successfull,his policy is a complete appeasment not else.

    January 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  5. reXteryalizer

    Want to thank all of you, for your Powerfull stand against Oboma & His Corrupted political partners.

    But there is so much more we can do. Being aggressive and focusing on the facts and truth is only the first step.

    We musT follow Up with more details standing by our convictions and dont back down.

    Oboma has NOT brought CHANGE, In fact ~! ~ THE ONLY real THING needing CHANGE !....Was Barack Hussein Obama II.

    HIMSELF

    Barack Hussein Obama II (

    Who hates American Values ) who is A " SELF PROCLAIMED Enemy" ~of responsible, Morally Conscious HARD WORKING Americans.

    oBOMAS Irresponsible & DRUG MAFIA and reckless supporters KNOW~ that Barack Hussein Obama II, WILL FORCE YOU to paY THEM, out of your PockeT .{ FOR all of their UNCHECKED Vices and THRILLS/

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    your COST & Sacrifice.\ ...This UN~CHANGABLE fraud, has done His VERY BEST to Inspire VIOLENCE.

    THESE ARE OBAMAS OWN WORDS.. saying ......To his supporters.Saying “Get ready for hand-to-hand combat with your Fellow Americans” – Obama has ALSO DECLARED to his Supporters. “I want all Americans to get in each others faces!– Obama Demands !

    “You bring a knife to a fight pal, we’ll bring a gun” –

    THESE ARE OBAMAS OWN WORDS.. ANGER VIOLENCE And more taxes..... THIS IS OBAMAS Change for america /“Hit Back Twice As Hard”. He commands ! *Obama on the private sector: ~~ “We talk To these folks…~ / so I know whose a*$ to KICK.“ OBOMA wants to KICK your a*$ /"`

    Shouting THAT Republican victory would mean ~ “hand to hand combat” and HE IS EXPECTING people to be on Edge and ON BORDERLINE killing MODE, " VIOLENT / and STAND and STOMP and MOB for their immoral CAUSES and THIS IS WHAT HE LIVES FOR ./ ./ ./ THESE ARE OBAMAS OWN WORDS.. !* Obama Tells democrats: “ I’m itching for a fight.” !

    ....PLEASE.... go to reXes NEW WebsiTe ~ ! Oboma *( Just like Adolf Hitler~~\oBOMA~~~ Demands ! - [ THE FINAL SOLUTION - for Un~Wanted Children

    Barak Obama is A MURDERER .~Torturing UNWANTED babys on DEATH ROE.

    CLICK HERE http://obomlnation.webstarts.com/index.html

    OBAMA TAKES a little NEW BORN innocent child, BORN ALIVE sTabS it iN the head and SUCKs ITS BRAINS OUT.

    This is just too wrong and horrible. Please stand for Loving Children and the USA.

    Respectfully and Thankfully Thank you ALL for your Time.

    To see HORRIBLE HONOR Killings~` HATE CRIMES ]`~ ! eXecuted by the CLINTON,RENO and ATF Media WHO COMMITTED H0NOR KILLINGs [

    SLAUGHTERING }] 21 LITTLE Helpless Children at Waco.

    Click Here http://obomlnation.webstarts.com/partly_born_totally_murdered.html

    February 10, 2012 at 5:09 am | Reply
  6. luke kirk

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    April 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
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  11. SkiOne

    It was not just 1 great success. He has dismantled Al Qaeda one by one to the point they virtually don't exist anymore. Say whatever you want about his domestic policy but he has accomplished what Bush couldn't and in one third the time.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  12. CM

    AQ virtually doesn't exist any more? Really? Mission Accomplished? Sad to say, but it will take more than the killing of UBL and a few others to dismantle AQ. Besides, this isn't a war against JUST AQ, its against radical Islam...and neither this President, nor any President prior to this one has effectively developed a strategy for countering the radical Islamic ideology. I'd consider that a real success

    January 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  13. Paulie

    Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are still killing and controlling people. No one surrendered. Just because you kill a leader it doesnt mean the idealology dies. We are still at war. Osama Bin Laden was killed under Obama's watch. Thats great. If it were entirely up to democrats from the beginning however we wouldnt have even gone after him though.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
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