In the 2012 election, President Obama campaigned primarily on a series of domestic policy issues. He championed immigration reform that offered a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally, endorsed additional infrastructure spending on roads and bridges, vowed to protect the Affordable Care Act, and offered support for extending the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year.
Obama pointed to the assassination of Bin Laden, winding down of the Iraq War and the US aided revolt in Libya as signs of progress in the realm of foreign policy. His central foreign policy promise was to end the War in Afghanistan. After the killing of Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Obama also promised to hold the perpetrators responsible.
Since re-election Obama foreign policy has begun to dominate President Obama’s second term.
The House of Representatives voted to form a House Select Committee on Benghazi and has since held 13 public hearings over the attack, and released over 25,000 pages of documents related to the attack on the Libyan consulate. On June 17th, the FBI and US specials forces captured Abu Khattala, the suspected mastermind of the attacks. Investigations into what could have prevented the attacks and their cause are still being debated on Capitol Hill.
In Syria, a terrorist network has been in an escalating conflict with the government, headed by Bashar Al Assad, whose regime used chemical weapons to kill more than 1,400 Syrians, according to US reports. As a response, in September of 2013 the Obama administration pursued congressional authorization for military strikes in Syria. Before the vote could be held, Syria agreed to a UN Security Council resolution that would require them to relinquish their chemical and biological weapons to international parties. The process officially began in April, but civil war continues unabated.
The Syrian conflict expanded to Iraq. A group of fighters plotted to overthrow the Iraqi government starting in June. The terrorist group calls themselves ISIS, short for “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” and has taken control of Syrian/Iraqi border towns and oil fields. A rare alliance of interests between the governments of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and the U.S. have all expressed the need to ensure ISIS does not take control of Iraq. As in Syria, the conflict remains unresolved.
In addition to conflicts in the Middle east, an international crisis arose in Eastern Europe. After months of mass protest against the Ukrainian government’s pro-Russian President, Russia annexed Crimea in February, a Ukrainian province. This action provoked worldwide condemnation and the Ukrainian border with Russia became militarized after this time. In Ukraine, two camps emerged: pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine and those in opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea.
The United States responded to Russia’s actions by implementing two unilateral sanctions against Russia, the first in February and the second in July. One day after the second round of sanctions were announced, pro-Russian separatists appear to have mistakenly shot down a commercial Malaysian airliner, killing 298 people, including one American. It was the deadliest airliner shootdown in history.
On the same day as the downed airliner, Israel announced a ground invasion of Gaza. The ensuing ground and air offensive has left over 1000 dead, with the bulk of the deaths being Palestinian civilians. The United States has called for an immediate ceasefire and has sent Secretary of State John Kerry to Jerusalem in an attempt to broker a ceasefire. As of this publication, no long term ceasefire has been achieved.
With active conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Syria, and Gaza—as well as a growing humanitarian crisis on the US Mexico border—Obama’s second term has been and continues to be dictated almost entirely by Obama foreign policy issues.