“It’s the economy stupid” so said President Clinton during his successful 1992 US election campaign. Depending on who you speak to Barack Obama has either saved the US economy or hastened its collapse. His opponents argue that 23 million people unemployed and a record national debt make Obama unfit for his office, while his supporters point to him saving the nation’s crisis-hit motor industry and stimulating the economy towards 15 successive months of growth. Yet while the economy will be at the forefront of most American voters' mind when they cast their vote, the ramifications of today’s election will be felt thousands of miles from Washington.
Back in 2008 the US’s international standing under the Republican leadership of George W. Bush was at an all time low. Botched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined with a general failure in foreign diplomacy had led many in the international community to question whether America could be trusted any longer.
Since then President Obama has set about cleaning up that tarnished reputation. He acted swiftly, pulling troops out of Iraq and working with the United Nations and international forces to overthrow the Gaddafi regime in Libya. He has also played the long-game in Syria by not intervening in a war between Government troops and rebel forces that are said to be harbouring Islamic Jihadists. In Palestine, Obama has failed to broker a peace agreement but he at least appears more conciliatory toward the Palestinians and has avoided much of the ‘unconditional support for Israel’ rhetoric employed by previous administrations.
Undoubtedly his greatest foreign policy success was the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Obama authorised an operation by a crack team of American Navy Seals which killed Bin Laden and brought to an end a ten year man hunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist and chief perpetrator of the September 11th attacks.
Obama’s opponent Mitt Romney on the other hand is a far more hawkish prospect. Despite promising to lower the US national debt he says he will increase military spending, perhaps in preparation for a war with Iran. He has also vowed to declare China a ‘currency manipulator’ a move that will only strain relations with the world’s next superpower. Romney may not be as bad as the previous Republican President but he is the next rung down – Diet Bush or Bush Light if you prefer. The last thing the world needs is another American President hell-bent on flexing its military might.
Barack Obama’s first term may not have been perfect; his failure to close down Guantanamo Bay and the continued use of drone strikes has been more than disappointing. But compared to Mitt Romney he remains the only credible choice as the next President.
Today millions of Americans will take to the polls, they need him and the rest of the world needs him to.