A year ago today I was sitting on a cold floor of a dark elementary school at 5am determined to be the first in my precinct to vote for Barack Obama. I could not sleep the night even though as a veteran of other election campaign nights I could feel the anticipated outcome coursing through my veins -- one of those few and far between great election highs. How great it felt -- no artificial stimulation necessary!
The world is a far better place because Obama is president. In most of the world (but in too many vital places not necessarily so where it may matter, such as Russia and Israel) Obama has shepherded a restoration of trust and confidence in the ideals that rekindle America's role as a beacon of hope. The President has positioned himself as a first among equals on the world stage -- and has done so with aplomb, steady bearing and an incredible grasp of national security minutiae. For those who questioned this young president's national security experience he has been consistently sure-footed on the world stage and a credit to his countrymen.
And yes, just ask them. Obama and his talented national security team are globally "engaged." Engaged with Russia, engaged with Europe, engaged with Latin America, engaged with Iran, and today, even engaged in Myanmar. Engagement is great. I am all for it. But "engagement" is a means to an end, and not a national security strategy, but a tactic -- an important one given what was inherited from the un-engaging (please read pejorative into my use of this word) Bush Administration.
But to date, other than the impending monumental Afghan troop decision, there's not many "buck stops here" tests of presidential leadership on which history books are written.
Much of the initial global euphoria has given way to the hard reality of inherited messes, and the Oval Office is becoming a lonely place for our global hero, who confronts life and death choices that will shape his presidency and the nation's future.
Afghanistan is a "buck stops here" decision. So, too, is what to do about Iran's "give and take back" uranium export offer. What will Obama do if the Iranians kick more sand in his face on fulfilling its IAEA obligations? Is conflict avoidable and, if so, at what cost to our security? And what can be done to move the Israeli-Palestinian equation off its dead center? Time's a-wastin' and in a year of best intended efforts we're not much closer to any acceptable Palestinian state goal line. Extremism and terrorism remain ever constant threats to our homeland. And nothing gives me more pause than the future stability of Pakistan. Like the scene out of "Naked Gun", one can't help fearing the world's dictators and terrorists are gathered around some mountain hideaway contriving up a crisis to surely test presidential mettle.
These are the tests that may likely make a 3am wakeup call a certainty in the months ahead.
So far there has been a tendency to vocalize intent and engage in convenient can-kicking, rather than actionable resolve. That's not timidity....that's testing the state of the ship's rudder. Well, I for one am glad that the Nobel Peace Prize will sit on its rightful pedestal in the White House as a tangible reminder of what constitutes unfinished business.
But these are damn difficult problems and they would have been easier to contend with had Bush and Co. not fallen flat on their proverbial derrieres while on the job. And Cheney's neocons have the audacity to accuse Obama of making the country less safe...what temerity!
I know this President is determined to make his mark internationally -- and the canvas is before him. Transforming eloquent word into sustainable deed will be the true test of his audaciousness.
So, one year after the election, what do you think Candidate Obama would think of President Obama? Tweet your response (our Twitter hashtag is #OneYearLater), or post it in the comments section.
Follow Amb. Marc Ginsberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@ambmcg