How Will the Health Care Vote Affect National Security?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt
More than you think, actually.
1. An international boost. Israeli, Russian and Chinese leaders and elites have all let it be known more or less quietly that they treat Obama as if he is weak abroad because they perceive him as weak at home. I heard a fabulous story about a senior Iranian official explaining off-the-record to a Westerner how Obama wouldn't accomplish anything this year "in analysis that would have sounded right at home on FOX." Those elites follow American politics closely and will understand that this is a big, big win. They'll also get the message that Obama doesn't go away easily.
2. Momentum. Internationally, it looks as if this long drawn out process will close just before we finally get a new START Treaty, a mark of both serious steps down the road to reducing the nuclear threat and a success in renovating the US-Russian relationship. That in turn will be followed by a signature Obama initiative, the 43-nation Nuclear Security Summit, which will build new momentum for international action against the supply side of nuclear materials. After that, Iraq will confound the skeptics by putting a government together -- not elegantly, but successfully.
3. Space and Oxygen. As my colleague Paul Eaton discussed with the Times' Peter Baker earlier this weekend, many international issues have been off the agenda while health care burned bright. There will be more bandwidth for other, merely vital, issues now -- from Afghanistan to foreign assistance reform to human rights and democratization. This has a downside, though: with the healthcare debate lost, the opponents of a sane, pragmatic foreign policy will have more oxygen to ramp up the volume on Iran and other issues.
4. Ambition. Just the progress to this point threw Obama's approval rating back over 50%. Progressives both in and outside government have been needing a little boost of energy. This moment should give us lots of case studies about 1) how the Administration likes to work and will work when the crunch is on and 2) how to advocate to the Administration effectively -- and ineffectively. (HT to Adam Serwer on that approval number -- and I know Adam's got plenty of ideas for putting the ambition to good use...)