In foreign policy, as in almost everything President Obama has done, Republicans are quick to hit the "no" button. This reflex is useful to gin up the GOP base, but has failed spectacularly as a driver of smart policy.
America's adventure in Iraq has a created a giant hole — wounded warriors, fallen heroes and the greatest waste of American treasure in history. Yet it is precisely that group of Republicans, so generous with the lives of our armed forces, which continues to carp about the winding-down of our longest wars.
The evidence for this apocalyptic vision of America's power is non-existent. It's the fall of an empire of the mind, not a description of America's objective conditions as the world's sole superpower.
So what does the American empire look like today, almost six years since Obama was elected? The U.S. is the most important military power in the world. For all the talk of China's rise, fact is that the U.S. has deftly surrounded China with strong allies that could, in a conflict, create a multi-front war on the Chinese mainland, even as the U.S. can project power not just from its overwhelming naval platforms, such as super-carriers and deadly submarines, but also from Missouri – the base of the unmatched B-2 stealth bombers.
While China has alienated most of Asia, the U.S. has strengthened its network of alliances, from Australia in the south to Japan in the north. The integration of next-generation platforms, such as stealth fighters, new offensive and defensive missile technologies and battle systems for multi-country coordinated military action gives the American empire a hegemonic position in Asia.
While many Republicans have gushed at Russian dictator Vladimir Putin for being a "strong" leader — supposedly a contrast with Obama — former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's prediction that Russia would be America's greatest foe is several trillions of GDP short of reality. As Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) put it, "Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country."
The Putin project for a restoration of the Russian Empire has resulted in unprecedented capital flight, currency devaluation, significantly diminished economic growth and a permanent reputational scar on the Motherland. In a world with multiple, attractive places to invest capital, Russia has managed to make itself a pariah with considerable help from U.S.-led sanctions that have created massive economic uncertainty. Capital hates risk.
Putin may be stealing Crimea from Ukraine, but he has already gone wobbly on his presumptive land grab of eastern Ukraine. The very concept that Russian troops would march into one of the Baltic republics, all members of NATO, has been quelled by Obama's strong deployment of American and allied military assets on Russia's borders — from the Black to the Baltic Sea.
Putin may be audacious, but he is not foolish enough to risk all-out war with the U.S. and its allies. Putin's great achievement so far has been to awaken the Europeans to the reality that unilateral disarmament has proven to be an expensive mistake. Across the continent, a great debate on increasing military expenditures has begun.
In the Middle East, beyond the carping of Saudi Arabia, it is America that keeps the region in some semblance of stability. Through its dominant military presence in the Persian Gulf, to troops in Jordan and the iron-bound alliance with regional superpower Israel, America has guaranteed the free flow of oil for over 60 years.
The "red line" in Syria was obviously a self-inflicted mistake. Yet reducing by 90 percent the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile – aimed squarely at Israel's cities – is nothing short of a triumph. While the depredations of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime continue, America has more options today than before. With a chemical attack on Israel off the table, Assad is objectively weaker than before.
Even as America's allies in the region pine for a coup de force against Iran, Obama is advancing on two fronts at once. The multilateral negotiation seeking to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons program may succeed or fail. But it's been clear for some time that Obama has committed to a military strike as a second route to achieve the goal.
And that's where Republicans fail so spectacularly in their constant foreign policy critiques of the administration. America freed from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a stronger superpower. Both in terms of enhanced strategic and financial flexibility, the U.S. is an eminently greater threat to the ayatollahs than when it was stretched thin in two wars and fulfilling its role as the indispensable country — read world's security guarantor — across the globe.
As Republicans gear up for a phony investigation of Benghazi in a desperate, obvious attack of the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, the American Empire is stronger than ever.
If only Republicans would stop talking down America, planting seeds of doubt among our allies and hanging on to the failed George W. Bush-style machismo foreign policy that proved an abject disaster.
As President Eisenhower said, "Only Americans can hurt America."
Espuelas, a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, is a political analyst on television, radio and in print. He is the host and managing editor of "The Fernando Espuelas Show," a daily political talk show syndicated nationally by the Univision America Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and via Twitter @EspuelasVox.