In fact, in several areas the president is doing better than his critics give him credit for.

President Obama, increasingly accused of having a listless foreign policy, is actually doing much better than his critics allow. But he still does have a significant problem that he needs to fix. If he does not, Obama will likely be increasingly harangued over a supposed decline in U.S. influence on his watch.

First, though, Obama deserves defense against some of the most frequent allegations.

On Benghazi, Libya, the United States made mistakes; four Americans were tragically killed. But the charges of a coverup simply fail to hold water. And beyond the human tragedy, the strategic consequences for the U.S. are not large.

On Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin attacked Crimea this year in a way not unlike how he attacked Georgia under President Bush. To me, it’s pretty hard to blame either Bush or Obama for this old-fashioned Russian aggression, especially because neither country is a part of the NATO alliance. Obama, by making Putin pay a modest but real price for what he has done, while signaling that America and its allies would greatly increase the economic costs of any further aggression, strikes a good balance.

On Iran, a modest and temporary loosening of sanctions in pursuit of a nuclear deal is a reasonable approach. Sure, it could fail, as the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks appear to be failing.

Progress on Iran

But to avoid war, it’s worth a try. The Iran effort represents the culmination of a decade of applying the economic screws against Tehran through a creative campaign of international sanctions.

Obama has made one mistake. He has failed to give the Bush administration, and Republicans in general, enough credit for first…