Farewell and good riddance, President Obama. You will not be missed.
If this seems like too harsh a judgment about a nice guy, remember that sometimes nice guys are elected president but are ineffective. Example: Herbert Hoover.
Sometimes, too, flawed people are elected president. For instance, president-elect Donald Trump and former President Richard Nixon.
In any case, the legacy of Barack Obama after eight years as president is not glowing.
His rhetoric was great. Carrying out that rhetoric was lacking. Obama was just promises, promises, promises.
As The Nation magazine put it: “Obama promised change but he was captured by the interventionist orthodoxy that rules Washington. He pledged to pursue a nuclear-free world, to improve relations with Russia, to act as an honest broker between Israel and Palestine and to improve relations with the Arab world. All those promises were unfulfilled.”
Obama claimed that his efforts to establish the United States as global leader in climate control is his proudest legacy. His efforts were fine but Congress refused to make global warming a law. In any case, making an effort is hardly a legacy.
Obama recently ordered an additional 615 troops to Iraq to take Mosul from the Islamic State. Nothing surprising about that from a warmonger. Except: he vowed seven years ago to pull out all American soldiers from Iraq.
Meanwhile, he redoubled efforts to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. “This is a war we have to win,” he insisted.
Why? Afghanistan was never a U.S. concern yet spent $800 billion on the quagmire. Obama ignored things that most American people really want like universal national health. (Every other industrialized nation considers universal health care an absolute right.)
Nation continues: “Then there are the misconceived interventions in Libya and Syria. Plus, his counterproductive drone war stretching from the Maghreb and the Arabian Peninsula to the mountains and plains of Central Asia.
“The Obama administration has given these military adventures a veneer of legality by deriving justification from the Use of Military Force law passed by Congress in 2001.
“These interventions are supported by 2.1 million reserve and active-duty troops, 200,000 of whom are stationed overseas. The yearly cost: $600 billion.”
Astonishingly, the U.S. military operates in 160 countries! (Only 195 nations exist.)
Surely Obama had far, far better things to do for the American people than waste heaps of money on military might.
OBAMA’S NEW COLD WAR
Obama gave us a new cold war with Russia, established frosty relations with Russia’s President Putin and made a “pivot toward Asia,” seeking to contain China’s economic might. The U.S. doesn’t need another cold war, Obama shouldn’t be cold-shouldering Putin and a prosperous China is no threat to America.
The Nation reminds us that the American public widely assumed Obama, based on his anti-war rhetoric, “would end the ruinous G.W. Bush war policies and exorcise hegemonic fantasies.” No such luck.
Obama was firmly in the grip of foreign-policy orthodoxy that he himself dismissed as “the Washington playbook.” Scholar Andrew Bacevich called it “the faith-based belief in American global primacy.”
Obama intervened in Syria neither in the U.S. national interest nor in the interest of the Syria people. A similar dynamic occurred in Libya where dictator Gadhafi “had to go.” His supposed slaughter of Libyan people was an illusion.
Obama’s vice-president, Joe Biden, declared in 2012 that the re-election of Putin would be bad for his country’s economy. This “intervention” in Russian affairs was none of Biden’s business as Obama’s surrogate.
Yet the U.S. went further. It provided the Ukraine with $2 billion in loan guarantees and $760 million in security assistance.
So it went constantly with Team Obama.
The New York Times weighed in with sour comments on the Obama legacy, dismissing the idea that Obama established any “progressive, post-racial, bridge-building society.”
Obama celebrated his rapprochement with Cuba but retained a senseless embargo to the harm of Cuba and Midwestern firms that wanted to do business with Cuba.
He promised to close Guantanamo eight years ago. It’s still open, although he did face Republican opposition in Congress on that score. The congressional GOP also stymied Obama’s sensible plea to quash the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
Obamacare extended health coverage to 20 million Americans but at a cost of raising premiums.
Eric Cantor, former House GOP majority leader, said that Trump won the presidency because “most Americans think Obama failed.”
The case made here shows that Obama did fail as president.
Jake Highton is an emeritus professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)