On Friday, 20 Jan, 2017 will be Obama’s last day in the office. (By the way, the next president will be chosen on November 8, 2016) The President of the United States (known as POTUS) is important because, what the POTUS does or doesn’t in office actually shapes the lives of people around the world. Friedman puts it:
“The American president is the most important political leader in the world. The reason is simple: he governs a nation whose economic and military policies shape the lives of people in every country on every continent. The president can and does order invasions, embargo, and sanctions. The economic policies he shapes will resonate in billions of lives, perhaps over many generations. During the next decade, who the president is and what he (or she) chooses to do will often affect the lives of non-Americans more than the decisions of their own governments.”
Indeed, what POTUS’s words and deeds affect us greatly. Therefore, it is very interesting topic to ask what will be Obama’s legacy as we are heading his last year at the office? Some argue that he is the one who saved (the world) the US from a second great depression? Some argues that he has replaced Pax-Americana with a new world disorder. Between these two opposite sides, as always, lies the truth. Here, in today’s entry on ADV, I will take my shot to sum up his presidency to bring about an early reiteration of Obama’s legacy article.
As David Bromwich states any attempts to sum up the Obama’s presidency will be elusive and some-how sided. Therefore, first of all, let me reveal my side within pro or anti Obama polarization. Once upon a time, I was staunchly pro-Obama guy who even supported Obama’s campaign with a small contribution (100 $) . Nevertheless, after living 7 years in Obama’s world of wonderland, I turns to be staunchly anti-Obama. Matter of fact, I am not alone, there are billions of me, here and there, who blames the POTUS on what happens in the world due to what he has not done during his tenure.
I think Obama is a master of words, speeches, but not actions, or ideals. Bromwich wittingly suggests that “He has spoken more words, perhaps, than any other president; but to an unusual extent, his words and actions float free of each other.” Further he points out “ he works hard his public statements, and he wishes his words to have large effect.” In this sense, on rhetoric, he is the champion, yet when it comes to deeds, he is a loser. To me , as if Obama has newer gotten the fact that campaigning for presidency is over, times has arrived for putting his policies into practice. Or, I (and many others) got him wrong at the first place. He never intended to be the POTUS I expected, he is what he promised. Friedman argues that “Under both President Bush and President Obama, the United States has lost sight of the long-term strategy that served it well for most of the last century. Instead, recent presidents have gone off on ad hoc adventures. They have set unattainable goals ” Now, I think him in this direction, no better, if not worse on some front, than Bush. That’s why, this writings is as elusive as and as one-sided as many others on Obama’s legacy.
Now, ask yourself for what Obama will be remembered? Will The president be remembered for the deal with Iran, newly (re)established diplomatic relations with Cuba, Bin Ladin hunt, pivot to Asia, TPP? or will he be remembered for failure to stop war-crimes, genocides, and devastating wars, making Putin a hero, appeasing China, frightening allies, cheering adversaries?
To better frame the argument, lets put this into a context and look at what Obama had promised to accomplish during the his first run for presidency. I aim at figuring out whether POTUS has been leaving America better off than he found it. Apart from unfulfilled promises such as closing off Guantanamo Detention Camp, or ending the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are detectable three broad areas where we can evaluate POTUS’ legacy: economy and domestic politics, war on terror and American wars in Middle East, American relations with others.
The first front is economy and domestic politics. Indeed, most economic indicators have been improving under Obama administration. Remember, when he got the White House, the US has just entered one of the deepest financial crisis since great depression of 1929. From this economic free-fall, Obama saved the US economy. Yet, when you look at the big picture, Obama’s record is not that pretty. The figures show us that Obama has underperformed compare to the US average main economic indicators such as GDP, job creation, family income growth etc.
When it comes to domestic politics, Obama’s record is disastrous. Obama is the most polarizing president of entire US history. He has failed to achieve consensus on almost all of his major initiatives: health care, immigration reform, foreign policy and so on. The US has seen a series of federal shutdown risks due to the polarization of presidential initiatives. Most people accused Republicans for the risk yet this doesn’t mean that the POTUS is free from wrongdoings.
The second front where we can assess POTUS’s record is war on terror and the US wars in the Middle East, which is in complete mess. Obama got the office by promising bring America home from Afghanistan and Iraq wars, in which he has failed. Moreover, he has not just failed in terms of bringing America home, but in terms of making war grounds worse off than what he found it. He may be able to bring most of the troops yet he has done this at the cost of pushing the region into turmoils. Post American world brought tears, wars, genocidal and heinous acts to the Middle East and beyond (remember Paris attack) Obama is responsible for huge part of that. 2014 was supposed to be the final year of the Afghanistan war. The last U.S. troops returned from Iraq two years ago. Yet all these ended just on paper. Obama has made situation far worse than he found it. When he got to the White House, Al Qaida was operational only in Afghanistan, now there are bunch of terrorist networks operating all over the worlds. Krauthammer writes that:
“The war on terror 2015 is at a new phase with a new geography. At the core are parallel would-be caliphates: in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State; in central Africa, now spilling out of Nigeria into Cameroon, a near-sovereign Boko Haram; in the badlands of Yemen, AQAP, the most dangerous of all al-Qaida affiliates. And beyond lie not just a cast of mini-caliphates embedded in the most ungovernable parts of the Third World from Libya to Somalia to the borderlands of Pakistan but an archipelago of no-go Islamist islands embedded in the heart of Europe.”
As Jenifer Rubin put it “Out of Iraq. Out of Afghanistan. Do nothing on Syria. Waffle on Egypt. Shun the Green Revolution. The common theme is retreat and reduction of the U.S. profile in the world.” Yet the US is absolutely worse off under Obama on the second front.
The third front is American image in the world. From day one, Obama disengaged from the world refusing to meet global challenges by providing leadership. He talked, as he loves to talk, giving fancy speeches, yet he did almost nothing for the world order he found. Obama’s image is above average in many places like Africa, Europe, Latin America yet the US image across the world as a globally recognized super power is in retreat. That is, America is less respected under Obama. the world order he found when he got to the White House has shattered during his term in office. Despite his lofty rhetoric about new beginnings and resetting relationships, the hard fact is that Obama administration has repeatedly failed to act when it is necessary leaving enemies stronger and cheerful while allies and friends frightened and weaker. See his biggest achievement in decade: the deal with Iran, how it shifted the balance of power in Middle East by rewarding Iran for its revolutionary and vicious acts empowering it at the cost of allies and friends. As Weinstein points out “No presidency has centralized so much of American foreign policy decision making inside the White House under a small circle of key National Security Council staffers” which is far from enough to grab real politic at the ground. Obama’s main excuse is always he found a complex world and inherited a mess from Bush as if then suddenly, only a day later, the world had grown much more troubling, the challenges even more confounding. Of course, the Syrian president Esad’s genocidal war on its own people is rewarded by Obama with a deal with Iran, stunning silence against Russia’s act.
As Azem Ibrahim notes “Obama is not leaving behind a better world. True enough, he did not start the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but nor can it be said that he has helped the situation very much.” Obama, if nothing else, is simply delusional. He said once “People don’t remember — when I came into office, the United States in world opinion ranked below China and just barely above Russia. And today, once again, the United States is the most respected country on earth” Really?
now, ask yourself for what Obama will be remembered? My answer is with his words, speeches, lofty promises, constant amusement if not with thousands of deaths, billions of displaced, prolonged crisis, new cold wars, endless wars, forever wars, abandonment allies.