International Politics United States

Obama: The Do-Nothing President

Obama's lasting legacy isn't a positive one.

Ben Harris

Naked Politics Blogger 

As America’s 44th President prepares to depart the Oval Office, everybody is talking about the legacy he leaves behind after eight years in office. Although he exits the White House with decent approval ratings and the fawning adulation of Hollywood, a closer examination of his presidency reveals a man who promised America’s decline on the world stage and delivered on it. His successor will probably be an unmitigated disaster, but that doesn’t take away from Obama’s numerous failings.

Many of the critiques of Obama focus on his failed promises. His campaign in 2008 was undeniably a very positive one and a number are understandably disappointed that his presidency didn’t live up to the giddy expectations. There was one promise however on which Obama not only delivered but exceeded expectations: American retrenchment.

Over the past eight years, US power and influence in the world has ebbed away at an alarming pace. In South East Asia, North Korean nuclear tests continue unabated while China is aggressively expanding, threatening South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. In the Middle East, Iraq is still plagued by ISIS after the shameful withdrawal of American troops in 2011, Iranian power is growing and the US has completely abdicated leadership in the Syrian Civil War to Russia, which has massacred thousands of civilians in support of the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Perhaps the most embarrassing theatre is Eastern Europe. In the first months of the Obama administration, a naive “reset” policy was pursued with Russia less than a year after it had invaded the ex-Soviet Republic Georgia. In 2014, Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea with only meek opposition from the Obama administration. With Russia now poised to make moves on the NATO Baltic states, Obama’s belatedly tough stance on Russia has come too little too late. In less than a week, the Oval Office will be occupied by a traitor who has had nothing but praise for Putin and could even be compromised by Russian intelligence agencies.

Contrary to what Donald Trump may believe, America is still great and always has been. However, as President, Obama has turned his back on some of the things that have made America such an outstanding country. Throughout much of the 20th century and into the 21st the US provided global leadership and helped spread democracy and freedom. Sometimes, that needs to be backed up with force.

Under Obama, America has ceased to be a moral leader in the world. In 2009, he kicked off his presidency with a humiliating apology tour in which he made grovelling apologies for the heinous crimes committed by George W Bush of trying to stamp out terrorism and promote freedom. Heaven forbid the US should ever try and back up its lofty rhetoric with any sort of meaningful action.

Domestically, it is hard to see how Obama has been much of a success either. He has admittedly faced stiff resistance from Republicans in Congress but it’s also the case that he has failed to present a clear and coherent vision to the American people. While the economy has improved markedly since he took office, he started from a very low base and it was never likely that the economic powerhouse that is the US would stay down for very long.

Unfortunately, it is hard to see how things get better from here. Thanks in part due to Obama’s total lack of leadership, the US is now set to retreat even further from the world under his successor Donald Trump. Obama was bad, but Trump will likely be catastrophically bad.

If Obama was apologetic of American power, Trump is outright disdainful of it. He has openly questioned the validity of the vitally important NATO alliance and his only consistent position is of support of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Whereas Obama preached freedom and democracy without having the stomach to back it up, Trump doesn’t seem to care about freedom at all. How the Republican Party can nominate someone like Ronald Reagan, who aggressively confronted Soviet tyranny, and then three decades later go on to nominate a man like Trump who embraces Russian tyranny, is a mystery. Trump has hijacked the party of Reagan and turned it into the party of Putin in less than two years.

Ultimately, America is at its best when it is showing moral leadership on the world stage and advancing the causes of freedom. Under Obama, it has done neither. The crises the world faces today are not symptoms of American involvement – they’re symptoms of American inaction. America’s do-nothing President will soon be replaced by the do-whatever-Russia-wants President. If America does not find its next Reagan soon, we could soon see the end of the American-led liberal world order.

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