by Ghassan Kadi
In his recent article titled “Obama Out Not With a Bang, But a Whimper”, and in his regular eloquent and expressive style, Pepe Escobar nailed it. More need not be said about the Obama legacy, but this man, Obama, has had a personal effect on me, one that I cannot let go of without putting down on paper my own views of his infamous legacy.
I am by no means an expert on all international wheeling and dealing that American administrations do. And speaking of Pepe, I have read with great interest his articles about how the Empire has been involved in different forms of intervention in Brazil, Pepe’s homeland. And to pre-empt comments that will argue that Obama has inherited a huge mess from his White House predecessor, I will take all of those issues on board and “confess” that this article is about the general perception of the Obama legacy from an outsider’s view; especially from a Levantine like myself.
To evaluate Obama, we have to wind back the clock to the time when he put his hand up for the Democratic Party nomination. Is this guy for real? Many, including myself thought. After all, not only he was of African roots (ie black), but his name was not exactly Jesse Jackson or even Martin Luther King. His name was Barack, in fact an Arabic word, which means “bright”, and his surname is Obama; a far cry from Smith. But what is even “worse”, is that his middle name, his father’s “Christian” name was not even Christian; it is the Muslim name Hussein.
That guy, by virtue of his name, not necessarily skin colour, had no chance to lay a foot onto the White House floor, I and many others thought.
History proved all the pundits to be wrong, and admittedly, Obama led a very effective campaign against the Republicans. After two terms of having a moron by the name of George W. Bush (GWB) in the White House, two unfinished and unwinnable wars, a crumbling economy, Americans were ready for a change. The youthful, eloquent, extremely intelligent candidate Obama presented himself to be anything but a part of the “establishment”. With his amazing gift of speech, he won the hearts and minds of not only Americans, but also many overseas.
His “Yes We Can” slogan was very effective to bring home the concept that if Americans unite, they can do what seems to be impossible.
Soon after his inauguration, he was quick to go to Egypt to talk to Arabs, specifically Muslims, to tell them that America was on the verge of taking a new direction in its Middle East policies.
He chose Egypt because despite its position post Camp David agreement with Israel and the peace treaty that followed, despite the fact that for decades after that Egypt was regarded in the eyes of the Muslim World as a “traitor” of the cause, Egypt remained to be the Arab World’s leading country at many levels. Moreover, Egypt houses Al-Azhar University, the most highly acclaimed University for Islamic studies worldwide.
So everything about this young President seemed different, and love him or hate him, even his staunchest of critics regarded him as being such. Even the Nobel Prize committee could not overlook that difference and the hope it brought humanity to the extent that they jumped the gun, rather prematurely as history proved, and rewarded the man with a Nobel Peace Prize.
I must admit that I was one of millions worldwide who hoped that Obama was going to derail the traditional American foreign policies and set them on a new course. Even the very savvy Israeli leaders were worried that he would.
It didn’t take too long however to see that in effect Obama changed his slogan from “Yes We Can” to “No I Cannot”. What is even worse, is that in the not too distant future, his slogan seemed to have change again to “No I Would Not”.
When he finally admitted that he was unable to close down Guantanamo Bay prison, I remained hopeful that he would make a dignified speech and resign. But he did not, and even had the audacity to run for a second term.
Once again, in pre-empting comments that will “defend” Obama and talk about his domestic achievements; Obama Care and the like, I must admit selfishness and proclaim that when it comes to Obama Care, I don’t care. This is not to mean that I do not support proper government-funded health care programs; especially for the underprivileged, but with America being the leading nation of the world, the nation that wants to be the only superpower, its national health program, or lack of it, does not affect the rest of the world; and this is fact. The policies that American administrations undertake, and which interest the world outside the USA, are those pertaining to foreign policies, and nothing else does.
During his first term as President, one could easily observe how his great vision of being “the one” that will save America and the world was gradually and surely eroded.
In fact, a good analysis of Obama’s Cairo speech and what followed it is a clear indication that the only achievement of Obama’s visit to Cairo was to empower the Muslim Brotherhood and give them cover. In effect, his visit was not a formal visit to meet the head of the state (Mubarak). Rather, his meeting was with the opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, and on their turf, Al-Azhar University, greeting them with “Assalamu Alaikom” (peace be upon you), the traditional Muslim salute. Whilst in effect there is absolutely nothing wrong at all in America opening up to the Muslim World for a change, however the chain of events that followed that speech only indicate that the speech was the first step towards the infamous Arab Spring turned-sectarian, anti-secular pan-Arab series of devastating wars. That speech had many subtle messages, and to think that Obama did not choose his words carefully would be rather impossible to fathom. When he mentioned that he endearingly remembers as a young boy growing up in Indonesia how he listened daily to the Azan (call to Muslim prayer), he was stirring up Muslim emotions, that he knew very well that only fundamentalists would respond to, and can respond to, in the manner that they did. Bluntly, he gave them the green light; “revolt, and I understand you”. That was his version of “Yes We Can” to the Muslim World. The rest is history.
Soon after taking off the “Yes We Can” hat and replacing it with the “No I Would Not” hat, a process that did not take very long at all, Obama stopped worrying about how to be the good President he promised the world to be. So not only he became a part of the “establishment”, but also its face, mouth piece and apparatus.
The irony that followed is that not only he failed to be a good President, but he also failed to be a bad President.
Speaking of bad Presidents, we need a yard stick, a bench mark, and perhaps GWB is that yard stick with a score of 10 out of 10. His “excuse” was his much lower than average IQ, but at least he was good at being a bad President. But Obama could not reach this score either. Perhaps he scores 7 or 8 out of 10.
When GWB decided to go to war, twice, he did. Those were disastrous wars not only for Iraq and Afghanistan but for the rest of the world including America itself, but this is how bad Presidents are made. But when Obama decided to declare war on Libya and Syria, he went there half-hearted. On one hand, he wanted to change regimes, but on the other hand he did not want to invade. And whilst regime change succeeded in Libya, it failed abysmally in Syria and nearly half a million people died as a result.
This is not in any manner, shape or form a criticism for him for not invading Syria, but a criticism of his incompetent, reluctant and spineless character. If anything, I feel extremely delighted that he failed in Syria, and Syria’s inevitable victory is not only the outcome of her resilience and the support of her international friends, especially Russia, but it was also the outcome of Obama’s failure. This win, and American failure with Obama at the helm, will see a whole change in global polarity and the end of the New World Order as we know it; partly courtesy of Obama.
Obama’s stand on Syria is not much different from his stand in Ukraine and the South China Sea. Take the world to the brink of war, and then step back; not totally, but the Obama style.
And what about his stand on Yemen? This is the war that the world remembers to forget. Obama will not support the Saudis enough to win but he won’t stop the carnage either. In the meantime, tens of thousands of Yemenis have perished and millions are facing starvation; again, courtesy of Obama and cohorts.
The impact of Obama’s action and inaction on America’s traditional opponents is in reality infinitesimal in comparison to the confusion and traps that he has set for America’s traditional allies. I will leave it to Western European analysts to write about Obama’s legacy with the EU, but it is suffice for me to say that Obama’s policy in creating a needless tension between Western Europe and Russia is best described as an “after me the flood” policy. He is now walking away, leaving behind Western Europe with a flood of refugees and a huge crisis with Russia and a surging right wing reaction. In the Levant/Middle East, America’s traditional allies are Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Obama angered Israel with his nuclear deal with Iran, and yet he did not enact it. He also angered Saudi Arabia by the same deal, and added insult to the Saudi injury by not responding to their calls to help them out of their mess in Syria and in Yemen. As for Turkey, he almost completely severed American ties with the NATO member that has the second largest army after the US, and left Erdogan closer to Putin’s Russia than he is to Obama’s America. After the recapture of Aleppo by the Syrian Army, Erdogan is now even losing his popularity in the Sunni Muslim World; again and again, courtesy of Obama care-not. This is needless to say that hardly a week goes by without a massive suicide attack hitting the streets of Turkey.
Some might argue that Obama’s reluctance in making decisions that meant a higher level of involvement is the result of wisdom, but wise leaders to do not stoke fire in the first place and then sit back to watch it go wild. Obama’s reluctance is due to the fact that the “world’s most powerful man” is an incurable hesitant, recalcitrant, hopeless, hapless and incompetent wimp.
With a series of failures scattered across the globe, the capitulation of the Jihadists that he sponsored and abetted in Aleppo was the icing on the cake that Russia and Syria offered to him as a farewell gift to his tenure at the White House.
Obama failed to be a good President and he was too weak to even be remembered as a bad President. He will probably be remembered as the most spineless American President in history.
His only achievement perhaps is that he taught us to never feel confident about any hope coming from the White House. This is why when it comes to Trump, we need to exercise this caution. Whilst it is true that many of the steps and declarations that President-elect Trump has made were done after his election win and not before, and whilst therefore they are not election promises per se that were made to gain votes, and whilst it is also good to keep in mind that more than likely he means those promises because he had no reason to make them otherwise, we must always remember Obama’s disappointment. As we analyze Trump therefore, we must qualify our analysis by saying “if” he keeps his promises.
That was Obama’s single legacy of success, a legacy of instilling doubt in the White House even when a seemingly “extraordinary” President takes its residence. At all other levels, Obama leaves nothing behind but a legacy of failure.