Connect with us

Latest

Analysis

News

Obama departs, ending the most disastrous Presidency of the post-Cold War era

Obama’s legacy to his successor is division at home and failure abroad, bequeathing a troubled nation and a state of world conflict instead of world peace.

Alexander Mercouris

Published

on

3,960 Views

As Obama finally departs from the scene, this seems as good a moment as any to assess his Presidency.

In my opinion it has been a disastrous Presidency, which has hugely deepened divisions in America – a fact which more than any other explains the exaggerated reaction to his successor – and which has brought international relations to its most dangerous point of crisis since the end of the Second World War.

If that seems unduly harsh, then I would say that that is because whilst Obama has failed in every other respect, he has proved a genius in one respect, which is in his successful manipulation of opinion and of his own image, which seems to have been his main priority.  The result is that much of what went catastrophically wrong during his Presidency has been successfully concealed, so that unlike his immediate predecessor George W. Bush, Obama’s reputation has – so far – emerged from his Presidency comparatively though undeservedly intact.

In assessing any US President the temptation of a foreign writer like myself is to focus unduly on his foreign policy and to underestimate his domestic policy, which for Americans is however what principally matters.

Obama’s supporters tend to give him high marks for his domestic policy.  They claim that he successfully turned the US economy round after the 2008 financial crisis, and they also give him credit for Obamacare, which they consider a major step in addressing the ongoing catastrophe which is US health policy.

In my opinion the extent of both of these achievements is overstated.

By the time Obama became President the peak point of the financial crisis had already passed as a result of decisive if controversial Central Bank action – first and foremost by the US Federal Reserve Board – whilst Gordon Brown’s government in Britain had already led the way with its equally controversial policy of bailing out the banks.

Obama as President simply continued these policies, or to be more exact, he stood by as an interested and generally supportive bystander as they were put into effect.

The reason a global depression was avoided ultimately had little to do with him.  His much vaunted $800 billion reflation programme had little effect on the economy, its importance being overshadowed by the far more important aggressive quantitative easing policies of the US Federal Reserve Board and of the other Western Central Banks.  Importantly, despite Obama’s reflation policy, the condition of US infrastructure during his Presidency continued to deteriorate.

This is not a discussion about economics, and I will here merely state my belief that the action to avoid depression by bailing out banks and printing money will over time prove nothing short of disastrous, hugely inflating levels of debt in all the Western economies and leaving them in a much worst position than the one they were in before the crisis began.

What I would say is that one practical effect of this approach which has had important political consequences is that it has greatly increased social and economic inequality in all the major Western economies (Germany up to now has been the one important exception) as the dubious benefits of money printing and debt creation have disproportionately benefitted the already inordinately wealthy few at the expense of the increasingly indebted many.

As for Obamacare, its supporters need to ask themselves why unlike other policies to socialise health care costs – the NHS in Britain and Medicare and Medicaid in the US being obvious examples – it has so completely failed to win a critical mass of popular support, so that Donald Trump is now set to repeal it.

The short answer is that Obamacare has created a system which is so costly and inefficient, and which places so much of the economic burden on those it is supposed to help whilst rewarding the already grossly over-rewarded US health insurance industry even further, that it has never proved popular.

Given the political obstacles to genuine health reform in the US it is of course a moot point whether any other President could have done better.  Whilst it is fair to make this point, I cannot see how a health care reform which unlike Medicare and Medicaid is so fragile that it looks like being swept away so soon after Obama leaves office can be called a success.

Obama has also lent his support to issues like climate change, LGBT rights, and other social issues.

In my opinion these are important issues.  However on climate change no breakthrough has been achieved, and the breakdown in international relations over which Obama has presided during his Presidency (see below) has ensured that there can be none, since without international cooperation effective action on climate change is impossible.

On LGBT rights and other social questions Obama’s role has been minimal, with the heavy lifting done by others within US society over previous decades, whilst the economic conditions of black Americans – for perfectly understandable reasons Obama’s most loyal supporters – have actually deteriorated during his Presidency.

Indeed to the extent that Obama and other leading politicians in the Democratic Party have involved themselves in these issues, by seeking to use them to construct a political coalition based on them they have actually exacerbated what were already existing divisions within US society.

It is sometimes said that one of the reasons Obama as President achieved so little in domestic policy was because of the relentless hostility to him of his Republican opponents.

To a certain extent this is true, though the extent of this hostility has always seemed to me overstated.  What this point anyway however ignores is the degree to which Obama by his own behaviour has contributed to it.  Instead of personally reaching out to his opponents as Lincoln and Reagan once did, Obama preferred to withdraw into the solitude of the White House and the golf course, cutting an impossibly remote figure, leaving Republicans he might have charmed and won over feeling unwanted and left out in the cold.  Unsurprisingly they turned on him.

However it is Obama’s mismanagement of international relations which will ultimately condemn the reputation of his Presidency.

In my opinion the fundamental cause of this failure is that Obama has never understood or tried to understand the international system, or that the most important task of a modern statesman is to preserve peace, and that the key to doing this is through the successful management of relations between the three countries that are the world’s Great Powers: the US, China and Russia.

This is especially tragic since the conditions for doing this were never better than at the start of Obama’s Presidency.

The US’s key areas of interest are in north west Europe, the northern Pacific, and the Middle East.  Russia’s primary areas of interest are the territories of the former USSR.  China’s main focus is Taiwan and the South China Sea.

None of these areas of interest overlap with each other in the way that say the Balkans overlapped as a competing area of interest between the Great Powers before the First World War.  Moreover both China and Russia are for the moment principally focused on their economic development and have no wish at present to challenge the global role of the US and its leading position in the world economy.

That should have provided a strong basis for an effective system of cooperation between the three Great Powers, which would have made it possible to manage international relations successfully and to preserve peace.

In the event, instead of managing successfully relations with the other two Great Powers – China and Russia – the US under Obama has disastrously mismanaged them and drifted into confrontation with both of them.

This is in part because of Obama’s disdain for their leaders – which he is incapable of keeping hidden but instead foolishly broadcasts to the world – but it is mainly due to his utter disregard for their interests, which he doesn’t seem able to understand or even acknowledge.

Thus he has allowed the US to drift into a confrontation with China in the South China Sea and with Russia in Ukraine, even though as his interviews last year with The Atlantic show, he understands that China and Russia care about these regions in a way the US does not and will never do, and therefore will always have “escalatory dominance” over the US in both of them.

Beyond this there is the issue of Obama’s manipulative approach to relations with both Great Powers.

In the case of Russia he secured a major nuclear arms treaty by giving the Russians the clearest impression that he was going to give up the preceding Bush administration’s policies of installing ballistic missile interceptors in eastern Europe and its drive to draw Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.  Instead, once the nuclear arms agreement had been secured, Obama doubled down on both of the Bush administration’s policies, pushing ahead with the anti ballistic missile deployments in eastern Europe, and sponsoring an anti-Russian, pro-US coup against the democratically elected government of Ukraine, whose ultimate objective – as repeatedly announced by its leaders – was to bring Ukraine into NATO.

In the case of China Obama’s mishandling of relations was equally bad, though in the West it has attracted less attention.  At one and the same time he has appeared to encourage China to enlarge its role in the world economy, whilst simultaneously declaring a US “pivot to Asia” transparently intended to “contain” China and to mobilise the south east Asian states against it.  He has also – incredibly – allowed the US navy to discuss in public its plans for an economic blockade of China’s coast.

Understandably enough, Obama ended his Presidency with neither the Chinese nor the Russians trusting him.  The result is that the Russian-Chinese alliance – still embryonic when Obama became President – has now become full-fledged and irreversible and increasingly openly directed at the US, as the Chinese and the Russians – under pressure from Obama and previously Bush – have drawn together to oppose it.

Obama’s disastrous habit of making promises which he didn’t keep was unfortunately a hallmark of his whole conduct of foreign relations, and not just of his relations with the leaders of China and Russia.

In 2011 Obama assured not just the Russians and the Chinese but several other world leaders – including notably President Zuma of South Africa in a personal call – that the US had no plan for regime change in Libya.  As soon as these leaders agreed to a UN Security Council Resolution that allowed limited military action in Libya to protect civilians but which stopped well short of authorising regime change, he used it justify a far greater military intervention in Libya than he had promised, which ended first with regime change and then with chaos.

In 2011 Obama persuaded Turkish President Erdogan to support his regime change policy in Syria, leading Erdogan to think the US would see it through, if necessary by military action.  In the event the US failed to carry out military action to see its policy of regime change in Syria through, leaving Erdogan and Turkey high and dry, and with relations between Obama and Erdogan, and between the US and Turkey, in crisis.

Obama led the Iranians to believe that in the event they agreed to the nuclear deal he wanted from them, all the financial sanctions imposed on Iran would be lifted.  In the event once Obama got his nuclear agreement many of the sanctions remained in place, with the US Treasury Department continuing to enforce them.

This serial habit of making and breaking promises has had a corrosive effect on international relations.  By shattering trust between leaders it has made effective conflict management all but impossible, most disastrously during the Syrian crisis where painstaking negotiations with the Russians in the end led nowhere.

The result is that instead of cooperation between the three Great Powers there is mistrust and conflict between them, and instead of peace and successful conflict prevention there are now conflicts in almost every potential flashpoint in the world, with the US involved in all of them – in Ukraine, in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and in the South China Sea – and losing every one of them.

The most dangerous moment of all came in October, with the US military facing off against the Russian military in Syria, in what was the first outright confrontation between the militaries of the two military superpowers since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and being forced to back down.  The only reason Obama’s reputation has survived this humiliation – arguably the greatest humiliation the US has suffered since the fall of Saigon – is because the Western media intentionally suppressed news of it.

In this climate of conflict – with Obama’s the first Presidency in US history over the course of which the US has been engaged in fighting somewhere every single day – monsters like ISIS have been able to breed and grow to appalling power.  It should be said clearly that ISIS’s success and continued existence would be impossible in any well functioning system of international relations, and is the direct product of the breakdown of the current system of international relations, for which Obama must take most of the blame.

Unfortunately it does not end there.

Obama’s habitual way of concealing his failures has been to use the media – with which he has strong connections and which is predisposed to be very supportive of him – to vilify his opponents, something clearly evident in Obama’s handling of US domestic politics, but which has reached unheard of levels in his increasingly personal campaign against the man he has clearly come to think of as his personal nemesis: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Needless to say this has poisoned the international atmosphere even further, whilst fostering a dangerously hysterical and paranoid atmosphere across the West.

Where the proper function of a US President should be to calm fears and passions, Obama has instead increased them to levels not seen the 1940s and 1950s, triggering ugly witch hunts of the like the US and the West have not seen since the McCarthy era.

The result is that anyone today who calls for an improvement in relations with Russia – something essential in order to ensure world peace – risks being called a “useful idiot” or a Russian stooge, even if he is the US’s formerly most revered expert on Russia – Professor Stephen Cohen – or if he is no less a person than Obama’s successor – Donald Trump – who is now President of the United States.

It is a disastrous legacy of a man who has genuine intellectual gifts combined with the charisma to be a genuinely transformative President, but who was however never quite as intelligent or as well-informed as he always believed himself to be.

The result is that Obama departs the Presidency bequeathing to his successor a deeply divided country, and an unsettled and fraught international situation, which it will require massive work to put right.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

Published

on

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

Published

on

By

Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

Published

on

Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending