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Barack Obama: Two great achievements (photo: Elizabeth Cromwell CC BY-SA 3.0)

Barack Obama was the first black president of the United States, which was a tremendous achievement that everyone should welcome and appreciate. He also killed Osama bin Laden, although that was a decision he could not have shirked without losing the 2012 election.

Beyond those two achievements, however, President Obama was an unmitigated disaster for America and the rest of the world. The hope and change he so hyperbolically promised in the 2008 election turned out to be merely cynical soundbites. The promises he made — slowing the rise of the oceans, ending the War on Terror, bringing racial peace to America, closing Guantanamo — should not have been taken seriously. Yet when I predicted, the morning after his election, that Obama would be the worst president since Jimmy Carter, I was roundly condemned by a large roomful of starry-eyed optimists who utterly believed in him. Remember “Yes We Can”?

Obama set out a new agenda towards the Muslim world in his Cairo speech in June 2009, but then refused to support the Green Revolution in Iran later that same month; he tried to “reset” America’s relations with Russia, but was so weak that Putin annexed the Crimea de jure and eastern Ukraine de facto; Obama withdrew American troops from Iraq and publicly declared “the War on Terror is over”, creating a strategic vacuum that was immediately filled by IS; he failed to protect the life of his ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and administration officials then knowingly lied about how and why the attack on Benghazi took place; he drew a “red line” in Syria against the use of chemical weapons, and then promptly backed down when Assad brazenly crossed it; he allowed Russia to have bases in the Middle East for the first time since they had been kicked out by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger four decades ago; he constantly undermined America’s closest ally in the region, Israel, and conspired with Egypt at the Security Council in the last days before leaving office to have the Israelis denounced over settlements; he hypocritically (but ineffectually) threatened the UK with being sent to “the back of the queue” if we had the temerity to vote for our sovereign independence; he tried to “pivot to Asia” while cutting the military so badly that China was given the green light to hegemonise the region; he signed a disastrous nuclear deal with Iran — bypassing the Senate — that allows the centrifuges to keep spinning and long-range missiles to be tested at will. And that’s just the foreign policy, which he had promised in the 2008 election would be “bipartisan”.

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David Rimmer
April 27th, 2017
9:04 AM
Andrew Roberts makes a powerful case for Barack Obama’s failures. America’s first black President did not cover himself in foreign policy glory in his eight years. However, to state that killing Osama Bin Laden was Obama’s achievement is harsh because for the latter his Presidency was largely defined by the crude actions of his immediate predecessor in the White House. In years to come, I suspect that historians will conclude that George W. Bush was as much to blame for ISIS’ creation as Obama. Most American Presidents have shrugged their shoulders and not attempted to reform health care leaving many citizens destitute. The market ruled leaving millions vulnerable and facing a possible death sentence in the event of ill health. Obamacare appears to have backfired but did bring affordable health care that was previously not available. Domestically, Obama did show leadership not least when he visited black communities which were scarred by shootings by white police men. The President urged them not to retaliate which could not have been easy as those communities were looking to him to side with them. I also suspect that most people will not blame Obama for the gun-related deaths in America but republican senators that voted to block gun control measures (Obama tweeted on June 21, 2016: “Gun violence requires more than moments of violence. It requires action. In failing that the Senate failed the American people.”) The republicans also stand guilty for blocking measures that would reduce carbon emissions and frustrating Obama’s desire to cut down pollutants. Obama’s presidency flattered to deceive but the American political system stands guilty of stopping progress not least with gun control and the environment.

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