20:28 GMT21 September 2020
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    Amid the furor surrounding the most surreal and controversial US presidential election of modern times, hardly any attention has been paid to the legacy that Barack Obama is set to leave in his wake as he departs the Oval Office to make way for his replacement.

    And when it comes to analyzing Obama's presidency — focusing on his foreign policy — it is impossible to escape the kind of crushing disappointment you might associate with a child who is looking forward to Christmas in the anticipation of receiving a shiny new bicycle, only to find on Christmas morning a rusty second-hand bicycle with no front wheel instead.

    Hope Gives Way to Disappointment 

    Indeed it all seems so far away from 2008, when Obama was swept into the White House as the nation's first black president on the back of a grassroots campaign that both in size and passion was unprecedented.

    The US was a country and society in desperate need of a lift, of new hope, after two terms of a Bush administration which post-9/11 had mired the country in war without end abroad and unleashed an assault on civil liberties at home under the auspices of the Patriot Act. Add to this the 2008 financial crash and the US was limping, a nation and people in desperate need of change.

    And not only America the world was desperate for change in Washington; the devastation of Iraq and destabilization of the Middle East having left the country's reputation in tatters on a global level. It is why Obama's soaring rhetoric succeeded in lifting the hearts of millions not just across the US but also beyond.

    President Barack Obama embraces former President George W. Bush after he spoke at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library.
    © AP Photo / Charles Dharapak
    President Barack Obama embraces former President George W. Bush after he spoke at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library.

    This "change President" had promised a new approach and the world believed him.

    Yet upon entering the White House it soon became a case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" where Obama was concerned. For rather than mark a departure from a status quo of the might is right doctrine that had failed successive administrations in foreign policy, Obama decided to embrace it, albeit employing a multilateral rather than unilateral approach.

    Concrete Reality of Obama's Foreign Policy

    In concrete terms Obama's controversial "drone war" killed and maimed hundreds of civilians, including children, while in his alacrity to pull US forces out of Iraq he underestimated the terrorist threat that had grown on the back of the country's societal collapse, produced by the disastrous invasion and occupation unleashed by his predecessor George W. Bush and his British ally Tony Blair.

    Former US President George W. Bush smiles alongside former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
    © AFP 2020 / Saul LOEB
    Former US President George W. Bush smiles alongside former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

    The result was the emergence of Daesh, which began life as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), before morphing into the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), prior to spreading across Iraq's western border into Syria in 2013. Yet when Obama's attention was initially drawn to the threat posed by Daesh at the beginning of 2014, the US commander-in-chief compared the organization to a "jayvee"(junior varsity) team — i.e. small, ineffectual, and of no great concern.

    How wrong he was.

    Meanwhile, the 2011 destruction of Libya leaves an indelible stain on the first black US president's foreign policy legacy that will never be removed. With his then secretary of state Hillary Clinton's fervent support, Obama entered an alliance with Britain and France, under the auspices of NATO, to effect the destruction of a state that in 2010 could boast of the status of a "high development country" in response to social and economic data compiled by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). 

    On the basis of the wilful duplicity involved in the manipulation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, Obama and his allies turned what was a functioning state into a failed state, precipitating the worst refugee crisis the world has witnessed since the Second World War.

    When it comes to the marked deterioration in relations with China, this is the inevitable outcome of Washington's "pivot to Asia" announced in response to the threat posed to US economic and strategic dominance of the Asian-Pacific by Beijing's growing economic footprint. The resulting expansion of US military and naval forces in the region has only succeeded in deepening tensions with regard to ongoing territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

    Achievements Offset by Support for Coup in Ukraine

    Though Obama can count rapprochement with Cuba and the Iran nuclear deal as notable achievements on his foreign policy record, they are more than offset by his role in the sharp decline in relations between the West and Russia over the course of his time in office.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin meets US President Barack Obama
    © Sputnik / Aleksey Nikolskyi
    Russian President Vladimir Putin meets US President Barack Obama

    The role of his administration in supporting the 2014 coup in Ukraine, which toppled the country's democratically elected government and replaced it with a pro-Washington alternative with the support of ultra-nationalists and neo-fascists, exposed US and western foreign policy as morally and ethically bankrupt.

    The perverse attempt to justify this coup on the basis of supporting the democratic rights of the Ukrainian people — regardless of the democratic rights of millions of Ukrainian citizens living in the east and southern part of the country — likewise exposed the extent to which mendacity informed what was a naked and transparent attempt to expand NATO all the way east to Russia's borders.

    As Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has written:

    "America believes that it won the Cold War and Russia, which is the continuation of the Soviet Union, lost it. From this they deduce that Moscow must now obey and behave as a younger partner in international affairs, as well as its interactions with the US… This annuls the possibility of us having our national interests…different from America's or that of other Western countries."

    Ryabkov pinpoints the fundamental problem when it comes to US foreign policy, namely the refusal to accept that Washington does not have the right to dominate its partners, and that the instability, insecurity, and tensions that currently underpin international relations flow from this refusal.

    Obama in office, instead of improving this dynamic only intensified it, thus ensuring that when it comes to foreign policy his legacy will forever leave a bitter taste.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    invasion of Iraq, legacy, anti-Russian policy, US foreign policy, Western meddling, pivot to Asia, War on Terror, presidency, Syrian conflict, politics, 2016 US Presidential election, White House, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, United States
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