President Obama’s time in office is drawing to a close. Many people, rightly or wrongly, expected great things from the first black President of the United States. This was a man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before he had actually achieved anything. As Christopher Hitchens once argued, it was akin to giving an actor an Oscar in the hope he might one day make a great movie. As Obama’s presidency has progressed, his time in office has been plagued with problems not of his making. Many will claim despite the problems Obama has achieved much. He ended the torture programme that was started by his predecessor, he took troops out of Iraq and they are drawing down in Afghanistan, Obamacare finally gives insurance to those who don’t have it which is arguably a once in a generation reform and much more besides. However, when you look at these achievements few of these achievements have truly exercised the power of the office which Obama holds.
One example can be that of the torture programme. While it is true Obama has stopped torture it is also true that as President he could have done a lot more. As the Senate Majority report showed the true horror and scale of the torture programme conducted by the United States, no prosecutions have been brought. In fact as Glen Greenwald has noted, in 2012 the AG Eric Holder decided not to bring charges against torturers for two deaths, one in Abu Ghraib and one in a CIA facility near Kabul. This despite the fact that Obama on his campaign insisted there would be a full investigation into the evidence of criminality arguing that no-one is above the law. Obama should not only have launched an immediate investigation into allegations of torture but he should have ensured that those responsible were arrested and brought before a trial. Instead he has performed a Fordesque move which will surely tarnish his liberal credentials in the footnote of history.
On Afghanistan, yes he has started the end of the operation, however, the job is clearly not done. The attacks by the Taliban are increasing and are more pervasive in everyday life. The government and the ANA (Afghanistan national army) are failing to bring the Taliban under control and progress is horrifically slow. Indeed according to vice news the Afghan National Army is going backwards. Leaving a state in this state (pardon the phrase) is really not acceptable. Many claim the blood and treasure lost in Afghanistan has already been too high and it is time to get out. However, the argument for staying has not been properly laid out. Afghanistan cannot just be hung out to dry; indeed leaving Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban will show the adventure to be a true disaster and nightmare. In Iraq we have seen the consequences of leaving a country without a stable government with little support and a military that isn’t up to the job. His foreign policy credentials seem to be how to lurk from disaster to disaster. From toppling Gadhafi, which has now bred Islamists running across the country chasing the ‘government’, to giving the slobbering Dauphin Assad a ‘red line’ which he crossed and no consequences were apparent.
A lot of Obama’s successes have come through economic policy. While his time won’t be remembered as anything like the almost mythical new deal, he has accomplished a great deal. He has re-regulated the banking industry, has recapitalized the banks by buying toxic debt and he passed an expansive stimulus package. All of these measures have helped the American economy back on its feet after the 2008 crash which saw the whole of the western economies crash in spectacular fashion. Indeed his tragic opinion poll numbers have started to climb as the economy has started to grow again. Not only has he stabilised the economy according to many, he has also embarked on Obamacare giving millions access to healthcare, there was non before. As seen in this video which shows that advancements have been made. This is likely to be the trademark by which people remember President Obama despite other headline changes including extending Pell grants, cutting down the amount of nuclear weapons, repealing don’t ask don’t tell, extended stem cell research and much more.
So, while Obama has made some fantastic changes, few of which have been mentioned, he will be remembered as the what if President. What if he had come down harder on torturers? What if he had gone to war with a congress which hated him aside from with the Affordable care act? The play safe tactic has not been seen as clearly as his legacy project with Cuba. His legacy project is resuming relations with a small island 90 miles off the coast of America which poses no threat and whose dynastic leadership has lost all steam. Obama had the chance to be a Great, instead he will probably be a blip in America’s history.
By Sam Mace, Senior Writer for Daily Political View.