His intentions were good and noble — pity, that we don’t usually judge a man on intentions alone

 

President Obama is on a state visit to Cuba and then to Argentina to improve relations with the US’ southern neighbours. However, after the terrorist atrocities in Brussels the Republican presidential candidates, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, have both called upon the President to return to the US to establish a response to the terror threat.

What will be the President’s legacy: will history view him as a cautious, pragmatic person who did not wish to embroil his country in another Middle Eastern war? Or will his critics have the final say concerning his alleged incompetency and lack of action concerning Daesh and the increased terrorist threat which has engulfed Europe?

Obama has been unwilling to take action in Syria despite the fact the Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War which Obama has referred to as the ‘red line’ to take US military action. In fact, European states such as France and the UK have taken the lead in military action against Assad’s regime and Daesh. The vacuum which has been created by the lack of US leadership has allowed Russia to disrupt and assault anti-Assad forces in Syria. The US has been using airstrikes to disrupt Daesh and also cooperating with the Kurdish troops. However, Obama himself has criticised the UK and French leadership for the chaotic situation created in Libya — something that is felt by many analysts to be highlighting his own failings in the Middle East.

Undoubtedly, the Middle East is in a disastrous condition. Syria has become a failed state where terrorist groups have gained territory. Daesh has also gained territory within Iraq, and the Taliban are regaining their power within Afghanistan. The power of Daesh has now reached Europe with ubiquitous terrorist attacks on its cities. The EU Commissioner for Justice estimates that up to 6,000 people from Europe have travelled to Syria to join terrorist organizations.

Obama has made gains elsewhere by opening diplomatic relations with Cuba, and becoming the first President to visit the country in 88 years. This has opened the possibility of improving relations with the US’ southern neighbours who remain sceptical of its imperial legacy.

Besides this, President Obama had been instrumental in forging the nuclear deal with Iran, persuading the country to curtail its nuclear ambitions. Though the Republicans along with other states such as Israel remain distrustful of the deal, it has nonetheless enabled Iran to be held by international standards.

Another of Obama’s feats has been the Paris Agreement on climate change. This achieved one major goal: to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

Perhaps a crucial statement of Obama’s legacy is his provision of healthcare to millions of American citizens who could not afford healthcare insurance — something that seven presidents before him were unable to do. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows American citizens increased benefits and rights, although the public option, a government-run insurance policy, was withdrawn.

It is difficult to analyse how Obama’s presidency will be viewed in the future, but it remains true that he is no longer the harbinger of hope that granted him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. Even though he has improved relations with more isolated states, only future generations can judge how the Middle East crisis has impacted his legacy.