William Shakespeare, in his moving epic tragedy Julius Ceasar declared, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interred with their bones”.
As President Barack Hussain Obama bid farewell to a troubled world teetering on a razor’s edge, any good that Obama did – from Obamacare to the landmark Paris climate summit – might now be buried in history by an emboldened Republican Party. His work and legacy is now overshadowed by the atrocities committed during his tenures – a leadership vacuum in Syria, an international refugee crisis, a global tide of terrorism unseen in recent human history, stealth droning of eight Muslim countries including one of our very own areas, Waziristan.
No amount of presidential ‘smooth talking’ will ever whitewash the blood stains of the countless innocent civilians. Obama weakened the Democratic Party and presided over a deeply divided society hankering towards an epic clash of civilisations.
The US may now be losing moral custodianship to claim leadership of the free world. It is a country traumatised by the scars of death as violence, racism and hate crime alarmingly rise. This is Obama’s veiled but lasting legacy and not his soft spoken ‘popularity’ that we must scrutinise.
In our lifetime, the idea of a black American president has gone from illusory unrealism to an encouraging reality. However, glass ceilings must be broken not out of tokenistic gesture but based on merit.
Speaking of merit, Obama’s presidency was a time for First Ladies to sparkle. Irrespective of your thoughts on Hillary Clinton, it is now impossible to imagine any forthcoming First Lady to serve as mere window dressing. No First Lady has ever proven to be as deserving to be heard as the eloquently Michelle Obama.
Under Obama, shooting sprees sky-rocketed – from Fort Lauderdale to Aurora, Tucson and Sandy Hook, the US turned into a gruesome shooting arcade. Even such massacres, however, proved insufficient for Obama to build coalitions with the Congress to pass sensible gun legislation.
All this reminds me of a line from Clint Eastwood’s vintage The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, where they said there are two types of men in this world: those who lead and those who don’t. There is so much in Obama’s repertoire illustrating a lack of leadership – from poking the Russian bear brewing a Neo-Cold War leaving Nato and the Balkans on the edge of brinkmanship, to Obama’s ignored genocide of South Sudan, his mess in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and the Sinai, most states failed as terrorists mushroomed.
The massive refugee influx to Europe gave rise to rampant racism and European Far-Right Fascist populism. All this might have been averted with early humanitarian intervention and refugee safe space creation in Syria and Iraq. Instead the world looked on as the US fell into isolationist retreat.
Obama’s inability to tackle corporatism head-on, leaving the US in a debt of $20 trillion, exacerbated the economic meltdown. Left-leaning discontent rose giving birth to Occupy Wall Street, igniting disillusioned masses who “Felt the Bern”. In As Black on Black crime rose, most of all in Obama’s Chicago hometown, community relations with police nosedived and Martin Luther King probably turned in his grave. More American lives have been lost to street violence in Chicago than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
The former president George W Bush and former prime minister Tony Blair prematurely stated that Iraq was a “mission accomplished”. In May 2011, Obama declared that the US killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad. He was desperately trying to orchestrate his own “mission accomplished”.
Obama’s state department addressed global terrorism as if it were an institutionalised crime. Just like with Al Capone, the idea was to remove the leader and allow the organisation to cripple. Shooting a person never kills an idea. Malala Yousufzai is living proof of that. Such an over-simplistic policy was popularised by an administration refusing to acknowledge that it was dealing with an ideological problem, not a criminal one. Obama was utterly blindsided by Al-Qaeda’s successor, the so-called Islamic State.
It wasn’t Al Qaeda which inspired extremism, but extremism that inspired Al-Qaeda. A globally ubiquitous Al-Qaeda’s ‘franchise’ saw limitless contenders thirsting to replace Bin Laden as symbolic leaders.
It is no surprise that Isis snaked its way as the successor to Al-Qaeda catching Obama’s whole apparatus off-radar. Precision drones and stealth bombing will never by themselves eliminate terrorism. Rather than civilian-led inter-faith dialogue and debate with Muslim communities, Barack Obama hatched up a ‘presidential kill list,’ assassinating individuals via remote control, including American citizens, without any Congressional scrutiny.
Ideologically, deploying asymmetrical counter-propaganda from the grassroots up, both online and off, would be more advisable. The travesty of our times is that during Trump’s era, in a knee-jerk reaction to previous inaction, many will now blanket blame all Muslims, in frustration, alienating law-abiding Muslim citizens.
Obama’s cold detachment, aloofness, unilateralism, executive orders, lack of consensus-based coalition-building and cross-party appeal created a cocktail for the concentration of presidential power – a ripe recipe for a deluded authoritarian to replace him. The most unfortunate legacy former president Obama will leave us with is Donald J Trump.
The writer is a freelance contributor.