by Danny Haiphong
By any rational measure, Barack Obama has been the consummate War President, having “accelerated the growth of the US military state in all regions of the globe.” Obama “mastered the murderous art of drone warfare in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and surrounding nations to an extent unseen in the Bush era,” mobilized legions of jihadists as foot soldiers of imperialism, provoked China and Russia, occupied most of Africa and subverted Latin America.
The Obama Legacy Part VIII: The War Summation
by Danny Haiphong
“Not only did Obama fail to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he managed to expand them as well.”
For eight years, President Obama has set the world ablaze under a regime of endless warfare. Part six and seven of this series explored Obama's investment in war on the African continent and on the undocumented population that resides in the US. However, these two areas cannot possibly cover Obama's extensive record of globalized war and chaos. US imperialism’s foundation rests upon the largest military apparatus in the world. The system's enduring economic crisis has made war an indispensable tool toward maintaining and expanding US hegemony. A summation of Obama's war legacy provides more than is needed to verify the necessity of endless militarism to the imperialist system in this period of crisis.
Obama inherited an economic crisis and two full-scale occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan that lacked support from the majority of people in the US. Not only did Obama fail to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he managed to expand them as well. The Obama Administration sent 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2009 and devoted 8,400 of those troops to remain in the war-torn nation beyond 2016. Obama carried out these policies despite announcing in 2015 that he was against "endless war" in Afghanistan.
“US imperialism’s foundation rests upon the largest military apparatus in the world.”
Obama has taken a different, but no less devastating approach in Iraq. The Obama Administration announced a formal end to the occupation of Iraq in 2011. However, the so-called "end" to the war included the maintenance of 5,000 private security contractors and almost 16,000 State Department "civilian employees." Since 2014, the Obama Administration has escalated the presence of US Special Forces in Iraq to fight the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). Yet it has been acknowledged by multiple sources that it was the US destruction of Iraq that ultimately led to the rise of ISIS in the first place.
The US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were visible to the US public mostly because US soldiers died in them. When Obama came into office in 2008, he was almost immediately given a Nobel Peace Prize for his empty promises to end the "dumb" wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama ended up doing no such thing, and actually expanded war in the region. President Obama mastered the murderous art of drone warfare in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and surrounding nations to an extent unseen in the Bush era. Unmanned, aerial drone warfare has killed thousands of people in the region in the name of "counterterrorism," including numerous US citizens.
President Obama has also successfully expanded the theater of war by redefining the rules of international plunder. Obama redefined Presidential war powers to ensure that no branch of the US government could challenge the new rules of US warfare. During the invasion of Libya, Obama announced that the destruction did not count as war since it involved no "boots on the ground." Drones, special operations units, and NATO-sponsored destabilization campaigns were "humanitarian interventions" or "counter terror" operations instead. And it has been through these avenues that Obama has accelerated the growth of the US military state in all regions of the globe.
“Obama militarized virtually every African state as a means to ward off Chinese investment from the continent.”
The extent of Obama's use of these new rules on behalf of the imperialist war machine spans far and wide. To provoke China, Obama has led the so-called "Pivot to Asia" as a means to contain Chinese influence. This has involved the militarization of the Asia Pacific through military relationships with the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia. A recent report by the RAND Corporation has taken war with China one step further by offering scenarios as to what would happen should the US wage a full-scale military invasion of China in the near future.
Obama has additionally intensified the war drive against Russia. In 2014, the Obama Administration supported a right-wing coup in Ukraine. Ukraine was thrown into chaos, with pro-independence forces entrenched in a bloody war with EU and NATO backed paramilitary groups. Obama has also expanded NATO's presence along the Russian border generally. NATO conducted its largest military operation to date in Poland in June of 2016, an exercise that included more than 30,000 troops from the alliance.
Obama laid the basis for war provocations with Russia and China by threatening and destroying their strategic partners. In Africa, as analyzed in part six of the series, Obama militarized virtually every African state as a means to ward off Chinese investment from the continent. In Latin America, the first Black President helped worsen global displacement by supporting the violent overthrow of the Zelaya government in Honduras in 2009. Obama then attempted a failed coup in Ecuador in 2010. In 2015, Obama declared Venezuela a "threat to national security." This label brought with it sanctions that further strangled an already fragile Venezuelan economy.
“The goal of US foreign policy since 2001 has been to overthrow sovereign nations in the Middle East and North Africa.”
With these maneuvers, Obama set out to prove that there was no war he didn't favor as long as it was a "smart" war. This was especially true in Obama's impassioned pursuit of the overthrow of the Libyan and Syrian governments beginning officially in 2011. In both countries, Obama supported genocidal jihadist proxies to achieve the full destabilization of both nations. It took air cover and NATO bombs to finish the job in Libya, something that has yet to be achieved in Syria. However, both countries remain in chaos. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans and Syrians have fled the carnage. A similar number have died in the name of Obama's war doctrine for the region.
As former NATO general secretary Wesley Clark made clear in 2007, the goal of US foreign policy since 2001 has been to overthrow sovereign nations in the Middle East and North Africa. The Obama Administration has laid waste to two countries on that list (Libya and Syria) while keeping others (Somalia and Iran) in a constant state of despair through weapons such as sanctions. Seven nations around the world saw US bombs hit their lands under the Obama Administration. And this leaves out the regimes waging wars of their own that Obama has continued to support throughout the duration of his rule.
Saudi Arabia and Israel have received increased patronage from Obama to wage war on the people of Palestine and Yemen. President Obama is set to strike a deal with Israel that would give the Zionist state its largest military package to date. Israel already receives 3.1 billion USD per year to terrorize and colonize the Palestinian people. As for Saudi Arabia, the Obama-led Pentagon has agreed to give an additional 1.15 billion USD worth of weapons to finance Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen. Tens of thousands of Palestinian and Yemeni people have died as a result of US arms sales to the Obama Administration's two largest allies in the region.
“Over 70 percent of the world is occupied with US Special Operations forces.”
When President Obama was elected in 2008, the US military state was already enormous. Eight years later, Obama has expanded the US warfare state without protest from the vast majority of the US public. The US military has allocated 866 billion USD to war-related initiatives under Obama as compared to 811 billion USD under his predecessor, George W. Bush. Obama set out to end "dumb wars" but what he actually did was levy the death toll entirely on the targets of war. US casualties from war have decreased under Obama despite the fact that over 70 percent of the world is occupied with US Special Operations forces. Obama has transformed the theater of war to mainly consist of campaigns waged by drones and proxies under US military guidance.
The ruling class awarded Obama a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 as a public relations stunt to boost the symbolic power of his rule. Obama ultimately served the warfare state and its imperialist masters better than any President could. His Administration destabilized sovereign countries and sent masses of people all over the world to an early grave without mass protest. This could not be achieved under a Republican Party President. President Obama's legacy as a warfare President and the facilitator of a potential World War III scenario has in large part been accepted by the US public despite eight years of dutiful service. This is why BAR has labeled Barack Obama “the more effective evil” of the US ruling class and why his exit from the White House should be a welcome site for all who seek peace for the planet.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]