The Obama presidency ends after eight years of intense controversy. Elected on the promise to make a clean break with the previous Republican administration, to mitigate the effects of globalization, and to resolve social inequities, it instead exacerbated the global situation, in the process accelerating the decline of the United States.
Barack Obama rode into office on a wave of enthusiasm encapsulated in the hopeful slogan ‘Yes We Can’. Soon, reality set in and forced the administration to deal with the influence exerted by the deep state.
A mythological monster with five heads, it essentially includes Wall Street, large industrial corporations, the intelligence agencies (CIA, NSA, NRO, etc.), the military (war industry), and the mainstream media (large publishing groups and television).
Among the major merits of Obama, especially during his first administration, we can include a strong inclination not to tarnish his presidential legacy with disastrous wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. This commitment has outlined and defined to an enormous extent the United States’ engagement strategies in the international arena.
Another significant factor is seen in the efforts to regulate and define more precisely the parameters of the highly speculative finance that led to the financial crisis of 2008. The power of a president is very limited compared to the powerful entity that is the Fed.
In this sense, the small efforts to limit the power of large financial and banking groups were immediately scuttled, forcing Obama to follow the leadership of Greenspan and the monetary policy decided by the Fed. This was the first huge betrayal of the people’s mandate.
Finally, the repeated spy scandals related to the NSA and other intelligence agencies have forced Obama to adopt rhetoric aimed at containing the unlimited power of the intelligence agencies.
But in practice, the outgoing administration has done the exact opposite by greatly increasing the powers of government agencies with the intention of pursuing the new president’s war strategy. Another huge betrayal of the electorate.
Retracing the pivotal points of the outgoing administration, it is easy to understand that of the five conglomerates of power, three of them – the media, Wall Street, and the intelligence agencies — have been granted a free hand in the exercise of their powers.
This can be easily seen in the decisions the President took over eight years. Nevertheless, it is difficult to establish with certainty the degree to which Obama had to submit to certain branches of the deep state in order to implement certain strategies.
For Obama, the work of democratic evangelism (stemming from the concept of American exceptionalism), has always been a matter of priority for him, together with the need to favor certain areas of the deep state.
When looked at this way, it is easy to understand why spy agencies, the media and the world of financial speculation have enjoyed a free hand during the Obama administration.
The outgoing president has focused on three main objectives during his presidency: to advance the role of the United States in the world; a domestic recovery of the economy; and the renunciation of wars involving ground troops.
While clear goals, they are nevertheless incompatible, especially when seen in the light of the history of American foreign policy (preserving the unipolar world led by the US)
To succeed in this aim it is necessary to have the strong backing of the major financial institutions, national and international, in order to organize economic destabilization and financial terrorism against nations deemed hostile. The intelligence agencies were also relied upon to effect the type of aggression favored by the Obama administration, which relied on soft power (the Arab spring, color revolution, influence the vote).
In all this, the media apparatus played a key role by boosting political propaganda that involved classic techniques (lack of information, distorted news, altered perception of reality, omissions) to win the support of Western populations for regime-change operations in North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Obama’s military strategy of avoiding direct military intervention at all costs greatly annoyed the military-industrial complex as well as large industrial corporations (in the petroleum, agriculture and construction fields).
The bombing, the land invasion, the resulting occupation and destruction of the infrastructure of a country are great stimulants for generating contracts that are regularly awarded to US private companies (Iraq provides a prime example).
The result is hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. This war machine thereby increases its earnings through perpetual wars, occupation and weapons that employ new technologies as a result of multi-million-dollar contracts.
Other major problems are still manifesting themselves around the world as a result of the weaponization of human rights, deployed over the past decade by the Obama administration as a pretext for bombing nations and supporting violent revolutions that have untold destruction in their wake.
Obama’s foreign policy has only exacerbated global tensions, merely signifying a change in methods and means. This is the third massive betrayal of his electoral mandate.
Obama’s impact on the domestic front, a clear manifestation of a strategy based on the use of intelligence and the mainstream media, has seen an exponential increase in the power of the intelligence agencies, magnified by the repeated scandals revealed by Snowden.
The same can be said about the credibility of the press with the massaging of news to favor a certain type of interpretation of reality.
Finally, of course, the saving of the too-big-to-fail banks has produced disastrous results for the financial and economic system.
The Fed’s power (now languishing at a zero interest rate but still with its magical ability to print money out of thin air seemingly indefinitely), combined with financial speculation, the media’s distortion of news, and the unfettered freedom enjoyed by the intelligence agencies, bequeaths to the new president a country with an unstable economy that is hugging zero growth, and a foreign policy that has been disastrous for the United States and the rest of the world.
One of Obama’s few merits has been to halt large-scale military interventions, to the chagrin of the more interventionist elements of the deep state. In Syria, the failure of the 2013 invasion has been a sore point between Obama and the deep state, serving to undermine the credibility of the former president up to the last day of his residence in the White House.
In Iraq, the need to signal an important departure from Bush necessitated a forced withdrawal of US troops, as a result promoting the rise of Daesh. That Obama decided this strategy autonomously, or that it was betrayed by the intelligence apparatus (creators of Daesh at Camp Bucca), changes little.
Obama’s political strategy has necessarily had to grant specific powers of autonomy to the intelligence apparatus, in the process betraying the mandate granted him by citizens.
Obama has given weapons and funding to Daesh and elements linked to Al Qaeda, providing continued cooperation with other regional players (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey) to destabilize the entire area of the Middle Eastern and North Africa. This represents the fourth colossal betrayal of the electoral mandate.
The perpetual conflict between the deep state and Obama reached its heights on the matter Ukraine. The strong neoconservative pressure to escalate tensions in the east of the country met with little success.
In spite of the intelligence apparatus always providing assistance to Kiev in its ‘anti-terrorist operation’ as well as in information warfare (MH17?), the Ukrainian military has never been armed by the West to the extent that it would like.
One of the major contradictions between the Eurasian and the Atlantic areas has been the misinterpretation of the two major actors. In Russia (but also often in other Middle Eastern nations), Obama was seen as an extremist who was setting into motion the steps that would lead to World War Three.
Likewise, Putin was viewed in the same light by the Atlantic. This wrong perception of reality has often led to misunderstanding and a lack of trust that is difficult to overcome. The crisis in Ukraine has been the perfect example of the greatest danger that looms in terms of confrontation between nuclear powers.
In Russia, Putin has been criticized for not intervening massively in Ukraine, while Obama has been harshly criticized both in Europe and back at home for not backing Kiev with all means necessary.
It has been the moderation of both Putin and Obama in volatile contexts, especially in Syria and in Ukraine, that has prevented their respective hawks from escalating things.
In conclusion, Obama has often preferred to use alternative methods, no less harmful, to in some way impose his own vision on international politics. Some of his actions were done under duress, while others would have stemmed from his own initiative.
Sanctions on Russia, drone operations, the intensification of patrols in the South China Sea, support for Saudi actions in Yemen through arms sales, the bank bailout following the financial crisis, and the continuation of Guantanamo fall into this category.
These events, given to placate the five-headed monster known as the deep state, have tarnished Obama’s reputation. These were choices that Obama was in one way or another forced to take in order to prevent an open war with the various entities of the deep state.
In other words, he has bent to the will of the powers that be without a fight, preferring instead to adapt to the situation in order to obtain some concessions.
Obama has in domestic and foreign policy certainly been a president in some ways worse than Bush. But it should be recognized that he limited the potential for destructive nuclear war, especially when taking into account the wishes of certain elements of Washington’s power elite.
The main accusation that can be levelled on Obama is the failure to be faithful to even the most basic promises expressed during the election campaign. With the slogan ‘Yes We Can’ Obama promised a change in approach to US problems.
But instead of fighting the establishment with a revolution from within, he preferred to come to terms with it in order to advance the role of the United States in the world simply by changing approach.
He chose alliances and plot lines to advance his future biography (the contentious relationship with Israel regarding settlements, the withdrawal from Iraq, and the embargo with Cuba), but it has never come into direct conflict with important elements of the deep state. Israel can be seen as an isolated exception.
The consequences of this approach have generated catastrophic effects that we see every day in different areas of the globe.
The American and European people are experiencing an existential crisis, with loss of faith in the media; the spy agencies are considered oppressive and intrusive, having eliminated privacy, thereby no longer enjoying the trust of the public; the military-industrial complex produces outdated and inefficient hardware involving stratospheric production costs driven by greed and corruption; large corporate groups are suffering the effects of a trade war (a problematic relationship with the value of oil); and such trade agreements as TTIP and TTP have failed.
Obama, while presenting himself as a transformative candidate in 2008 and 2012, continued in the tradition of American exceptionalism, the chosen people of God with the mission of instructing the world on how to conduct itself.
The consequences are there for all to see. Iran, China and Russia, which have greatly gained confidence and consideration than the United States because of their devoid of exceptionalism approach.
The failure of Obama to live up to the expectations he created have added to the negative legacy of his presidency, making it overall one of the worst presidencies in US history.
Seen in this light, Donald Trump’s election should not be seen as too much of a surprise, Trump’s arrival representing a bigger disruption than Obama’s, a repetition of the same electoral mechanism that led to the triumph of Obama in 2008 at the end of the Bush presidency.
Trump was carried into office on a slogan that promised to put the United States at the center of the national and global project, then openly defying the interests of the five-headed monster of the deep state. There are indeed surprising similarities in this respect to the election campaign of the now former president.
Similarly, it is likely that Trump will decide to ally with certain factions of the deep state while declaring war on the remaining elements, thereby advancing this faction’s as well as his own strategic vision of the future of the country. This approach bears eerie similarity to the initial intentions shown by Obama.
The basic problem remains intrinsically linked to the personal feeling of the US president, who often feels himself appointed as a moral and spiritual guide of the whole globe and not just the United States.
In this case, the result will be the same as that of the last eight years, with the continuing growth of the role of China, Russia and Iran in the international arena. The Obama era ended with a paradoxical ‘No You Can’t!’ that rebuffed the initial ‘Yes We Can’.
Trump will have to be careful not to undergo a similar transformation that ends up transforming the slogan from ‘Make America Great Again’ to the more realistic ‘Make Eurasia Great Again’.
FEDERICO PIERACCINI | SCF