There has been a lot of criticism of the President based on how he has handled the issues surrounding ISIL.
First, whether he should have supported the Syrian opposition nearly two years ago with weapons and potentially preventing ISIL from gaining the traction it has. More recently it was his statement that he had no strategy to deal with them. Now some question whether the strategy he enunciated in his speech to the American people last week will work.
Barack Obama came into the White House with the country facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Added to that was the Bush/Cheney legacy of two unfinished wars. Even today, Cheney is totally unrepentant for the chaos he and Bush helped create. The nation knew when they elected Barack Obama he had scant foreign policy experience but he had a vision for how he believed the world should be and how he would work to achieve that. He spoke of ending both wars and creating a new world order. Early in his Presidency he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his vision rather than his actions. He seemed slightly embarrassed by that at the time and today he may be feeling even a little more uncomfortable with it.
He set his sights high leading many in the nation to expect that when he ended both wars and brought our troops home, it would set us up for a more prolonged era of relative peace. It turned out to be an unrealistic expectation. His successful focus on making economic gains and efforts to work with other nations to achieve peace were wrongly interpreted by some to mean that America could enter a more isolationist period.
Students of history and Obama himself understood that we don’t control the world situation. He kept his promise and brought the troops home from Iraq and is now pulling the remainder of our troops out of Afghanistan, but that doesn’t mean peace.
Last week reality forced him to announce that we are again sending ground troops into Iraq, even if they aren’t in a combat mode, and our fighter pilots are flying bombing missions, more than 150 thus far. In addition, the President announced that he would not hesitate to bomb ISIL in Syria and begin to arm the Syrian opposition to Assad. He said ISIL is the enemy of the United States, not just the enemy of the Iraqi and Kurdish people. He was helped along in his decision-making process when two American reporters were seen being beheaded by ISIL. Suddenly the American people saw them as our enemy and jumped ahead of the President in their willingness to have the United States punish ISIL for these horrendous acts.
It must have been an incredibly difficult decision for the President to put the country back into what he has called a war. Not because he didn’t understand what had to be done, but he knows he will be leaving his successor another war. Different from the ones he inherited but a war nonetheless. He knows it could forever change his legacy.
A legacy that will be strong and see history view Barack Obama as a good President. He brought the troops home from two wars. His policies saved the United States from economic disaster and turned our economy around so that we now have the longest running growth in job creation in our history. Manufacturing is booming and our automobile companies have survived and are thriving; the stock market is way up and consumers are once again positive about the future. He has moved forward the rights of the LGBT community and women and will have reshaped the Judiciary in ways that will have positive implications for years to come.
Yet with all this he will leave the next occupant of the White House many unsolved problems including this new war. The economic recovery still hasn’t reached everyone and there is a hard core of unemployed who still struggle in this nation of plenty. There is the impact of the drought in California and racial unrest exemplified by the troubles in Ferguson, Mo. We have unsolved immigration issues and while much can be traced to the do-nothing Congress, the public often finds it easier to blame the President than their own intransigent Congressperson.
There are two years left for this President to add to his impressive legacy and I believe he will still accomplish much. But the decision to go back to a war stance on terrorism will be a part of a legacy he clearly hoped to avoid.