Foreign Policy

War Is Peace: Obama's Foreign Policy Legacy

Slouching toward somewhere


not a game
White House

With just about two and a half years left of President Obama's second term, it's legacy-building time at the White House. Last week the president gave two foreign policy speeches, in Afghanistan on Memorial Day to announce that the U.S. war in that country was ending by the end of the year, and at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he announced 10,000 troops would be left behind in Afghanistan. The president told graduating cadets they could be the first class since 9/11 not to serve in Afghanistan or Iraq.


With the seemingly open-ended military commitment President Obama is making by leaving such a large residual force in Afghanistan, it may be just as likely that this class, like every class since 9/11, will serve in Afghanistan, or even Iraq.

Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq is still in effect. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a resolution to revoke that AUMF in January of this year, but it has still not been acted on by the Democrat-controlled Senate. And in the beginning of his first term, President Obama actually resisted the George W. Bush-negotiated end to the war, insisting on a residual force of about 10,000 troops. The U.S. has been providing support to the Iraqi government in its campaign against Al-Qaeda, a campaign that began during the U.S. war in Iraq and has continued after the end of that war.

In Afghanistan, the president appears to have gotten his way on a residual force of the same size. Meanwhile the AUMF passed after 9/11, the one targeting Al-Qaeda and affiliated forces, remains in effect. It has not been changed despite the Obama Administration paying lip service to reform. The Obama Administration's interpretation of the AUMF applies it to U.S. counterterrorism operations across Africa and Asia—conceivably the Iraq war would not need its own separate AUMF based on the president's interpretation of the post-9/11 authorization.

President Obama, then, has essentially continued a post-9/11 foreign policy doctrine first promulgated by President Bush: A state of total war, out-of-sight abroad (drone strikes, special operations, etc.) and normalized at home (domestic checkpoints, widespread and systemic surveillance and data collection, etc.) Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, once predicted the war on terror would last our lifetimes. The "war on terror" moniker may have fallen out of favor but his prediction remains very likely.

In 2008 Barack Obama campaigned for president as the candidate who would curb America's aggressive foreign policy, promising more measured and well-thought-out foreign policy approaches. In 2012 he campaigned on having ended the war in Iraq (despite trying to extend the war), on working to end the war in Afghanistan (despite ordering a seemingly politically motivated surge in 2009), and on dismantling Al Qaeda (despite increased activity by Al Qaeda-affiliated and other Islamist terrorist groups, especially in regions that have experienced U.S.-backed interventions). By 2012 the only measure by which Obama's policies could be seen as moderate was by comparison to his Republican challenger.

The Obama Administration paints its meddling in places like Syria and Ukraine as successful because it has not pursued the kind of aggressive intervention advocated by the likes of neoconservative Republicans like John McCain, who Obama defeated in the 2008 election. The claim that avoiding the more disastrous interventions supported by politicians roundly rejected by the national electorate amounts to a success is a disheartening one.

When a State Department spokesperson tried to claim the president wasn't taking enough credit for his foreign policy successes, she was laughed at; her only concrete (a word used loosely) examples were Ukraine, and the fact that the U.S. "engaged more or as much as any other country in the world in supporting the elections process and supporting the government," as well as ongoing negotiations with Iran. These negotiations, in fact, may become the only clear foreign policy success the Obama Administration has, but until they've concluded it's hard to claim they represent an already-achieved success.

Pressed by the press corps on what exactly the president should be taking credit for that he hasn't, the State Department spokesperson referred to "efforts to dive in and engage around the world." But these are largely disasters for which the president and his administration have refused to take responsibility. Take Benghazi, where the Obama Administration misleadingly blamed a YouTube video for a coordinated terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in the city and then spent the next year and a half claiming how accurate the exact narrative over Benghazi initially was didn't matter anymore. In Hillary Clinton's new book, the former Secretary of State blames Republicans for politicizing the attack and obsessing over it. Yet both sides of the establishment miss the point; that regardless of the exact identity of the perpetrators, the deteriorated security environment in which the Benghazi attacks occurred was made possible by the U.S.-backed intervention in Libya in 2011, just as U.S. interventions of all intensities have helped Al Qaeda set up base many places the U.S. has meddled.

Ultimately, President Obama's legacy may be cemented by his successor. The next president could expand on the framework of worldwide, open-ended counterterrorism efforts constructed by the Obama Administration over the precedent set by the Bush Administration, securing Obama's legacy as the midwife that made the Bush terror doctrine palatable and permanent. 

Or Obama's successor could do the work of dismantling the post-9/11 Bush-Obama approach to foreign and war policy, limiting the folly of America's post-9/11 interventionism to two presidents and one generation. Either way, however, Obama's foreign policy legacy looks to be inexorably tied to its origins in the post-9/11 policy response decided upon by the Bush Administration. 

NEXT: White House Apologizes for Keeping Taliban Trade Secret, NSA Says Facial Recognition Tools Legal, Girls Plot Murder to Appease Slenderman: P.M. Links

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  1. A state of total war

    translated: BENGHAZIII!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I see your comments frequently. Like most of the others posting on this site (usually the same crowd), you probably didn’t even know where Libya was, much less Benghazi. Like all robots and zombies, if the Reason staff told you that it was in the middle of the Indian Ocean you would probably believe it. If they told you to piss in a bottle and drink it because it was good for you (urine therapy) you would probably do that to. Anyway, I’ll let you get back to your fellow retards down at the trailer park. Have a nice evening ace.

      1. Oh! Perfect! Palin Butpluggin’ Mandalay in The Road!

        1. Thea,

          That’s about right for those of your ilk. I’m surprised an ignorant asshole like you managed to think up those many words all at once. You have a nice evening you moron.

          1. Stop troll on troll violence!

            1. Vic,

              Like most people who post on this site, and claim to be libertarians, a troll is probably someone who disagrees with your opinions. Since you can’t express yourself very well you resort to name calling, and then when you get the same thing back you get upset. You, and those of your asshole ignorant ilk can dish it out but you can’t take it can you? Anyway, you need to consider suicide as an option so I can mark your file DSAF – Did Society A Favor.

      2. I was deployed to Libya during the revolution against Gaddafi, we watched as civilians fleeing in boats from the country were being shelled from shore by their benevolent government. we (SAR swimmers)did search and rescue for 16 hours a day for weeks safely escorting survivors back to Sicily.
        in fact jackass most commenters here are ex military
        we know where the shores of Tripoli are its kinda in one of our songs
        and most Libertarians dont live in the trailer park we have an ideology that promotes self development which seldom leads to being trailer trash like progressivism and socialism do

        1. Vic,

          I’m a veteran also. 23 years active duty. I was deployed a lot of places also, combat wise back in the day before your were born. So what! Sorry to disappoint you asshole, but I am not a socialist or progressive either. I’m an American and a patriot, but not a fucking war monger. Are you a WM?

          You must be a Marine. That’s fine. However, if you are a Marine you really should change your posting pen name to Vic Jarhead. Just joking. After all, I don’t want you to send a Force Recon team in to wipe me out.

          Since you must be a Marine, I am sure you have hear about another Marine who was born back in the 19th Century and grew up in the 20th Century. His name is Smedley Butler. If not, look him up.

          Have a nice day Jackass. See you around the site ace. Maybe the next time when you see my comments you will at least know that you are talking to ex military. I’m one of those “ex military” who went on to get more education. What’s your academic level? Just curious.

      3. Why do you hate poor people?

  2. Obama’s foreign policy legacy is exactly the same as all his other “legacies”: bumbling incompetence. Biden should get a t-shirt that says “I’m with fuck-up” with an arrow pointing at Obama.

    1. Probably not specific enough.

      1. Yep, A better Biden t-shirt would say, “I’m with the articulate and bright and clean and nice-looking Fuck Up.”

        1. +1 creased pants.

    2. Let me know when you become President.

      1. On The Road To Mandalay|6.3.14 @ 10:11PM|#
        “Let me know when you become President.”

        Are you familiar with the phrase “appeal to authority”?
        Or is that taught in the 7th grade?

        1. I figured you would show up. Just like a worm who pops up out of the mud when it rains, and then gets eaten by a bird. Fuck you.

          You mention the 7th grade. Is that your highest level of education? Have a nice day you ignorant slug. Fuck you again.

    3. So who do you plan to vote for in the next election? Why don’t you run for President?

  3. None of this is anything that Obama, or any President after him will decided. The machine called The Pentagon (created during World War II) will decide who our enemies will be, and when and where to attack them. You can count on it.

    1. Yeah, it’s not like the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces or anything.

      He’s powerless I tell you!

      1. Hey Asshole,

        Thanks for the update. I didn’t know that the President was Commander-in-Chief, or anything.

        Read my response to OneOut and you might learn something.

        You would have done well to ponder on my comment before you made your smart ass remark.


          *shakes fist at passing pigeons*

          There, I ran your remarks through Derpelfish.

          1. Hi there Swiss Asshole,

            Wrong choice. You need to run my remarks up your rectum.

    2. On The Road To Mandalay|6.3.14 @ 5:00PM|#

      “None of this is anything that Obama, or any President after him will decided. ”

      If that is the case then I hope that Obama keeps reading the newspapers so that at least he will be kept aware of what is going on during his presidency.

      I’m kinda heartened by your statement though. I trust the Pentagon to correctly identify our enemies much more so than a President who claims to learn about most big events “from the newspapers”.

      1. Your English Composition tends to suck, as does your reading comprehension ability.

        My point (which you failed to catch), is that The Pentagon (DOD) is a powerful institution in our society that is there regardless of who is in the White House. As such, it has a powerful influence on The Presidents and The Congress.

        That is what I said. What fucking point were you attempting to make in your response to me?

        1. So, to instead of “It’s all Bush’s fault” you are going with “It’s all the Pentagon’s fault? Well that’s a novel approach, I’ll give you that.

          Let me ask you, was the Iraq War Bush’s fault or the Pentagon’s fault?

          1. You must be yet another person with reading comprehension problems.

            You are another stupid person who takes everything literally. You don’t know the difference between metaphor or figures of speech.

            What I said was that The Pentagon is a very powerful institution in our society. It is a war machine that needs feeding and exists for war. It has tremendous influence on The President and Congress.

            Now do you begin to get the picture?

            Have a nice evening fool!

            1. This is amusing. You spout tinfoil bullshit, then when called on it you walk it back while calling other people fools. I’ll give you this, at least you’re more entertaining than our usual trolls.

              1. It is a bit angry, however.

                Needz moar lithiumz?

                1. Fuck you.

              2. You must be another undereducated asshole who resents any opinions you are too fucking stupid to understand. Fuck you.

            2. I would think that id the DOD were truly responsible for foreign policy, we would at least have a consistent foreign policy.Instead of fighting Al Qaeda in one place and arming them in another, then stammering around like a drunken teenager in Syria with no plan at all.

            3. Didnt Obama already purge the military of most of his detractors with phony scandals to cover up his inept “leadership”
              so that would mean that the pentagram is full of his supporters.
              i guess i dont understand how progressive logic works
              perhaps its only by looking at small fragments at any given time and such a short term memory that recent history seems to evade your grasp
              How hasnt this been orchestrated by the same single party of statists that Obama comes from?
              or do you think dems and repubs are different?

          2. It’s obviously not the fault of the Democrats in Congress, like Hillary and Kerry who voted for it !!!

        2. Road, I’ve read several of your comments and they seem to be filled with plenty of name calling, pomp and inconsistency but they fall short on intellectual merit.

          Your tangents mostly miss the point as you did on the DoD. Yes they are a powerful organization but they are subordinate to both the president and congress. It also consumes fewer resources fewer resources and directly touches fewer citizens lives than any other entitlement. Yes defense is an entitlement and one of the few identified in the constitution.

          Yes I would like to see changes to Dod policy but I’m far from ready to don the tinfoil hats and claim that they run the country.

          Nearly all of your comments have been about deflecting responsibility rather than laying it where it belongs. That’s probably why you shift any disagreement to your opponents lack of reading comprehension rather than considering that it might be the result of your own flawed communication skills.

          Anyway, enjoy your day and I look forward with amusement to the prospect of being called names by a mental midget such as your self.

          1. Glad you enjoy my comments. I hope you are looking forward to seeing more of them in the future.

            Have a nice day you fucking moron. If you don’t like my comments you can always fold, spindle and mutilate them, and then ram them up your asshole. That’s where your brain is, isn’t it?

  4. Let’s “wind down” the war against Islamic terrorism and give them all of the advantages of ensuring their victory. That is Obama’s foreign policy. Support whomever hates America, liberty, and humanity. What does he have to lose? He can live among his brethren when he succeeds in “fundamentally transforming America” into a wasteland of hell.

    1. Who is paying you to be a prostitute and a pimp for the anti-Obama propagandists?

      1. its not propaganda its just the news man
        you cant possibly think that…
        He didn’t give 1.5 billion in aid to the Muslim Brotherhood after sizeing power through a coup in Egypt?

        He didn’t funnel advanced military hardware to Al-nursura in Syria?

        He didn’t trade 5 battle hardened terrorists for an American deserter

        He didn’t abandon ambassador Matthews along with 4 spec-ops soldiers to their fate in Libya at the hands of terrorists

        He didn’t have a religious upbringing by a clear sociopathic bloodthisrty whack-job who preaches Islam and who has been on the news in recent memory to preach his hate speech?

        according to you this is prophaganda
        according to almost every news outlet as well as the white house’s own admission, this is the truth
        so how are we not to assume hes the manchurian canidate

        1. Vic,

          Are you talking to me or someone else?

  5. There is no foreign policy “legacy” because the Obama administration has had NO FOREIGN POLICY since day 1.

    Foreign ‘Policy’ implies that a person believes that how your nation stands in relation to other nations needs to change in some material way, presumably for your own (and/or) mutual benefit

    In the vast majority of ‘policies’ engaged in by the Obama administration, they reveal multiple things

    a) they don’t know what they want, and are doing it mostly to say, ‘they did something’


    b) the consequences of said policies are not in any way taken into account when considering future behaviors.

    the result is a mishmash of behaviors which have largely served to undermine the position of the US Govt, and do nothing positive for any of our various partners or adversaries. Consequently, most of them have either chosen to stop playing ball with us, or are using our own stupidity against us for their own benefit.

    Russia is probably the single most notable, given that relations with russia were considered a singular focus in the first term, and Hilary’s personal goal was to set up conditions for an ongoing relationship that would change historical dynamics.

    result = Derp.

    Israel is always another area where presidents try and make a mark =

    result =…..-plan.html

    Yeah, I guess he’ll try round 2 with the Palestinians instead.

    1. BULLSHIT! Every administration has a foreign policy. It may be stupid or brilliant, but it is still a foreign policy. Get you fucking facts straight before you post another one of your fucking literary masterpieces.

      1. Calm down! You are turning a perfectly nice thread into a steaming pile. Go consume whatever chemical substance you use to control those anger issues and come back when you can play nice.

        1. Calm down? Why? I post an opinion and a bunch of assholes jump on it because they are too f***ing stupid to deal with metaphors. They are the ones who need to “calm down”.

          I never play “nice” with a bunch of stupid assholes who insult me. They could have posted half-way intelligent rebuttals, but failed to do so.

          By the way, I don’t use any chemical substances. I have no plans to play nice with a bunch of f***ing moronic fools, to include yourself, in case you want to throw some more of your bullshit my way.

          1. Well slick, perhaps you could enlighten us as to which metaphor isn’t being properly dealt with?

            For what little it’s worth you seem to be the only one throwing around insults and acerbic comments rather than expressing views or discussion various positions.

            1. Hey slick yourself. I always express opinions in a literate manner. Most of the opinions I express apparently offend the semi-literates posting on this site. So, instead of refuting my opinions with intelligent replies, they go with the insults. Then they get insulted back by me, every time, and many times over.

              Have a nice day asshole. See you around the site slick.

      2. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

        Can you explain the Obama administration’s foreign policy objectives, then?

        1. Why don’t YOU explain them to ME. You seem to be a f****ing genius. I’m always open to learning new things.

          1. I’ll explain their objectives.

            1. They have none.

            1. And you do? Let me know when you become Secretary of State. Have a nice evening turd bird.

              1. SO your saying you’d vote for someone different to see if the outcome is different?

              2. As the first Anarcho-Capitalist secretary of state the first order of business is to withdraw the US from the UN and discontinue all foreign aid permanently.

                Second order of business America is now a neutral nation like Switzerland with no allies and taking no sides in judgement of other nations instead we have a new policy we are here to trade and do business with anyone for all goods without restriction putting an end to all sanctions, also known as the “if goods cross boarders armies don’t” philosophy.

                Thirdly all military assets abroad will be ordered home, all foreign bases and ports owned by the US will be sold back or traded back to their respective governments we will police our shores and protect our country and way of life with our military.

                If we are attacked after leaving everyone alone, we shall respond using the full might of our military in a series of blitzkrieg attacks until their government meets our terms of surrender, if threatened by a sizable enough army we threaten to nuke the world into nothing if they don’t leave us alone kinda like the Norks do

                1. Great post. You need to run for President. You do qualify don’t you?

      3. Or it may involve getting Joe Biden High and having him throw darts at a map to decide who to murder drone. Having A policy means having a set of clear goals, and at least a general idea on how to get there. Obama doesn’t have that. He has a series of random actions, and reactions with no relation to the past or future.

        1. please they gave Uncle Joe some MDMA and a textured globe.
          “i love the way this ridge feels man, its like its dripping into my soul”
          “we have weapons release confirmation”
          *picture of drones bombing a school*
          “target neutralized”

  6. You’d think given the overwhelming problems abroad, he’d at least attempt to try something more tangible and close to home, like Mexico…..-of-border


  7. OT: This is hilarious


  8. I’ve been observing politics for a long time now going back to the 1980s. I don’t think I’ve ever been this confused about a leader of ANY Western country like this puzzled and bewildered clueless empty suit. At least you always generally knew where you stood with, say, Thatcher, Reagan, Trudeau (left-wing eccentric), Mitterand (plus ou moins – he was French after all), Chirac (that duplicitous socialist), Clinton, most post-war German leaders (WWII guilt and all that made them kinda predictable – like their soccer – WHOA!), Berlusconi, and both Bush I and II.

    Obama is just talking out of all sides without rhyme or reason. And, might I add, with poor diction and oratorical skill.

  9. None of this is anything that Obama, or any President after him will decided. The machine called The Pentagon (created during World War II) will decide who our enemies will be, and when and where to attack them. You can count on it.-Bay. You make a statement, do not elaborate on your theory, spew obscenities, then accuse people of on this board of being too stupid to understand your incoherent tirade. While you do have a point about the influence of the MIC being too large, you’re either forgetting the fact that those who are elected to power are the ones with final say when force can be used or you’re just playing stupid to support Team Blue. I’ve read a bit of your posts and I don’t believe you’re stupid, so I can only conclude you’re a disingenuous, partisan hack.

    1. New phone, haven’t bothered to find alt text or paragraph spacing, you get the gist.

    2. “I’ve read a bit of your posts and I don’t believe you’re stupid, so I can only conclude you’re a disingenuous, partisan hack.”

      The road guy is sufficiently stupid and then hopes that his/her misdirection won’t be noticed.
      We have the typical stupid AND pernicious lefty here, with an add-mixture of ego mania.
      Road guy actually thinks s/he is educated; I’m saying maybe HS grad. Maybe.

      1. Sevo,

        The internet is always a great place for low life cowards such as yourself to insult anyone with impunity.

        In real life, and face to face, you would never talk to people like you do without having to visit a medical center afterwards.

        Since you mention education, what is your level? My guess would be high school drop out. What a shame that this site has to deal with so many functional semi-literates such as yourself.

        Reason is a literate site, although I disagree with the libertarian principle in general. Too bad it attracts so many assholes such as yourself.

        In any event, I plan to keep on posting my comments on this site, and you can plan on exchanging insults with me on a daily basis.

        1. I love how you use improper grammar to say Reason is *an* illiterate site

          As for me I got through high school and enlisted to defend my country and constitution with my life, got accepted into the drone program because of my adept electronics and mathematics skills. I never went to college, its a waste of time and money when the information is already available to teach yourself with without having to pay exorbitant costs to an adult day care center, yet I already know I was blessed with more inherent critical thought than you Road. It must come from a life of not being able to be told how to think and consistently questioning anyone who claims to be the authority, it’s how I learn, maybe that’s why were so different.

          1. Ahhh shit i re-read that.. you got me with my arch-nemesis the dastardly reading comprehension!
            apologies but still I do have good reason to suspect you were attempting a broad insult at everyone since you do that a lot here.

            1. Vic,

              Yes, I do a lot of insults to people on this site. However, I ONLY do it after they send some insulting shit my way. I will continue to do it in every single case when necessary. I “fight fire with fire”.

          2. Hopefully by now, you have read my other comment to you posted above.

            Hey ASSHOLE. When did I say that Reason was an “illiterate site? It’s not, but it sure as hell does attract a lot of damn fools such as yourself, and others.

            By now you know I am also ex military, and as proud of it as you are. If you opted not to attend college that’s your fucking problem.

            Nice posting with you. I’m looking forward to reading more of your shit pile comments.

            Have a nice day Anal Breath.

  10. -Lay….fuck you, predictive text.

    1. Fuck you too, jerk wad.

  11. The question should be: What was the U.S. doing in an armpit, stink hole country like Libya in the first place? In fact, why is the U.S. with an almost FUBAR society, running all over the world telling everyone what to do, and then blasting them if they don’t follow our orders. Maybe we need to have a zero foreign policy.

    1. On The Road To Mandalay|6.3.14 @ 11:06PM|#
      “The question should be: What was the U.S. doing in an armpit, stink hole country like Libya in the first place?”

      Ask your fave Lying Bastard in the White House, oh lover of caps when speaking of political slime.

      1. Are you a racist? Just curious.

    2. Protecting civilians trying to flee a civil war.
      16 hours a day every day Rescue swimming operations.

      take your pick, we were there when it went down so we swung by to help the innocent bystanders get clear of a civil war.
      everything else that happened was more than we should have been involved in.

      1. Quit shoving your “heroic” bullshit in everyone’s fucking face you arrogant asshole. If your fucking ego gets any bigger you will inflate and fly away into space – hopefully never to be seen or heard from again.

  12. I demand sympathy!
    Road-guy asshole tells me s/he’s IGNORING me! I am so hurt!

    1. I changed my might and renounced my vow to ignore you. After all, those of your ilk demand the same attention that a doctor would give in disposing of an afterbirth. You have my sympathy to a degree, because I always have a certain amount of pity for morons. Have a good day at the trailer park with all of your shit for brains friends.

  13. On The Road To Mandalay|6.4.14 @ 1:44PM|#

    “Yes, I do a lot of insults to people on this site. However, I ONLY do it after they send some insulting shit my way. I will continue to do it in every single case when necessary. I “fight fire with fire”.”

    And could you explain the logic behind “I fight fire with fire” and why that is an effective strategy when communicating with people you disagree with?

  14. Let me know when you become President.

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