As we count down the final days of the eight year reign of the Barack Obama administration, it has become increasingly clear that his primary legacy will have been sealed by the events of its final weeks, and it isn’t pretty. I am referring to two shameful decisions that will live in infamy–the abdication of moral and strategic leadership in the Syrian civil war and the abandonment of Israel in the abstention vote on the UN Security Council resolution condemning the Jerusalem settlements. With a possible exception noted below, nothing else he has done or failed to do will be close–not Obamacare, which will be unrecognizable in a few months and not even a blip on the screen of history, not any of several dozen executive orders which will be reversed by the stroke of Trump’s pen, and certainly not the “shovel ready” infrastructure projects which were to have saved us from deep depression and provided impetus for economic growth, neither of which will stand historic scrutiny.
It will be very interesting to read in his memoirs how he spins the moral and strategic failure in Syria. I can’t imagine how, except to say that he used all his political capital to get a nuclear deal with Iran, but this would be nothing more than to substitute a deal that might be a fairly close third in terms of his historically disastrous decisions for one that outranks it. With the fall of Aleppo, it is now simply a matter of Russia and Turkey mopping up in Syria and dividing the spoils, and it will be decades, if ever, before the U. S. regains its relevance; we’re not even invited to the peace talks!
The refusal to veto the UN resolution on the Jerusalem settlements is a betrayal of the worst kind because it was dishonorable, very likely done in spite of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and it is probably irreversible in terms of its damage to our only reliable ally and the only democracy in the Middle East, not to mention the severe damage done to any hope of peace. The resolution substantively changes diplomatic agreements going back to 1967 and it denies Israel legal claims to the land, including Jewish holy sites such as the Western Wall, while reversing the land-for-peace formula that has been in place for five decades, and yet Secretary Kerry refers to East Jerusalem as “occupied territory”. Someone should remind him that there has never been a Palestinian “people”, nor has there ever been a Palestinian state or any state in the geographic area known as Palestine that was not Jewish. Anyone with the slightest insight into this issue knows that the primary barrier to peace is the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state within any borders. But at bottom this decision was vintage Obama because it reflects his worldview. He is an anti-Zionist progressive internationalist who is anti-U.S. and Israeli exceptionalism to the core and this was thus a defining act of his presidency. A tragic and shameful legacy.