Not a Good Time To Be US President

It’s a reasonable concept that no other US president has had a harder time of it than Barack Obama, except possibly the one president who made Obama’s presidency possible, Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was sworn in as US president 4 March 1861, and five short weeks later, the US Civil War began.  It lasted until the the Confederacy surrendered to Union forces on 9 April 1865.  Lincoln was assassinated only three short days later. It is therefore fair to postulate that his entire presidency was spent trying to guarantee the survival of the United States of America against a brutal insurgency known as the Confederate States of America.  

Lincoln had to contend with incompetent generals, formulating military strategy, economic challenges, civil opposition to a military draft that included riots, keeping outlying territories from becoming slave-tolerant, a hostile congress that did not want to address the slavery issue, and the deaths of several of his children which triggered clinical depression in Lincoln while he was trying to deal with all these other issues.

Fast-forwards 150 years:   The world has become largely global, and the USA leads the world nations in much technology as well as in military capability.  It also has the dubious distinction of getting involved in more military operations and adventures since World War 2 than any other western industrialized country.

it started with the Korean War of the early 1950’s, then the Vietnam War from 1962 through 1973, then Grenada and Panama, then the Kosovo operations in the 90’s, and then the Afghanistan invasion in late 2001, which we never completed because of the idiotic invasion of Iraq in 2003.

When Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, took office in 2009, he promised to get the US out of Iraq by 2011.  He did that.  Still, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 had two very negative consequences:

The first was that the USA “took its eye off the ball”, as it were, in Afghanistan.  Troops were transferred from Afghanistan to Iraq to support that effort.  That gave the Taliban and Al Qaeda a chance to regroup and re-entrench in Afghanistan, and US armed forces are STILL fighting there in 2014 because of the idiot Bush Administration decision to invade Iraq.

The second negative consequence is that the US removed Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and banned members of Saddam’s Baath party from participating in either the new Iraqi government or in its military forces.  This action had numerous negative impacts, such as allowing an insurgency to grow in Iraq, allowing Al Qaeda to become entrenched in Iraq, and allowing Iran’s influence to grow in Iraq.  It also allowed ethnic divisions between Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurds to grow and further alienate these groups.  Finally, it allowed the incompetent iraqi prime minister to make those ethnic divisions even worse, which utterly destroyed the competence of the Iraqi armed forces.

All this made Iraq fertile territory for the Islamic State, a.k.a. ISIS/ISIL, for come in and take over large portions of western and northern Iraq. They grew in Syrian as one of several anti-regime groups, but this group is more fanatical from most.  They brutalize anyone not like them.  They rape, murder, kidnap, enslave, and generally terrorize  large portions of Iraq and Syria.  As they accumulate more territory and resources, they get bolder.

So president Obama  has a dilemma regarding how to deal with the Islamic State…without putting US forces directly into a ground combat situation.  To date he has ordered very effective tactical air strikes against ISIS/ISIL.  And while all his critics say he should be doing something more, no one has a specific idea of what that is….

Meanwhile, back on the Euro-Asian continent, Russian president Vladimir Putin has decided that eastern Ukraine really should be a part of Russia.  As a result, Obama has so far invoked strong sanctions against Russia and had helped to bring Western Europe along for the ride.

But Putin is undeterred.  And while Europe is so much closer to Ukraine and Russia than the USA, Obama’s critics say he should be doing something more, but no one has a specific idea of what that is.  Yet, everyone agrees we should avoid a nuclear weapon exchange with Russia and also keep American troops off the ground.

Finally, Obama faces a GOP that since day one of his presidency has done everything it can to obstruct him, hurt him, embarrass him, oppose him, and generally try to make his administration look as bad a possible.

Ultimately, history is going to judge Obama on the legacy of his presidency, as it has done with every president since George Washington.

Being US president at this time would challenge a saint, as they say.  So next time you want to criticize Barack Obama, ask yourself two questions:

“Do I want to be where he is?”…and… “Could I do better without causing more damage?”



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