Obama’s unprecedented crusade to discredit his successor has strategic consequences

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs

The outgoing U.S. Barack Obama Administration and its supporters embarked on a campaign to traduce and challenge the incoming Administration of President Donald J. Trump in the hope that it would find it difficult to govern effectively.

This may be unprecedented in U.S. history, and could, to the degree that it succeeds, have an impact on U.S. strategic capabilities, actions, and alliances going forward.

President Barack Obama. / Pete Souza / White House

No departing U.S. president had gone to such lengths to use the pulpit of the Presidency to discredit an incoming President or presidential candidate as the lengths to which went Obama with Trump. The result was, even by January 2017 — before Mr. Trump was sworn into office — to deliberately inflict damage on the strategic credibility and influence of the United States of America going forward.

President Obama continued executive actions after the Presidential elections of Nov. 8, 2016, to create long-term U.S. policy which the Trump Administration would find difficult to reverse, including a last-minute donation of a second tranche of $500-million to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (diverting funds from the State Dept. budget, avoiding Congressional rejection).

More pernicious attempts to undermine the incoming Administration’s agenda were undertaken discreetly, and flew directly in the face of the hypocritical claims by Mr Obama that he was working to ease the transition process for the new Administration. He was, in fact, working in the opposite direction.

Most of his actions were done after the electorate had repudiated President Obama’s (and his Democratic Party’s) policies, putting in place a Republican Administration, a Republican House of Representatives and Senate, and a majority of Republican governorships and state politicians.

President Obama, in the time following the elections, quietly sanctioned a concerted program of civil unrest and disobedience at many levels of U.S. society, particularly within government departments which have been heavily staffed-up by Democrats.

The incoming Trump Administration would need to undertake a major program of staff retrenchment within Federal Government departments to avoid the obfuscation and deliberate sabotage being proposed.

President Obama also went to considerable lengths to discredit the incoming administration to the international community.

The fact that this kind of behavior has been deemed acceptable by much of the U.S. media and electorate reflects the great urban-regions divide which characterized the U.S. election voting (a divide which paralleled the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote earlier in 2016, and other voting patterns in Europe).

What is significant is that most government employees in the U.S. and most modern societies are from that urban voting pool, and therefore identify with the populist parties. [The anti-Trump/anti-Brexit voters were painted by the leftist urban parties as “populist”; in fact, “nationalism” trends were a reaction to the urban populists.]

It is also difficult to determine whether U.S. history can show more extreme examples of divergence between what has been said compared with what has been done than in the Obama Presidency. This resonates, given the present era of electronic connectivity which has given the distributed word and image more substance in the minds of the broader citizenry than tangible productivity. It is almost as though modern belief systems have accepted that what is said can be devoured as food and used as bricks to build homes.

Distilling the meaning of the Obama acts — abetted by the campaign of defeated candidate Hillary Clinton — to their immediate impact: could they make the U.S. ungovernable in the near future? Unlikely, when their followers believe their greatest weapons are the sneers of élitist contempt, accompanied by street protests and violence.

Could they jeopardize U.S. strategic influence globally?

They have already done so, particularly attempting to transform the ability of the U.S. to act in its own interests and to develop viable alliances.

The Obama actions in expanding (not reducing) political and military conflicts has already severely damaged U.S. interests and those of its allies. The mere Trump cessation of U.S. policies which have drawn the U.S. into the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts would ease the challenges to the U.S. Easing the profound schism which Obama/Clinton/Kerry engendered with Russia could significantly improve U.S., European, and Russian economies.

How the incoming Trump team pursues the new opening with Iran is more open to question. Will the Trump White House (or, more likely, the Republican Congress) decide to insist on a continuation of the hostilities with Iran, thereby cementing Iran’s hard-line defensiveness? Or could a nuanced approach to Iran — and a new realism in the way the U.S. approaches nuclear weapons around the world — restore a meaningful stability to the Middle East and Central Asia? That would also require revisiting the entrenched favoritism which four recent U.S. administrations have shown to Saudi Arabia, for example.

The Obama years built up an expectation in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that Beijing could expand strategically at the expense of the U.S., without pushback. Even as President-elect, Donald Trump challenged that expectation, and it need not necessarily lead to disquieting military challenges in the near-term. Certainly, the new geopolitical reality of the PRC now dominating the South China Sea trade routes has profound implications for Australia, Japan, the Republic of China, and the Republic of Korea.

But that fait accompli can be addressed by creative strategic thinking.

After all, as much as the U.S. and its allies may not be prepared for confrontation, neither is the PRC. Beijing’s bellicosity is symptomatic of its present military disadvantage, not of its readiness for war. [That is not to deny its impressive technological and military growth, but that is a long way from a capability for global dominance. The PRC has its own internal brittleness to confront over the coming few years; therein lies the problem for it, and the U.S..]

Can the internal divisions sewn by the embittered Obama/Clinton team curb U.S. economic revival?

No: if Trump commits to incentivizing U.S. business, as promised, U.S. economic growth could be profound.

U.S. debt will remain a concern, but management and budgeting can contain it. Within a year, although Obama cannot yet envision it, the Obama Presidency will have been eclipsed.