Obama’s Wonderful LegacyPosted: September 28, 2016
It is a usual practice that when a leader leaves office, the media and political analysts are fond of discussing the leader’s legacy. The leader himself is also fond of talking about that if he does leave some valuable legacy.
When former Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were to leave office in 2012, Chinese media were filled with praises of their achievements in bringing about economic growth, etc. until an article emerged to point out the rampant corruption and the excessive overcapacity and local governments’ debts left by them. Their successors Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang have to make great efforts to fight corruption and reform Chinese economy to switch from investment- and export-oriented into an innovation-, creation- and consumption-led one.
Similarly, when US President Obama took over from his predecessor, he had to deal with the financial crisis caused by his predecessor’s lack of supervision, the huge debts incurred by his predecessor in fighting two wars and the difficulties to end his predecessor’s hopeless wars.
Due to lack of power, he has not been able to deal with the problems so satisfactorily as Chinese leaders do, but we cannot deny that he has indeed greatly improved the situation. That can be regarded as his legacy that benefits American people though it seems no one sees that. People usually regard that as common things that he ought to have done as a leader. They usually want something great than providing some remedy to the evils caused by his predecessor.
Obama’s pivot to Asia can be regarded as his great initiative as it concerns containing the rise of China so as to maintain US world leadership, but according to some analysts, Obama fails to leave any legacy in that respect as the pivot is a failure. There were two quite typical articles on Obama’s failure: one titled “America’s Pacific pivot is sinking” by Gideon Rachman published on Financial Times on September 19 and the other titled “Barack Obama’s Asia pivot is sinking beneath Pacific waves” by M.K. Bhadrakumar on September 21 published on Asian Times. Full texts of them can respectively be found at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/12473188-7db4-11e6-8e50-8ec15fb462f4.html#axzz4LFTLzKtn and http://atimes.com/2016/09/us-pivot-to-asia-is-sinking-beneath-pacific-waves/.
Economically, the articles point out Obama’s inability to have his TPP ratified in US Congress or accepted by his potential successors. Militarily, the articles are disappointed that Obama has failed to stop China’s construction of artificial islands or have China observe Hague arbitration ruling in spite of the military pressure he has brought on China.
In Obama’s recent last speech to the UN, he mentioned the progress in the world and US contribution to the progress, but did not mention his own contribution as, perhaps he thinks that he will not leave any legacy that he can boast of.
Does Obama really fail to leave any legacy then? No, on the contrary, he leaves the world a most wonderful legacy that will greatly facilitate world peace.
To have world peace, there has to be balance of strength in the world. During the Cold War, there were few wars because there was balance of strength between the two superpowers the US and Soviet Union. The balance of strength made neither of them able to win a war. The US lost the Vietnamese war as Vietnam had Soviet support. Similarly, the Soviet Union could not win its war in Afghanistan as Afghanistan had US support. Due to the balance of strength, there were only two wars of prolonged duration in limited areas Vietnam and Afghanistan while other parts of the world enjoy peace.
When the Soviet Union has collapsed, there was no balance of strength as the US became the only superpower with no rival at all. As a result, it had no scruple to fight wars and even became so reckless as to fight two wars at the same time.
Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, etc. have been in wars for a long time under the rule of the only superpower. The world is lucky that the US does not know how to fight wars economically and has become hard up due to the wars. Otherwise, there will be much more wars as the only superpower is fond of using its military force.
Fortunate for the world now, there is balance of strength again – the balance of strength between Russia-China alliance and the United States.
With a rough sense of the likelihood of the alliance, US military expert Robert Farley published an article on US media the National Interest with the interesting title of “US Military’s Worst Nightmare: A War with Russia and China (at the Same Time)”.
In fact, Mr. Farley regards as nightmare US fighting of a war with the joint force of Russia and China, but that is not possible as he believes that Russia and China will not join force. According to him, the worst scenario is that in a war between China and the US, Russia may take advantage to pursue some gains in Europe. As a result, the US has to fight China and Russia separately though at the same time. That may be a nightmare, but it is not too serious according to Mr. Farley.
Europe is strong enough to deal with Russia with some help from US air force so that the US may focus on fighting China. As without Russia’s help, China is weaker than the US, it will be defeated by the US. Then, the US may transfer its troops to Europe to join Europe in defeating Russia.
What if instead of making trouble in Europe, Russia sends its navy and especially its strong air force to help China fight the US in Asia? Will that be a real nightmare for the US? That is not probable. Mr. Farley says in his article
Each country has its own goals, and works on its own timeline. More likely, one of the two would opportunistically take advantage of an existing crisis to further its regional claims. For example, Moscow might well decide to push the Baltic States if the United States became involved in a major skirmish in the South China Sea.
What Mr. Farley says is based on the assumption that there is no alliance between China and Russia. If there is, it will be a real nightmare for US military to fight the combined forces of Russia-China alliance that is quite a rival to US forces. Moreover, China and Russia will only act respectively in Asia and Europe, where they have geographical advantages as the US troops have to fight far away from their homeland with much less support from land bases. With such balance of strength and geographical disadvantages, the US will not start a war.
China certainly is not so stupid as to start a war. It is not fond of war. That is why it has been trying hard to resolve the disputes with its neighbors peacefully. Russia is too weak to start a war if China is not willing to be involved. As a result, there will be lasting world peace due to the balance of strength. How exciting! Without American attack, the world is safer for China and Russia and perhaps also other countries as Russia and China may joint force to support other nations attacked by the US.
What is to be excited for? The legacy only benefits others. A president’s legacy shall first of all benefit his own people.
Wrong! American people are greatly benefited too.
What benefits the collapse of the Soviet Union has brought to American people. Nothing. America has become reckless in fighting wars, conducting regime changes and promoting democracy without any achievements. It has only made American people suffer the casualties of war and the heavy burdens of debts caused by its reckless spending in doing so. For the world, it has brought chaos in quite a few countries and given rise to problem to Europe of the flood of refugees.
When the two superpowers understood that there was the balance of strength they could not break, there was détente and disarmament by the two superpowers to reduce their financial burdens of arms race on their people. Moreover, America could at least really be the leader of its camp, the members of which obeyed its leadership.
Now, America regards itself as world leader, but no one follows its leadership. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would not accept US Vice President Joe Biden’s advice not to visit Yasukuni Shrine. Only when his visit had broken Japan’s ties with China and South Korea does Abe refrain from repeat his visit.
US weakest ally the Philippines dare to challenge it now.
Russia and China are enemies created by US military and politicians. They are utterly not US enemies. US true enemy such as ISIS is also China and Russia’s enemy, when the US has accepted the balance of strength and refrains to create the enmity between the alliance and the US, the three may join force to fight their common enemy.
China’s actions in the South China Sea are but for protection of the historical rights and interests it has claimed for centuries and reflected in its map since 1947. At the end of World War II, the US supported China’s claims and sent Chinese troops on its warships to the areas to impose China’s claims. US current description of such claims as aggression is purely for the purpose of containing China in order to prevent China from replacing it as world leader.
When there is balance of strength, like the situation during the Cold War, the US will not be free from the burdens of the only world leader. It will be the leader of one major camp while the other major camp including most Asian countries will be lead by others.
The balance of strength will lead to détente and disarmament of the two rival camps. As a result, world peace will be ensured. American people will also enjoy world peace. Moreover, they will have a reduced military budget to enable them to have much needed funds to rebuild and repair US infrastructures that are mostly in poor conditions, develop US economy and improve American people’s livelihood.
Hold! Russia-China alliance? Impossible! There is deep historical enmity and serious conflicts of interests between China and Russia. How can they be allies? Obama has made it possible. How has Obama’s diplomacy made the impossible possible? You will find answers in my next post “The Conundrum of Russia-China Alliance”.
As Russia-China alliance has entirely been caused by Obama, it must be regarded as Obama’s wonderful legacy.
Article by Chan Kai Yee