The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Obama’s phony accomplishments leave us worse off

President Obama (Brendan Smialowski/Agence-France Presse via Getty Images)

President Obama this week showed why his legacy both on domestic and foreign policy will be scant.

On the domestic front, the president, unable to work constructively with Congress, has chosen to move unilaterally by means of executive power grabs. His action on delayed deportation has already been halted by the courts. This week his regulatory move on climate change was dealt a blow.

The Post reported:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a key part of President Obama’s ambitious proposal to limit carbon emissions and reduce global warming while the plan is challenged.
The court granted a stay request from more than two dozen states, plus utilities and coal companies, that said the Environmental Protection Agency was overstepping its powers. The court’s decision does not address the merits of the challenge but indicates justices think the states have raised serious questions.

The libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation pointed out that “a stay granted at that level requires five justices to agree that the challengers are likely to prevail in their statutory and constitutional suit to have the rule overturned. That is one more justice than is necessary to agree to hear the case if it is presented again and a strong indication of how those same justices would rule on it.” Beyond the legal issues, PLF pointed out that the rule “would cause double-digit increases in electrical rates for most Americans, send countless jobs overseas, and would likely to be counterproductive in reducing actual greenhouse gases worldwide.”

Todd Gaziano, executive director of the PLF’s DC Center, tells Right Turn that the justices by now have seen a pattern of overreach. “The justices have recently chastised the EPA for similarly lawless regulations under the pretense of the Clean Air Act, including one in Michigan v. EPA last June that the Court held was ‘irrational,’ but they also reluctantly realized from the briefing that it was too late for most states and power plants to benefit from their ruling because the lawless regulation had gone into effect years before,” Gaziano explained. “Once burned by the Obama EPA, the justices would be worse than shy not to seriously consider the cost of their refusal not to grant a stay for the ‘Costly Power Plan.’ ”

Follow Jennifer Rubin's opinionsFollow

Keen observers also recognize that the court’s ruling underscores how ephemeral Obama’s Paris climate change deal is. “President Obama knows he can’t rely on legislation to craft climate change policy — that dream died in the summer of 2010 — and he has attempted to circumvent the resistant Republican-controlled Congress by piggybacking on the EPA’s ability to regulate CO2 as part of the Clean Air Act,” the American Interest explains. “This is Obama’s only play, and was the only way he could demonstrate to the Paris delegates that the U.S. was committed to cutting emissions. But its major flaw — that these regulations are subject to legal challenges—has been exposed by the Supreme Court this week.”

While the president may satisfy domestic constituencies by these executive edicts, ultimately they have come to naught. If anything, the failed maneuvers demonstrate how ineffective the president has been in creating support for his agenda and in solving the country’s problems. On these issues there will be no footprints in the sand when he leaves the White House.

On the international front, the president and his secretary of state will leave a more dangerous, unstable and less free world. Their delusion is that strong American action can be replaced by paper deals with despots. We therefore have a Swiss-cheese agreement with Iran, which continues to test ballistic missiles, repress its people, threaten its neighbors and export terror. It has revived Iran’s economy and put it on track to possess an industrial-size nuclear weapons program in 10 years (even if it does not cheat).

With regard to Syria, a new report suggests the actual death toll from the bloody civil war is not 250,000 as most experts have suggested, but 470,000. The Syrian Centre for Policy Research reports:

The loss of lives due to the conflict remains the most catastrophic visible and direct impact of the ongoing crisis in Syria. By the end of 2015, the death rate is projected to be 10 per thousand, with the number of wounded expected to reach 1.88 million people. This means that 11.5 per cent of the population inside Syria were killed or injured due to the armed-conflict. Taking into account the diminishing health system and services and the deteriorating living conditions, the country faces human catastrophe reflected in the dramatic drop in life expectancy at birth from 70.5 years in 2010 to an estimated 55.4 years in 2015.
Fragmentation, as the process of drastic shattering in the social, economic, political, and cultural structures within the society, is being ingrained by various internal and external subjugating powers pushing the majority of people to act against their own good and against their aspirations of their society and future. Therefore, there is a need for a new social contract and new development paradigm based on the right for all Syrians in decent living, and this entails real and effective participation of all powers in society to achieve the required developmental shift based on a common agreed vision for the country.

Meanwhile, the administration announces a temporary “cessation of hostilities” — not even a cease-fire — which few believe will hold and, ominously, suggests that the administration is content to leave the butcher responsible for this human rights debacle in power. Ironically, the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra are not affected by the deal, which only underscores that our actions have little to do with our main interest, the destruction of Islamist jihadism.

Like the paper deal to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons — which did not accomplish the task and instead led to Russian reentry into the Middle East — the president is mesmerized by diplomatic “achievements,” indifferent to whether they will be enforced and what we are forced to concede to get them (e.g. Iran’s right to enrich, Assad’s right to remain in power). Like his domestic executive orders, these are unlikely to survive beyond his presidency.

Regrettably, in sacrificing American credibility and countenancing aggression and human rights abominations, Obama’s diplomatic “successes” become barriers to real resolution of conflicts, to progress on human rights and to permanent cessation of violence. Even more than his domestic record, his foreign policy legacy is shabby and its negative consequences will plague us for years to come.

UPDATE: The London-based Henry Jackson Society put out a superb statement, which bears excerpting at length:

The newly-announced ‘pause’ deal is alas no such thing. It is a deal to which Assad and the Syrian government have not agreed. It is a deal to which, rather obviously, neither ISIS nor the al-Nusra front have agreed. And the pause also does not refer to Russian air-strikes. In a way this ‘agreement’ epitomises everything that has gone wrong with Syria from the start. Putting the country back together again is impossible because everybody wants to keep their pieces of it while demanding everybody else offer up theirs.
Starkest of all is the utterly cynical behaviour of the Russian government. After months of bombing targets which constitute the more moderate anti-Assad opposition, this week Russian Prime Minister [Dmitry] Medvedev gave a stark warning to America, Saudi Arabia and others not to send in ground-troops to stabilise parts of Syria. To do so, he threatened, would lead to ‘permanent’ war.
And here is the tragedy of Syria. The West demonstrated no leadership from the start, and so five years in it is Russia that is dictating the terms both of war and peace and doing so for no moral or humanitarian reason but for the lowest forms of statecraft. It is the people of Syria who most deserve our pity. And it is the whole international community who most deserves their remaining contempt.

It would be refreshing if the media grilled administration officials on just these points, rather than regurgitating talking points that celebrate the deal as some sort of accomplishment.

Loading...