President Truman was well known for the sign on his desk stating, ‘The buck stops here.’ In a constitutional republic, the president is the highest executive power and has to be the ultimate one to accept responsibility.
President Obama’s actions this week, specifically naming the lack of planning for the aftermath of Libya as his greatest failure, is a curious admission, and one where the timing makes it seem like he’s ready to take the political bullet for Hillary Clinton for the handling of the Benghazi attacks.
There’s no doubt that then-Secretary of State Clinton has taken the most political pressure and criticism for the handling of the Benghazi incident, and the apparent total lack of intelligence that attacks were imminent on the diplomatic compound.
Over twenty congressional hearings later, critics are still at square one with their attacks, and the ultimate defense has always been that the ‘fog of war’ can never be predicted.
This is a smart political move by Obama, but probably won’t deflect many attacks from the Democratic front-runner.
This is a smart political move by Obama, but probably won't deflect many attacks from the Democratic front-runner.
What it will do, however, is give those on the edge just that little nudge to be able to just shrug and accept that it was Obama’s total failure, and not something that should potentially haunt the next Democratic White House.
But this is also signalling that Obama is trying to create a clean slate for the next president, Democratic or Republican.
We’re still locked into military engagements throughout the Middle East, Gitmo prisons remain open, and we continue to deal with the increasing rise of radicalized Islam. The next president must approach these problems with a fresh perspective and a clean slate in order to make headway against the problems.
Just accepting the status quo and/or pointing fingers for past failures is not going to be sufficient. If anything, President Obama learned the hard way that you cannot simply blame your predecessor for your problems, because all too often it winds up that you will just perpetuate the problems because you lack a real plan.
Whoever wins the White House in 2016 is going to face some tough realities. The Arab Spring was a failure and lost us some long-term allies and stable-regime enemies, ISIS and Boko Haram’s ability to strike targets at will seems to be increasing, and political and military problems continue to grow in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The next president needs to acknowledge their predecessor’s roles, but have real plans to deal with these problems.
Because we cannot afford another 8 years of status quo Middle East foreign policy.