Barack Obama will soon be gone, banished to a smaller house down the street from the mosque, and peace, alas, will not be upon him. The anti-war president leaves behind a world with more war than it had when he first moved into the White House.
Mr. Obama had hardly got his socks-and-underwear drawer organized when he got a call from Oslo that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. He told his speechwriters to write a speech recognizing, in a nice way, that the award was the work of giddy European intellectuals who had reduced the Nobel Prize to something like one of those offers of a weekend in Florida to anyone who would sit still for a pitch for condominium shares.
Nobody thought the award had much to do with peace, and everyone agreed that Mr. Obama certainly didn’t deserve the prize, cheapened as it had become by politics. Nearly eight years later the president has become something of a maker of war, not peace, which is the usual lot of any man or woman elected, like it or not, leader of the world.
“I don’t think he would have been in the speculation of the Nobel committee now, in 2016, even if he had not already won [before],” Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo and a close watcher of the machinations of the Nobel committee, tells The Associated Press. “Obama has been stuck in the old paradigm,” he says.
Indeed, it’s those naughty old paradigms that eventually make every president miserable. Mr. Obama consoled himself by blaming everything on George W. Bush until reality overtook him.
The world is a far more dangerous place now. Radical Islamic terrorism, which the president still dares not call by its name, has become the new normal everywhere, gruesome death of innocents in the name of a prophet dead for centuries. The world hasn’t measured so many deaths in battle since the end of the Vietnam War, and refugees from war and terrorism have washed over Europe in numbers to remake the map, and threaten now to overwhelm the culture in America. If, in the words of the Statler Brothers, “life gets complicated when you get past 18,” life gets impossible for presidents once they get to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, beware.
Mr. Obama has still not learned the lesson taught by the poet Bobby Burns, to see himself as others see him, a president engaged in more wars big and small than his predecessor. He should apologize to George W. He has pulled more than 100,000 soldiers out of Iraq, enabling the success of ISIS in taking vast territory for its so-called Islamic State, and now he has to begin the painful and embarrassing task of sending some of them back. He abhors conventional war, but dispatches drones to kill the guilty and innocent alike.
He assisted in the invention of a crisis over “climate change,” as if the climate hasn’t been changing since the first thunderstorm ruined Eve’s garden party in Eden. He rewarded Fidel Castro and the old men of the Cuban revolution, eager for the comforts of capitalism as they lie dying, but he is unable to do anything but draw imaginary red lines in the sand, like a child with his coloring book, to prevent the destruction of the Syrians.
But the president’s peacemaking legacy will be the sweetheart deal he made with the mullahs in Iran, preserving their dream of an Islamic bomb, which the mullahs promise to use to make a second Holocaust of Israel. Mr. Obama said in 2012 that he would give the mullahs an opportunity to “take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program” or face an American president with lots of options. The world learned that the options were a stream of concessions to keep the Iranian nuclear-weapons program alive and on the way to the bomb.
Hillary Clinton goes along with the president’s cynical assurance that against emerging evidence he has halted the development of the Iranian bomb. We saw the Democratic celebration of the myth in this week’s debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence.
Mr. Kaine, trying to reassure with his Howdy-Doody smile and happy talk, said three times that the Iranian nuclear-weapons program had been “stopped” or “capped.” He divided the “credit” between Mr. Obama and his negotiating skill and Hillary’s performance as secretary of State.
Whether manufacturing peace or disarming Islamic terror, Barack Obama and his protege have demonstrated incompetence all but unique in the history of the American presidency. And Hillary Clinton wants America to reward the incompetence with four more years.
• Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.