Since he announced the launch of his Presidential Campaign in February of 2007, Barack Obama has been frequently compared to Presidents like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. However, an analysis of his foreign policy, as far as the Middle East is concerned, shows history will more likely than not compare him to one of two Presidents who were in office during wartime: 34th President Dwight David Eisenhower and 37th President Richard Millhouse Nixon.
Consider these facts for a second In 1952, when General Eisenhower ran, America was embroiled in the middle of a Cold War battle with the Korean War. The nation had turned on its haberdasher President Harry S. Truman and looked to Eisenhower, a war hero from World War II, to get them out of Korean War. In the election, Eisenhower and his Vice Presidential Nominee, Senator Richard Nixon, crushed Adlai Stevenson, winning all but nine states and 55.2% popular vote and won again in 1956 with all but 7 states and 57.4% of the popular vote.
For the most part, Eisenhower delivered on the hope he promised on the campaign trail. Under the Eisenhower Adminstration, the US signed a Cease-fire with North Korea. He also instated the Eisenhower Doctrine regarding Communism in the Middle East, declaring the US would be "prepared to use armed force...[to counter] aggression from any country controlled by international communism." He also appointed the Judge who would help overturn Plessy v. Freguson and order the historical ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. As a result, Eisenhower is revered as one of our greatest Presidents, despite his misgivings on other issues.
While it is hard to believe now, when he ran in 1968, people looked to Eisenhower's Vice President, Richard Millhouse Nixon for help. After an embarsassing defeat for President at the hands of John F. Kennedy in 1960, Nixon returned to the national spotlight in 1968, after President Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party was viewed by many as the man who had got them into this mess. claimed he had a "secret plan" to win the Vietnam War. After the assasination of his one formidable opponent, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and the mayhem that ensued at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in the streets of Chicago, Nixon was seen as chastened, wise and able to win the Vietnam War. As a result, he beat his general Election opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey with 32 states, and 43.4% of the Popular Vote and crushed his 1972 opponent, Senator George McGovern, carrying all but one state winning 60.7% of the popular vote.
However, while Nixon would eventually end the Vietnam War with the Paris Peace Treaties, under his term, the Vietnam War dragged on for four more years and almost 40% of the soldiers killed in Vietnam were under President Nixon's watch. Along with this, there were the terribly misgiven bombings in Cambodia and Nixon's belief in the Silent Majority. As result, while America would walk out of Vietnam, it would be with heads down in defeat as opposed to the marching home in victory of Nixon's former boss. His many missteps in Vietnam, along with the embarassment he endured through Watergate, have since earned Nixon a blacklisted name in the pantheon of horrible Presidents.
Fast forward to the present. In 2007, when then-Senator Obama said he was running for President, violence and casualties from the Iraq War. According to icasualties.org, a site that tracks casualties for the Iraq War, the highest months for casualties were November 2004, right after Bush's re-election with 137 and May 2007. Also, America's standing in the world was at an all-time low, thanks to the "cowboy diplomacy" and secrecy of the Bush Administration, among other things. Many people, myself included, began supporting Senator Obama in his campaign because of his opposition to the Iraq War. In turn, Obama beat his opponent, Senator John McCain, carrying 28 states, and winning 52.9% of the popular vote (ironically, Obama recieved endorsements daughters of both Eisenhower and Nixon).
While Obama has for the most part stayed on schedule for Iraq and has called for the closing of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, many people are questioning his foreign policy agenda. In an interview with DL Hughley in Spring of 2009, Congressman Ron Paul decried Obama's policy on Iraq, claiming that he was still following the Bush Policies as far as embassies in Iraq and occupation of the Middle East, as well as the invasion of Pakistan. Bob Woodward, one of the legendary journalists who broke the Watergate Scandal in 1973 for the Washington Post and a chronicler of the George W. Bush foreign policy, in July of 2009 claimed the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan was now "Obama's War." Obama has recieved criticism as well for his secrecy pertaining memos from the previous administration and for his unwillingness to prosecute those who executed torture on behalf of the United States.
We are still only eight months into this new administration, so it is still too early to judge Obama alongside the likes of Eisenhower or Nixon. However, one thing is certain: Obama's foreign policy now will either haunt his legacy for eternity as one of the worst Presidents or lionize him as one of the greats.
Mr. President, greatness and folly are calling you. Which one will you answer?