There is a dark side to President Barack Obama’s legacy on national and international security matters that will enable President-elect Donald Trump to damage America’s political institutions as well as its standing in the global community. President Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer and an expert in constitutional law, was insufficiently scrupulous in protecting our moral obligations, creating an ironic and unfortunate page in U.S. history. Instead of making the “world safe for democracy,” the clarion call of President Woodrow Wilson one hundred years ago, President Obama contributed to the furtherance of a national security state and a culture of secrecy.
The administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama tilted too far in the direction of the military, which already plays far too large a role in the policy process and the intelligence cycle. Strategic intelligence has suffered from the Pentagon’s domination of a process that is now geared primarily to support the warfighter in an era of permanent war. The strategic intelligence failures during the Obama administration include the absence of warning regarding events in Crimea and the Ukraine; the “Arab Spring;” the emergence of the Islamic State; and Russian recklessness in Syria.