What's Obama's Military Legacy?
(Source: China Military; issued Jan 16, 2017)
BEIJING ---- The US President Obama gave his farewell speech in the gloomy and cold Chicago on January 10. Receiving a Nobel Peace Prize soon after he took office, he left a controversial military "legacy" during his two terms of eight years.

Controversial use of force overseas

Compared with his predecessors - George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush - who launched large-scale local wars, Obama was quite conservative on the use of force overseas, and the signing of Iran nuclear agreement and killing of Bin Laden were both "highlights" of his term.

When Obama came into power, the US was deeply mired in the Afghan War and Iraqi War and the American people were strongly against war.

In February 2009, Obama announced that he would withdraw most of the troops within the next 18 months and end their combat mission in Iraq. On June 22, 2011, he announced to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

But the plan of withdrawal didn't go very well. Due to the serious security situation in Afghanistan and the limited combat capability of Afghan security troops, the US first sent more troops there and its plan for withdrawal was postponed over and over. Today nearly 10,000 American soldiers are still stationed there.

What happened in Iraq was more serious. The US withdrew troops in such a hurry that it didn't help restore peace and stability there yet. As a result, the extremist organization IS grew quickly and damaged the security in the Middle East and the entire world.

Obama's interference in Libya and Syria was also questioned. In the Libyan war, the US-led NATO overthrew the Gaddafi administration, but Libya was in continuous turmoil and the US ambassador there was attacked and died. Obama himself said last April that interfering in Libya was the biggest mistake he made as president.

As to Syria, the US provided weapons, intelligence and training for the Syrian opposition forces many times in the attempt to overthrow the Bashar administration. America's interference made Syria's efforts for domestic peace "aborted" and millions of refugees swarmed to Europe, leaving Trump an extremely risky task.

Rebalancing strategy questioned

The focus of world economy is moving to Asia in recent years. To firmly control the dominance in the Asia-Pacific, the US put forth the Asia-Pacific "rebalancing" strategy and adjusted its military deployments in that region.

In June 2012, the then US defense secretary Panetta said at the Shangri-La Dialogue that the US would deploy 60% of its warships in the Asia-Pacific by 2020. In June 2013, his successor Hagel announced to deploy 60% of the US Air Force's overseas troops to the Asia Pacific.

While promoting its rebalancing strategy, the US attached great importance to its allies such as the ROK, Japan and Australia. It revised the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, pushed for the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between ROK and Japan, and planned to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile battery in the ROK, all of which exerted substantial negative impacts on the strategic balance in the region.

Particularly, under the rebalancing framework, the US turned a blind eye to Japan's violation of the peaceful constitution and military development, and even downplayed historical issues and tolerated Japan's rightist inclination. Such actions against the historical trend were not only questioned by many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, but also increased the possibility of a regional arms race.

America's interference in the South China Sea issue was also detrimental to regional peace and stability. What the president-elect Trump will do with the rebalancing strategy is drawing close attention.

Fostering new advantages in the US military

Owing to new changes in the form of war and the shrinking advantages of the US military, the US military launched a new round of military development based on new combat needs and rolled out the "air-sea integration", "integrated global combat" and "third offset strategy", trying to foster new advantages in the military contest.

In November 2015, the US authority systematically expounded the basic contents of the "third offset strategy" for the first time, which included five investment areas, namely independent learning machine, man-machine coordination, devices to assist in human actions, unmanned/manned systematic combat taskforce, and autonomous weapon.

The US military wanted to keep its technological advantages in the world by developing laser weapon, electromagnetic cannon, combat robot, and weapon systems for space and cyber warfare at a faster pace.

As a key part of the "third offset strategy", the "future troop" program promoted by US defense secretary Carter is aimed to comprehensively improve the personnel composition of the US military by reforming the officer system and recruitment management, so as to maintain its HR advantages.

To effectively cope with "IT-based mixed warfare", the US military proposed the "integrated global combat" concept, the essence of which is to break the boundaries among various theaters, areas, levels and departments with IT advantages, and put soldiers, commanding systems and weapon equipment deployed around the world in an integrated system to flexibly deal with complicated and diversified threats.

To that end, the US military is also planning a new round of reform of the national defense system, which will be focused on a series of "universal" combat forces that can move among different theaters flexibly, including special operations, global monitoring-strike system and space and cyber warfare.

Enhancing the capability of cyber warfare is a major breakthrough achieved by the US military during Obama's term. The US military formed the Cyber Command in 2009 and the US government and military successively launched the International Strategy for Cyberspace and Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace in 2011. In October last year, the US defense department announced that the 133 "national cyber mission forces" under the cyber command all obtained primary combat capability.


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