By John Ubaldi,

Upon assuming the presidency, Barack Obama sought to fundamentally alter the role America has played in global affairs. Far too often, Obama clung to the belief that global problems are the result of America’s over-involvement. He sought to have the U.S. less involved in world affairs, thus allowing other nations to assume a more activist leadership role in global security.

After taking the oath of office, Obama made the same strategic mistake as Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in that he overreacted to his predecessor. Clinton did not want to be consumed by foreign policy. Bush didn’t want to engage in nation building, which is why he failed to adequately prepare for the aftermath in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama Overreacts with US Foreign Policy

Obama, preoccupied initially by U.S. domestic issues, overreacted by partially disengaging from the world. Russia, China and Iran now seek regional domination at the expense of the global system, which the U.S. established at the end of World War II.

Right away, the Obama administration repudiated decades of American leadership by both Democratic and Republican presidents. Instead, it charted a new course in foreign affairs for the U.S.

Obama began his presidency by issuing a warning to other countries. He stated to the world in his first inaugural address, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Obama Diverts from President Kennedy in Foreign Policy

It is interesting to note that Obama renounced what President John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address: “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”

Obama’s Changes to Foreign Policy

The Obama administration set the tone for U.S. foreign policy in 2009 with two pivotal events that would define how the U.S. would respond to a crisis. The first event was the removal of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Obama believed that this move would be a good faith effort to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who vehemently opposed efforts by the United States to station a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

Obama’s removal of the missile defense shield was a way to solicit Russia’s assistance in dealing with Iran’s attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. But Putin viewed this move as weakness by the United States and would use this event as a pretext to exploit the Obama administration’s weaknesses in other areas.

Obama was not the first president who failed in dealing with Putin. George W. Bush was fooled by the Russian leader in June 2001. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country,”,Bush said.

Obama Forgoes Retribution after Russian Invasions

However, every time there is a crisis involving Russia, Obama seemed intimidated. . After the Russian annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s incursion into eastern Ukraine, Obama responded with only a few sanctions, which only emboldened Putin further.

This demonstration of weakness by Obama gave Putin the impetus to act in the Middle East without fear of any repercussions by the United States.

Obama Fails to Intervene in Iranian Revolt after Election

The second event occurred when the Iranian people revolted in 2009, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a contested presidential election that precipitated the “Green Movement.” Obama was slow to react to this election. When the president did act, his response was muted: “The world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was.”

Obama’s failure to quickly react to this event gave other world leaders the perception that the president did not want to do anything that would sabotage his efforts to reach out to Iran. Any statements could have derailed Obama’s efforts to obtain his coveted nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Both events established the impression that other countries could push around the United States and the president would cave every time. The mullahs in Tehran, who witnessed the U.S. pullout of Iraq, keenly noted Obama’s weak foreign policy. Tehran’s leaders used this retrenchment by America to their advantage in the negotiations over Iran’s attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.

Obama’s timid approach and desire to obtain a nuclear agreement with Iran resulted in the U.S. making concessions to Tehran up front that fell short of the president’s own goals. Everything the U.S. stated it would not do, it did after the signing of the nuclear agreement by the six world powers. The U.S. gave Iran sanctions relief and freed more than $100 billion in Iranian funds from oil sales that had been held by the U.S.

Any attempt to walk away from the agreement would be tantamount to allowing Iran to continue working on its nuclear program, but Iran would keep the financial windfall. If the U.S. wanted to re-establish sanctions against Iran, it would be a dubious prospect at best. China and Russia, two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, have flatly stated that there will be no new sanctions on Tehran.

Obama Gives Passionate Speeches, but Fails to Take Decisive Action

Whenever Obama dealt with adversaries, the perception seemed to be that he was paralyzed by fear. The president gives passionate speeches on what needs to be done, but his actions contradict his rhetoric.

Obama made the infamous “red line” pronouncement with regard to Syria’s moving or utilizing chemical weapons against its own people, stating Syria’s actions would be met with a stiff response by the United States. When Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called his bluff, Obama backed down. This single act set the tone for Obama’s presidency and crystalized for much of the world that the United States was a “paper tiger” – all bark and no action.

In 2011, Obama stated many times that Assad’s days were numbered and that he must go. It is now apparent that Assad will outlast the president. Obama’s feckless foreign policy with regard to Syria has allowed Moscow back into the Middle East for the first time since the mid-1970s. To further strain U.S. credibility, Russia, Turkey and Iran are crafting a cease-fire agreement inside Syria without United States involvement.

To many, President Obama has not taken the Islamic State threat seriously. The administration’s actions have been minimal, allowing ISIS to be involved in a dozen countries.

The final aspect to Obama’s foreign policy legacy is how he has handled cyberattacks against the United States. Last month, the president launched sanctions and other measures against Russia for cyberattacks against the Democratic National Committee, when Russia attempted to influence the U.S. presidential election.

It is troubling to think that Obama knew about the cyberattacks but did not act until recently. In 2015, China hacked into the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and stole the records of over 21 million former and current U.S. government employees. So why is Obama punishing Russia just now? Why didn’t Obama punish China?

For all of President Obama’s changes in U.S. foreign policy, he has only made Russia, Iran and China stronger. President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with them once he takes office.