Years of bungling and retreat by the Obama administration's foreign policy team continues to increase pressure on international systems, resulting in the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

By R. James Towe  james@sollicitus.us

The Syria crisis, during the late summer of 2013, presented a disturbing window into the tumult and confusion of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus. President Obama's request for Congressional approval, as a delay tactic, to use force and an general unwillingness to respond as the Syrian regime fired chemical weapons in civilian areas confirmed that the president's words were empty and that consequences would not follow.

As hope for the Arab Spring disintegrated into mayhem, it became clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he was witnessing the reemergence of an American foreign policy not experienced since the presidency of Jimmy Carter. 


Following the Russian invasion of Crimea, President Putin learned with each geopolitical inroad that Western Europe and the United States were not willing to apply meaningful pressure, beyond rhetorical threats and thus far, ineffective economic sanctions directed at individual Russians in Mr. Putin's inner circle.

The lack of meaningful pressure on countries violating global conventions increases entropy on international systems and order.  

America's 'old' foreign policy, that the Obama administration viewed as 'arrogant' and 'paternalistic', was in fact, the glue that kept relative order in a world very capable of unraveling.  

The 'unravel' begins on a micro level as regional players make a calculus to increase their own political or economic influence at the expense of weaker neighbors. 

During the 20th century and continuing following the Cold War, the U.S. accepted the responsibility of maintaining regional stability through democratic and autocratic means. This required supporting regimes of varying respectability, but it generally 'kept the peace', in less than stable parts of the planet.

America's new total disengagement policy leaves most of the world vulnerable to the wishes of a stronger neighbor, in this case, the Ukraine is being bullied by its Russian neighbor.

The loss of flight MH17 is a result of political disengagement by the United States during a time of economic strife and debate of what America's role should be in the world. As any predator, Russia senses a weakness from the West not seen in decades. The opportunity for Russia to rebuild some of its lost glory has been the irresistible impetus when presented with a pacifist American president. 



The recent survey rating post-World War II presidents is based largely on the short memory of the public.

By R. James Towe  james@sollicitus.us

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963-1969) Johnson generally avoids worst president status because of his efforts to advance John F. Kennedy's civil rights legislation, foremost with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Unfortunately, Johnson was responsible for one of the darkest periods in American history with the escalation of the Vietnam conflict where over 50,000 Americans would eventually die in a 'police' effort run by President Johnson, not his generals. During this period, millions of people in Southeast Asia were killed or displaced. 

To add to his disingenuous reputation, Johnson manufactured a North Vietnamese attack on American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam, to justify plans escalating American military involvement. Johnson was so unpopular that he decided against seeking re-election in 1968.

Richard Nixon (CC)
Richard Milhous Nixon (1969-1974) Nixon's foreign and domestic policies were, in many regards, responsible and prudent. It was his eccentric personality and paranoia that made this president a dangerous and unpredictable entity. Attempting to use government agencies to destroy political enemies and disregard for the rule of law before and during the Watergate investigation led to his downfall. Had Nixon not resigned, he would have become the first president to be removed from office.

Jimmy Carter (CC)
James Earl Carter, Jr. (1977-1981) Jimmy Carter found himself in difficult economic circumstances with high unemployment, inflation and stifling interest rates. His economic team was dumbfounded and the Administration appeared overwhelmed on all fronts. Foreign policy blunders contributed mightily to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran while Soviet backed communist insurgencies spread throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Coupled with the failures of Vietnam fresh in the public's memory, there was a general feeling during the Carter years that America's greatness was lost.

Barack Obama (CC)
Barack Hussein Obama (2009-Current) Were it not for Carter's incompetence in the face of the Cold War and Soviet aggression, Obama would secure third place. An administration showing general confusion and a reactive approach to domestic and foreign policy, the President's position on this list is likely to become less favorable as several scandals plaguing the White House play out. Executive culpability is likely in one or more of the Administration's current conundrums.

Dishonorable Mention: George Walker Bush (2001-2009)


Ronald Reagan (CC)
Ronald Wilson Reagan (1981-1989) In 1980, the nation's psyche had not recovered from the assassination of JFK, the unrest of the 1960s and the devastation of Vietnam. Adding to America's woes was a president in Jimmy Carter mired in foreign policy failures and increasing economic distress. Reagan offered the country hope with a positive message of economic expansion through tax cuts and incentives coupled with restoring American military might.

During Reagan's eight years in office, 20 million jobs were created, inflation dropped from 13.5 % in 1980 to 4.1% in 1988, and the net worth of middle-class families grew by 27%. 

Ronald Reagan's military expansion drove the already struggling Soviet economy into ruin. Within five years of Reagan's departure from the White House, the once mighty Soviet Union collapsed and the hammer and sickle was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time. 

Honorable Mention: John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961-1963)