The next President of the United States will inherit a far more dangerous world, than the one President Obama inherited. There are rising tensions with China, Russia, North Korea, as well as a number of nations in Africa and the Middle East.
Extremist groups are rapidly spreading around the world, which threatens to further destabilize numerous countries. The failure to fully deal with a cancerous spread of terrorism, has been a major foreign policy failure of the Obama Administration.
Is is true that there are far fewer American soldiers fighting overseas in 2016, as compared to 2009 when President George W. Bush left office. However, one cannot say that has made the position of United States any more secure.
In addition, the numbers of advisers and combat troops being sent into conflict zones, have been increasing enormously as Barack Obama winds down his presidency.
The American military presence has being deemed crucial, as the Iraqis government moves to take back territory that had been overrun by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
If the effort to take Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq is successful, it will effectively end ISIS territorial control in the country.
United States backed Syrian rebels are also now moving against the self proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa. If the city falls, it will mostly end control of any territory that the terrorist group now possesses in that part of the world.
If one does not consider the massive loss of life and property that occurred during 2014 and 2015 in both Iraq and Syria, you might be tempted to think, that the overall strategy of Obama has finally worked.
The problem is the terrorist network of ISIS, has now spread to at least 18 nations and has organized or inspired 143 attacks in 29 countries.
In the longest ongoing conflict in United States history, the situation in Afghanistan labeled the good war by President Obama, is no closer to ending.
The initial invasion began in 2001 and despite the reductions in troop levels over the years, the country’s government is still unable to fully defend itself against a number of terrorist groups.
There are many that estimate it will be years before Afghanistan will be able to function as a cohesive state again. The country will remain dependent on foreign aid and military assistance for the foreseeable future.
The refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria alone, number in the millions and have created difficulties not only with their neighbors, but in areas outside the Middle East. The governments of Europe are reeling with the arrival of waves of migrants trying to escape the zone of conflict.
The huge displacement of people from the aforementioned countries, have led to the establishment of sizable camps for the exiles in the nearby nations of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
The financial costs and disruption to the domestic economies of the receiving states is incalculable.
More than 4.5 million refugees from Syria can be found in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The latter hosts 2.5 million alone.
More than 50% of the population of Syria of roughly 23 million inhabitants, have been displaced either internally or compelled to leave.
There are approximately 2 million Iraqis refugees, living in neighboring countries of the Middle East. It is estimated that over the preceding years of chaos, 40% of the Iraqis middle class have fled and are unlikely to return.
There will be great difficulty in attempting to put countries like of Iraq, Libya and Syria back together again. The economic damage done to these countries, has been extensive during years of strife and war. The diverse groups of people who comprise these three nations have been in conflict with each other, as well as fighting the terrorist group ISIS.
There are Iranian troops fighting inside Iraq, at the behest of the central government in Baghdad. They are unlikely to fully withdraw, when victory over ISIS is achieved.
This will be unacceptable to many of the Sunni Muslims, who live in the central and northern part of Iraq. They will be unwilling to replace ISIS rule, with control from Iran.
Since the Shia sect of Islam is the religion of 60% of the populace of Iraq, there are many who favor an even stronger relationship with the Iranians, who are predominately Shia. Their numbers are concentrated in the south and control the majority of the oil reserves of the country.
The Kurds number between 4 to 6.5 million in Iraq, which is anywhere between 15% to 23% of the total population. The wide variance in the percentages, are due to the dislocation and movement of so many people.
The Kurds have been running their own affairs, since the ISIS invasion of northern and central Iraq, beginning in June 2014. Kurdish leaders are likely to make a move towards more official autonomy, if not outright independence.
If this development comes about, a reconstitution of prewar Iraq becomes impossible.
There are also troops from Turkey in northern Iraq. The Turks share a 750 mile (1,200 km) border with both Iraq and Syria. Turkish President Erdogan has even moved forces to the vicinity of Mosul, over the objections of the Iraqis central government in Baghdad. Iraq of course, is not in a position to dislodge the Turks.
As complicated as the situation in Iraq has become, it is even worse in Syria. The conflict there has been an ongoing civil war, with many different factions and groups vying for control and territory. It began with the unrest of the 2011 Arab Spring.
Syrian President Assad, a position inherited from his father, violently put down those who were calling for his removal. The Syrian government with the support of Russia, has maintained control over most of the western portion of the country.
The rest of Syria is divided between an somewhat loose alliance of Arab rebel groups, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Salafi jihadist groups and ISIS. In the northern part of the country, the Kurds have carved out a section of territory that they now control.
These various factions, receive substantial aid and support from foreign governments. It has now become a proxy warm waged by both regional countries and a number of foreign powers.
Russia has escalated its engagement in Syria not only to safeguard its naval base at Tartus, but to gain a new foothold in the Middle East.
As in the case of Iraq, Turkey has also invaded and captured territory in the Syrian border area. One reason for the incursion, was to prevent the Kurds in Syria from linking up with their countrymen in Iraq. This would be the next step in creating a Greater Kurdistan.
Such a political development will be opposed by both Iran and Turkey, who have sizable Kurdish minorities themselves.
Iran is home to between 5 and 6 million Kurds, mostly found in the northern and western part of the country. It is a small minority in a nation of 79 million people.
In Turkey, the Kurdish minority number about 14 million, which is near 18% of the total population of 77.8 million. Most of them live in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country.
It is important to note, that the Kurds claim their total numbers are far higher, at between 20 to 25 million.
In Libya, the United States moved with European allies to call for the overthrown of the dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Once his strong hand was removed, the country rapidly disintegrated into several factions, that the central authority could no longer control. The country for all intent purposes ceases to exist.
Egypt is now under the control of the military. The United States government made the fateful decision to abandon President Mubarak, who had been a political ally of the United States. After his resigned from office in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood came to power.
The Brotherhood became increasingly unpopular in Egypt. The more secular populace resisted the efforts of the government, to turn the country into an Islamic state. Before a civil war began, the military ousted the Brotherhood from power and seized control of the government.
Israel feels increasingly isolated, as it observes conflict and disorder throughout the entire region. They are even less inclined towards making accommodations, towards the Palestinian issue under these circumstances.
Yemen has collapsed into a civil war, with the former government already in exile. Saudi Arabia has militarily engaged the rebels, who have seized control of the country. It will be quite difficult to force the rebels from power at this point.
Political stability in the oil rich Gulf States, has become far more precarious. The monarchies of the area are feeling increasingly insecure, with a restive population and turmoil just beyond their borders.
The low global price for crude, has made it far more challenging for these rulers to keep their people content. The generous social welfare programs are no longer affordable, under present market conditions.
In the Middle East alone, a Trump Administration will find itself in a morass of competing interests. The situation has become far more complicated, since President Bush left office in 2009.
There are many who lay blame for some of this, on the poor foreign policy decisions made by the Obama Administration. The premature removal of American troops from Iraq in 2011, left the door open for a group like ISIS. They quickly overwhelmed, the ill prepared and unmotivated Iraqis troops.
Criticism is also leveled against the lack of action taken in Syria. After insisting the United States would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons, President Obama did nothing when they were later used by the Assad government.
Nor did the United States follow through, on the demand that Assad be removed from power.
By allowing the Syrian civil war to continue over the long term, it provided Russia the opportunity to return to the Middle East, after a more than 40 year absence. President Putin has no intention of abandoning the Assad government. He also aims to keep a permanent Russian military presence in Syria, regardless of the eventual political outcome.
In addition, the nuclear agreement with Iran will remain controversial. It looks increasingly unlikely, that Iran has any intention of upholding to the provisions made in the understanding. The Iranian violations have already begun, with little real consequence. As the deal begins to unravel, it leaves the United States with few real options, except the reimposing of sanctions or the threat of war.
There are now only difficult decisions to make for the future President Trump, in trying to promote and protect American interests in the region. It will be an arduous task to move forward, without making a major investment in treasure and military force. It is not clear the American people have the will for an armed incursion, that quickly could become a quagmire for the United States.