Expect Bitter Fruits From Obama’s Half-Hearted War on Terror
President Obama doesn’t get a lot of praise at Shadow Government; after all, our job as the loyal opposition is to critique his administration’s foreign policy. Now that he has launched his own war on terror, I can offer praise, scant though it may be, but it comes with a critique for which there are ...
President Obama doesn't get a lot of praise at Shadow Government; after all, our job as the loyal opposition is to critique his administration's foreign policy. Now that he has launched his own war on terror, I can offer praise, scant though it may be, but it comes with a critique for which there are reasons aplenty.
President Obama doesn’t get a lot of praise at Shadow Government; after all, our job as the loyal opposition is to critique his administration’s foreign policy. Now that he has launched his own war on terror, I can offer praise, scant though it may be, but it comes with a critique for which there are reasons aplenty.
It is a remarkable thing in politics that a president who was elected for being the anti-war candidate — Obama has never been more sincere than in his war policy — has now launched his own war. Compare him to Woodrow Wilson: One can see that while Obama was and is truly reluctant to be a war president, Wilson took up the role eagerly as a means to remake the world according to Progressive ideas even though he had benefitted in his reelection with cheers of "he kept us out of war." Surely the bitterest pill for Obama is to have to be a wartime commander-in-chief when all his adult life, through his election and until today, he has believed that American assertiveness is the problem and that salon diplomacy can make the world a better place and obviate the need for war. Wilson understood that his goals for the world required an engaged and triumphing U.S. military; Obama wanted badly for the world to bend to his thinking without bowing to U.S. arms.
This is why it took six years, an imploding Iraq, terrorists more diabolical than al Qaeda, and two Americans beheaded for Obama to finally launch his own war. The world would not behave like he wanted; the enemies of the U.S.-built international order would not embrace the new day.
We should applaud the president, if for nothing else, than for finally facing the realities and responsibilities that all American presidents face: the United States in arms is necessary for the security of America and the preservation of a civilized world order.
Now to the critique.
Obama’s war didn’t have to be: It is in large part a result of the president’s wishful thinking approach to foreign policy. Why has the Islamic State been able to run amok defeating U.S.-trained Iraqi armies and capturing Iraqi cities; slaughtering, torturing, and persecuting thousands of innocent Christians, Yazidis, and Muslims; looting U.S. war materiel; making a mockery of our efforts in Iraq and threatening our consulates and embassies?
Because Obama ignored the Islamic State and played down their effectiveness in a vain effort to wish away the urgent need to remain on a war footing against terrorism.
Because he failed to engage with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and that led to there being were no U.S. forces in Iraq that could have prevented the Islamic State’s bursting out of Syria to take over large swaths of Iraq.
Because the president created a vacuum for terrorists in Syria when he didn’t take the opportunity to back up his own demands that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad leave power but instead allowed the opposition to Assad to grow into a terrorist force that is now an army controlling territory in two countries.
So what is wrong with what the president is doing now?
The coalition is lacking. The Europeans have not joined because they have not seen U.S. leadership for years. The entire six years of the Obama administration has convinced them that we are not interested in leading on anything. They are not inspired nor are they impressed with Obama’s handling of Russia, China, nor anything in the Middle East, so why should they risk involvement in an enterprise that we don’t appear committed to? Egypt is not only not participating, they are critical of what they see has a half-hearted measure. And Turkey is absent. While I cannot blame the president for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s affinity with terrorists like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Islamic State, one can’t help but think that Turkey is less inclined to bend to our will when we won’t assert it. Finally, much is being made of Obama bringing together Arab powers, but this has it backwards. The Sunni powers provoked the president to action. A greatly alarmed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had already taken action against extremists in Libya; they have been demanding for years that the United States act as only it can against these regional and global threats.
The strategy is vague. Because the president hasn’t sought congressional approval as Bush did, it appears to be designed more to catch up to the Arab states and to quell unrest in his own party over a lack of leadership and the appearance of weakness. So it looks like a political strategy for home consumption but also like a diplomatic necessity (see above regarding the Sunni Arab states). I leave it to military strategists to provide a sharper critique, but to my thinking a serious effort to "degrade and destroy" the Islamic State would mean providing no forewarnings; bombing to kill terrorists rather than to destroy buildings at night; and crucially, assembling forces to take back and hold territory rather than waiting more than a year for regional groups to be trained. That is, there would be a massive supplying and aiding of erstwhile allies like the Sunni tribes who have allied with us before as well as of the Kurdish forces, both of whom have a keen interest in preventing a bunch of thugs, foreigners, and Baathists from becoming their new rulers.
If my critique is accurate, the president will accomplish little in this effort to bolster U.S. interests. Rather, he will temporarily ease the political and diplomatic pressure on himself, but at a very high price, that of hypocrisy regarding all his criticism of George W. Bush’s approach and actions. And if he ends his presidency as Bill Clinton did, with enemies who defy and threaten us being subject only to occasional missile strikes, all will have been for naught. No political gain, no diplomatic gain, and no putting paid to his 2012 campaign declaration that terrorists are on the run and the war on terror is over. We’ll be in greater danger, and life for the average Syrian and Iraqi caught between murderous terrorists and feckless and abusive governments will worsen, if that is even possible to imagine.
And then there is Afghanistan, which the president also has vowed to leave, so this cycle will be repeated there.
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