Is a mutiny happening around President Obama? It appears possible that the president may not have made two of his most recent decisions with complete free will. The announcement that he would delay his immigration initiative until after the election and his formal announcement that the United States would take military action against the Islamic State could have been coerced.
Maybe Democratic leaders in Congress and a few members of the Obama team have had it. Could it be that, after President Obama briefed Democrats in Congress on the immigration plan, they balked? Maybe the president was told that, if he waved in millions of new illegal immigrants before November, there would be an open revolt against him within the party.
Similarly, a few members of this administration who have independence, stature and an adult disposition may have told the president he must act on the Islamic State or else they were out. I’m thinking of at least Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Is it possible they could not stomach doing nothing any longer and told the president that they would quit in protest if he did not take action?
Stranger things have happened. And given this administration’s complete inability to admit mistakes, it isn’t crazy to think something else was behind these two unusual moves by the White House. It seems unlikely the president himself initiated the punt on immigration or the about-face on military action in Iraq, so you can bet there is a story as yet untold about both.
We probably won’t have to wait for the self-serving insider memoirs to be written to know what happened. White House internal strife and brinkmanship doesn’t stay hidden for long. And if a few mutineers really did force the president’s hand, they are probably now emboldened by their success and will flex their muscles in other ways in the near future.
Oh, and three more quick points.
First, a Shiite leader in Baghdad will never rule over the Sunni-dominated territories — now controlled by the Islamic State — that lie to the north and west of Baghdad. Maybe an elected Shiite prime minister governing all of Iraq never really had a chance and such an arrangement was just a Bush administration fantasy that Obama has foolishly adopted. No one should pretend that a single Iraq, with the same borders that exist today, will ever be reconstituted and governed by an elected official.
Second, to reinforce the point above, President Obama needs to make it clear that “degrading ISIS” and “saving the current government in Iraq” are two different things. The U.S. military will, no doubt, degrade ISIS, but nothing can save the flawed notion that a Shiite prime minister can rule peacefully over a country with Iraq’s current sectarian composition and borders.
And finally, President Obama had better begin to shift away from saying he is going to “destroy” the Islamic State. Or, he needs to define “destroy” in such a way that people do not think he means “eliminate.” The sad truth is that, as long as there is even one crazy jihadist with a black flag and a computer to spew twisted thoughts, the group will exist in some form.