By his own admission, Obama announced the “end” of the Iraq war, standing in front of returning troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Dec. 14, 2011. In that speech, he said the United States was leaving behind “a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government.” There was no Islamic State threat at that time. Fast forward to this month, when the president said in an interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg the day after Ramadi, Iraq, fell to Islamic State fighters that, “No, I don’t think we’re losing.” I wonder what this administration thinks “losing” looks like? This isn’t a “technical setback.” The losses in Iraq and the splintering of Syria are a direct result of at least three key Obama decisions.
First, Obama let the sectarian Nouri al-Maliki form a government in Iraq, even after Maliki failed to win the Iraqi parliamentary elections in 2010. Second, Obama folded in 2011 and did not ensure that an American fighting force remained in Iraq. Third, Obama refused to identify and groom an allied force fighting against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. To be clear, Obama is completely to blame for the Islamic State — the “JV team,” in his words — and its rapid consolidation of territory in western Iraq and through half of Syria. We are paying the price for the president’s dithering and his refusal to cultivate and equip an allied force that could shape events inside Syria and western Iraq. As your Insider said on May 18, “A ‘Sunni-stan’ is being created in front of our eyes.”
And since all Insiders readers know that bad gets worse, we can assume the march of the Islamic State will continue unless the president acknowledges some new realities. That doesn’t seem likely, as White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest is incredibly still claiming that the Obama administration’s strategy against the Islamic State is “overall” a success. So there is virtually no chance the president will acknowledge that the borders of the nation called Iraq, ruled from Baghdad, no longer exist; or that the nation called Syria, with its current borders, will not continue to be ruled from Damascus.
Anyway, I have always accused this White House of lacking insight and being incapable of being self-aware — much less self-critical — so despite the urgent nature of world events, the prospect of a wholesale revision of our foreign policy objectives and policies is unlikely.
This lack of insight — the denial, delusion and downright, jaw-dropping inability to deal with the world as it is — was on display Wednesday during Obama’s remarks at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement ceremony. Given the realities of America’s decline and retreat from the global stage and the growing threats to our country, the president thought the most important thing he could say to a U.S. military force was, “Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security … And so we need to act — and we need to act now.”
Since the president has been wrong about almost everything else concerning our national security, perhaps he’s wrong about the threat he sees in global warming. These are serious matters, but it’s hard not to ridicule what the president said at the academy. Perhaps if global warming persists at the pace the president desires, maybe it could actually improve America’s strategic positioning. Maybe global warming will work to America’s advantage since Obama cannot. Maybe global warming will cause the islands China is creating to flood. Maybe warm weather will strain the air conditioners in the North Korean laboratories where scientists are miniaturizing nuclear weapons. Maybe another Russian sinkhole will open up and swallow Vladimir Putin, making it impossible for him to continue to humiliate the president. Maybe a drought will somehow inhibit the Islamic State and keep it from murdering the few allies we still have in the Middle East.
Anyway, the Republican voices seeking to replace Obama need to speak with urgency so that the rest of the world will take notice. Even if Obama continues to be a befuddled pushover on the world stage, perhaps their forceful statements — combined with those of our GOP congressional leaders — will send the message that our enemies and competitors should temper their ambitions because a new sheriff is only 20 months away.