President Obama is seemingly incapable of learning from experience or admitting error. In a speech to the American Legion on Tuesday, he said the following:
Now, sustaining our leadership, keeping America strong and secure, means we have to use our power wisely. History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching, and spreading ourselves too thin, and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences. And nobody knows this better than our veterans and our families — our veteran families, because you’re the ones who bear the wages of war. You’re the ones who carry the scars. You know that we should never send America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary and we have a plan, and we are resourcing it and prepared to see it through. (Applause.) You know the United States has to lead with strength and confidence and wisdom.
And that’s why, after incredible sacrifice by so many of our men and women in uniform, we removed more than 140,000 troops from Iraq and welcomed those troops home. It was the right thing to do. It’s why we refocused our efforts in Afghanistan and went after al Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, driving the Taliban out of its strongholds, and training Afghan forces, which are now in the lead for their own security. In just four months, we will complete our combat mission in Afghanistan and America’s longest war will come to a responsible end. And we honor every American who served to make this progress possible — (applause) — every single one, especially the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan to keep us safe.
The president is stubbornly misguided. For starters, the problem the past 5 1/2 years has not been “overreaching, and spreading ourselves too thin.” It is time for Obama to stop campaigning against President George W. Bush and start taking responsibility for his presidency. The dangers we face from the vicious Islamic State, an expansionist Russia and an aggressive Iran are not due to overreach. They stem from the president’s lack of will and ideological blinders. They stem from a failure to project U.S. power and do what we say we are determined to do (e.g. punish use of weapons of mass destruction, force out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad).
And, by gosh, Obama is sticking with his failed vision and misguided thinking. He says “that’s why” (What is why? Our desire not to overreach?) he removed all troops from Iraq. Apparently he now admits it was his decision, not the Iraqis’. And he insists despite the chaos, death and growing terrorist threat to the United States that followed that this was the “right thing to do.” By what measure? Obama’s desire to be the un-Bush is his highest obligation, it seems. The right thing to do, of course, was to secure the gains achieved by his predecessor and keep a reserve force in place. The right thing to do was to nip the Islamic State in the bud. Obama refused to do so, then resorted to misleading the public (that it wasn’t his decision, that there was no reasonable alternative to Assad and the jihadists, etc.) and now boasts that he achieved his objective. His objective apparently was not to secure victory. Indeed, “victory” or even “success” don’t figure in his calculus.
And once again, Obama is “ending” a war, he says, in Afghanistan regardless of conditions on the ground. If every move is defined by “What will keep us from being spread too thin?” (that in actuality amounts to never doing anything anywhere), then we don’t of course achieve the real objective, which (remember?) is to keep the United States safe and secure.
But Obama’s blunders keep coming. Once again, he is ruling out certain action. No troops returning to fight in Iraq, he says. Does that exclude intelligence personnel and air power? What if eliminating the “cancer” of the Islamic State requires this? Nope. Obama is not going to be caught spreading U.S. forces too thin.
Nor will he be caught with a platitude deficit. “America does not forget. Our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done. We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans — to go after those who harm Americans.” This is not a policy or plan of action; it’s a series of meaningless threats and empty promises.
Given all that has occurred, it is a pathetic speech, lacking real appreciation for the acute danger we face from the Islamic State and the need for deployment of U.S. power. No wonder (before she lost nerve) Hillary Clinton was trying to run from this myopic and dangerous outlook. Obama has let the region descend into chaos rather than take small steps early on that would have most likely prevented the Syrian debacle, the rise of the Islamic State and the fragmentation of Iraq. Now he insists that what he did was “right” and is all too anxious to tell our nervous allies and emboldened foes what he will not do.
The country is facing a precarious period, in large part because we have a president disconnected from reality and stubbornly convinced that his debacles were the “right thing to do.” Clinton might want to give a speech of her own, demonstrating that she has the nerve to define a policy at odds with the White House — and then not wilt when the president squawks.