President Obama is infamous for his high regard for himself and low opinion of just about everyone else. He infamously declared in 2008, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” It turns out he didn’t know much about the Middle East, Russia or jihadism.
It should come as no surprise then that he is at war with everyone who knows
better less than he does, according to him. He is sparring with his military commanders who are forced to defend an unworkable strategy against the Islamic State that rests upon an imaginary Sunni ground force and U.S. air power alone, a formula that failed spectacularly in the failing state of Libya (including the deaths of four Americans). The Post reports:
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who served under Obama until last year, became the latest high-profile skeptic on Thursday, telling the House Intelligence Committee that a blanket prohibition on ground combat was tying the military’s hands. “Half-hearted or tentative efforts, or airstrikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility,” he said. “We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.”
Mattis’s comments came two days after Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took the rare step of publicly suggesting that a policy already set by the commander in chief could be reconsidered.
Despite Obama’s promise that he would not deploy ground combat forces, Dempsey made clear that he didn’t want to rule out the possibility, if only to deploy small teams in limited circumstances. He also acknowledged that Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander for the Middle East, had already recommended doing so in the case of at least one battle in Iraq but was overruled.
In fairness, freshmen Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) also disregard all these military experts, but they are not responsible for much of anything. Obama’s desire to live up to his political promise conflicts with coherent war strategy, so naturally the former prevails (‘the White House has struggled to reconcile that reality with its prior statements that Obama would not put ‘U.S. boots on the ground’ in Iraq”). Former secretary of Defense Robert Gates who wrote a book warning us of the president’s proclivities — only to be shunned by Obama spinners for sounding the alarm — is blunt and unsparing these days. (“‘There will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy,’ Gates said in an interview with CBS News, adding that ‘the president in effect traps himself’ by repeating his mantra that he won’t send U.S. troops into combat.”)
That said, the intelligence community has not been a reassuring factor. They seem to get everything wrong — and that comes from director of national intelligence James Clapper. The Post’s David Ignatius quotes him as saying that “we underestimated ISIL [the Islamic State] and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army. . . . I didn’t see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming. I didn’t see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable.” Imponderable? Maybe hiding in plain sight. He need not feel bad however since the president doesn’t let reality get in the way — and would not have acted differently even if Clapper had said what just about everyone who cared to know could: The Islamic State is a large, highly organized and well-armed force bent on displacing its neighbors and setting up it caliphate. (This does raise the question how why we should rely on the intelligence people to tell us when Iran is about to go nuclear; they seem to be the last to know.) In any other administration he might be fired; in this case missing danger signs is appreciated.
Jimmy Carter woke up to the Soviets ambitions when they invaded Afghanistan. But Obama isn’t going to let geopolitical realities get in the way. In his mind, Iran can be wooed, Israel is at fault for the “peace process” collapse, it was right to leave no troops in Iraq, Vladimir Putin is so 19th century and Somalia and Yemen are success stories. (Yemen, really? The latest from there: “[H]eavy fighting raged Thursday between the rebels and Sunni militias in Shamlan, a suburb also northwest of Sanaa that is home to the Iman Islamic university, an institution long viewed as a primary breeding ground for militias. . . . In addition to the Hawthi rebels, an al-Qaida branch in the south poses a constant threat as it tries to impose control over cities and towns. There is also a growing separatist movement in the south, a region that once constituted an independent state before it merged with northern Yemen.”)
No wonder the president is freaked out. We face a panoply of threats and a commander in chief who operates in a world of fantasy, essential to justify a string of horrendous policy misjudgments.