While speaking in Germany today, President Obama confessed with a halting delivery that “We don’t yet have a complete strategy” for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq. He could have added that we have no hint of one for combating the Islamic State in Syria. Months ago at a news conference Obama created a firestorm when he conceded we did not have strategy for defeating the Islamic State. One wonders what the administration been up to since then.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry hit the administration first. In a written statement his spokesperson provided to Right Turn, he declared, “It is a failure of leadership that nine months after President Obama first said we don’t have a strategy to defeat ISIS, the United States is in no better position in the fight against this radical terror group. As we see ISIS continue to inspire more followers and see Ramadi fall under their control, the Obama Administration’s rhetoric about ‘setbacks’ does not match the reality on the ground. Positive rhetoric alone does not solve problems, action does” He added, “If I were Commander-in-Chief, it would not take nine months to work with our military leaders to develop a complete strategy to destroy ISIS and protect American security interests and values.”
This surely is the Möbius strip presidency. The United States recedes, and bad actors fill the void. The president won’t respond until media criticism becomes too loud to ignore. He dawdled coming up with a plan. He then launches a half-hearted effort or in the case of the red line in Syria, no effort at all. The situation becomes dire. And we begin the cycle again. Around and around we go, never putting forth a robust strategy equal to the task at hand. He’d rather sound foolish (labeling the Islamic State the J.V. team), blatantly misrepresent the situation (we have halted the Islamic state!), blame others (Iraq has no will to fight) and declare the only alternative is full-scale invasion.
The president’s war plan, such as it is, predictably did not work. Last month, at the Council on Foreign Relations Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), told the audience:
Once ISIS began to emerge I did not consider them a JV team. In fact, I repeatedly warned that they were much, much more of a potent threat than the president was giving them credit for. And I argued for an earlier engagement, both targeting their hubs of — their nodes that they use for logistical operations, but also the transit points that they needed in order to project power moving forward.
I still think that it’s good we’re conducting airstrikes. The truth is we probably need more. But I really think it’s critical that a Sunni force confront them on the ground. And part of that could be Iraqi Sunnis. And I see today that they’re starting to train some. . . . The problem is they need American logistical support, air support and some special operations embeds to help that be successful. They’re not going to do it on their own. … Well, we’ve given them some increasing advice. It still has not been to the level it should’ve been.
He added, “I think ultimately you could embed Special Operations Forces to help them improve their capabilities.” Had the president followed that advice — and/or the advice of his own military advisers we might not now be in the predicament we are. It may be too much to hope that the president will finally come up with a realistic and robust strategy for defeating the Islamic State. Some of us suspect he’s never been in this to win it, just to kick it down the road to President Hillary Clinton or President Rubio to solve.