John Bolton

John Bolton

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Obama's Get Tough on ISIS Speech: More Politics, Little Strategy

Still, at least he's committed to acting in Syria!

I apologize for the following rambling discourse of Obama's Wednesday speech. Considering how rambling and incoherent Obama's policy remains I am sure readers will forgive me. My thoughts on the speech.

First, Obama's announced strategy:"This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years." That took a year to develop? And is the limited air strike with drones approach sufficient to remove what Obama calls the ISIS "cancer" after it has metastasized so much? Doubtful.

Second, Obama refused to strike in Syria a year ago without congressional authorization. In Wednesday's speech he said he "welcomed congressional support" but did not say he would wait for it. Fine by me. I actually agree that the Commander in Chief does not need Congressional approval for every action by the U.S. military. However, candidate Obama said in 2007: "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." Chalk that up to more hypocrisy from Mr. O.

While some Democrats, and some Republicans, are calling for a vote authorizing strikes in Syria, my guess is that the Dems really do not want to vote on it. Too many peaceniks to get angry if they vote yes and many, MANY more real Americans who would hold Dems accountable in November if they vote no.

Third, Obama talked about a "broad coalition" joining the U.S. in this fight without mentioning any names. Probably because there are so few. One count puts U.S. and coalition partners at nine. Contrast with George W. Bush's coalition in Iraq that included 47 nations with 37 putting "boots on the ground" in one form or another.  Bush's coalition was called the "coalition of the willing." So far, Obama's coalition appears more reluctant.

One element of that coalition are fighters in Syria. Obama said we have "ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition." This comes only a month after insisting that support for the Free Syrian Army was a "fantasy" that "an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists" would be effective in the fight in Syria. That was then, this is now.

Fourth, the timing of the speech, coming as it did after so many missteps and Obama's cratering poll numbers has all the appearance of a strategy that has more to do with the politics of the moment rather than a robust and effective war fighting strategy. With Obama getting dinged badly for repeatedly looking at national security from a political perspective (as contrasted with Bush according to Bill Clinton) and the American forces being sent to Iraq (now totaling nearly 1600) have much confidence in the mission if the political winds shift again?

Finally, overall I am pleased that Obama is finally doing something. But I have grave doubts about his willingness to stick to the plan as time goes on. In both Iraq and Afghanistan he's demonstrated that he will cut and run if that's what the politics of the moment call for. Doing so again now would be a disaster!

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