To want the Iraqi army to push back ISIS is an admirable goal and, in the abstract, in a world where years of delay have no serious consequences, it would likely be the right thing to try to achieve. But we don't live in that world, life is not abstract, and waiting several years for the Iraqi army to return to what is was before the US left is suicidal.
Above: President Barack Obama
America’s Ditherer-In-Chief, Part 2
Most of you have already seen or read former CIA chief and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's criticism of his former boss, President Barack Obama.
For those who haven't, Panetta says that Obama ignored the best advice of senior military and intelligence advisors, ignored Panetta's advice, and basically dithered until all of them gave up on ever convincing him to act to arm the moderate Syrian opposition two years ago.
The same basic pattern existed with regard to pressuring the Iraqi government to allow the US to leave behind a a small armed force to help maintain order and in several other key Mideast decisions that had to be made over the past two years.
Obama, Panetta said yesterday, governs like he is a professor at Harvard. He lectures, expects people to be convinced by his logic and therefore do what he wants done. And he waits. And if people don’t do what he wants, he disengages, withdraws and complains.
The problem is that Washington, D.C. and life don't work that way, and in the crucial area of America's national security in relationship to the Mideast, Obama's logic is wrong.
What a president needs to do to govern should have been clear to Obama before he ran for the office. But Obama is human and power blinds, and he ran for and won that office with no real intention of doing many of the things a president must do to make his presidency successful. And in the poisoned atmosphere of today's Washington, those Obama failures are both magnified and obscured: magnified in the sense that the damage those failures do is worse than they might be otherwise, and obscured because the misbehavior of his opponents partially or even completely obscures his failures.
But that likely will not the case with the Mideast because those failures have arguably made America much less safe.
And that brings me to the coalitions air strikes in Iraq and Syria. Most of you know those airstrikes have done little to push back or even slow down ISIS, and it is likely to capture the Syrian border city of Kobane sometime in the next few hours, and will likely slaughter thousands of Kurdish civilians there.
Coalition air strikes if properly targeted could have delayed this by a few weeks, and arming the Kurdish militia defending the city likely could have stopped ISIS cold. But someone in Washington, DC was dithering, and that person's name is Barack Obama.
If, God forbid, those Kurds are slaughtered, Obama shares the blame. He certainly does not want them dead, and doesn't want Kobane to fall, but he still refuses to stop being America's professor-in-chief and start being its president.
In Obama's mind, doing what it takes to really push back ISIS cannot be done. Why? Because air strikes need spotters on the ground and the Kurds need heavier weapons than the antique Kalashnikov rifles they now have, and Obama doesn't want to put American boots on the ground or really arm the Kurds.
Worse yet, it appears to me that Obama is micromanaging the military's response in Iraq and Syria (a point Paul Ryan, who I almost never agree with, made several days ago), and Obama still appears to be treating terrorism, even ISIS, as a criminal justice issue rather than a war. In his mind, the war is Iraq's, the war is Syria's, the war is the Kurds'. But the war is not ours. We can train and advise and pursue criminal justice. But we will not fight a war. And that almost certainly means we will lose what is our war, whether Obama understands this or not or accepts it or not And the consequences of that long, slow loss will, God forbid, likely be felt on the streets of Western Europe and, God forbid, likely on our streets, as well.
To want the Iraqi army to push back ISIS is an admirable goal and, in the abstract, in a world where years of delay have no serious consequences, it would likely be the right thing to try to achieve.
But we don't live in that world, life is not abstract, and waiting several years for the Iraqi army to return to what is was before the US left is suicidal.
Obama will say that if we fight this war as our own, it will just create more anti-US hatred in the Islamic world and more terrorism, and that very likely is the truth.
But what he won't say is that the opportunity to let Arab Muslims fight ISIS ended after Obama dithered his way out of arming the moderate Syrian opposition and failed to act after drawing a redline when Assad crossed that red line and used chemical weapons on his own people. Those two gross errors were surrounded by many other crucial errors he made in the region then, as well.
So, what should be done?
Obama clearly wants to punt. He wants his successor to deal with this mess just over two years from now. Until then, Obama is content to under react and dither.
But the correct thing to do now is to allow the US Military to do what is necessary to win this war and crush ISIS with as much moderate Muslim and anti-ISIS Muslim support we can get. And along with that, actively and strongly support moderation in the region and within Islam.
This will still spawn more Islamist terror, but it will blunt the largest and most dangerous active Islamist terror group, ISIS, which is now serving as a magnet and a rallying point for Islamic fundamentalists who now have their own mini-state-cum-caliphate.
Every day we wait makes that war against ISIS harder and more costly. And for Kurdish and other non-ISIS civilians in Iraq and Syria, it likely means rape, torture, beheadings, crucifixions and death.
Obama did not start this mess but he certainly has made it worse, and whether he admits it or not, he now owns it. It is his responsibility morally and as our president to clean it up now.