There is almost a childlike innocence to the foreign policy initiatives of the Obama Administration, to be admired for their insouciance — were it not that they are contributing to world instability and promising even greater disaster for the U.S.!
The President, almost off the cuff [or at least off the teleprompter] acknowledges that there is no strategy for taking down the Daesh [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL or ISIS]. That’s despite the fact that only a few months ago he announced he intended “to degrade and destroy ISIL” with a full fledge strategy underway .
But at the same time, the Pentagon announces that it is sending another 450 trainers into Iraq to try to restructure Baghdad’s badly tattered government military, joining another 3,000 or so American military already in-country. In a sense, it is a repetition of the President’s initial strategy in Afghanistan where simultaneously he announced reinforcements at the same time he announced a future total withdrawal.
It does not take much street smarts to know that such announcements are not only contradictory but reveal to even the dumbest and weakest of enemies just what opportunities await them and suggest how to exploit them.
It is no secret, of course, that the President does not want to admit – and never will perhaps – that his 2008 campaign “strategy” proposal which he immediately implemented, demanded a complete withdrawal from Iraq. It certainly helped bring on new regional disasters and, politically, suggested to the American people the huge sacrifices of the two Iraq wars had been for naught.
Now, alas! it appears that he is not going publicly to admit [one has to ask, to himself as well?] that Washington has few options but to move back into Iraq with substantial forces. Not to do so would embolden all those forces lined up, ironically, with both the Sunni Islamic terrorists who support Daesh and the Shia Islamic terrorists allied with Iran who dominate the Iraq government and whatever resistance it is able to mount to its enemies.
Whatever the shortcomings of Daesh – not excluding its continuing contest with other Islamic terrorist groups including Al Qaeda, particularly in Syria – it has been on a roll. The capture of Ramadi was not the relatively minor “setback” that White House was able to coax even outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Edward “Marty” Dempsey into saying.
It places Daesh in a position, if nothing else, to mount a continuing campaign of terror including the almost unanswerable weapon of suicide bombings against the two million Iraqis inside the capital less than 60 miles away. It also has been instrumental in aligning Iraqi Sunni forces with it, or neutralizing them, and in a surprisingly successful campaign to enlist foreign volunteers, even some from the U.S.
We don’t for a moment suggest that we have the necessary strategy for what needs to be done. Nor do we, on the other hand, believe that such strategies have not been proposed and elaborated – and thus far rejected at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. – by the Pentagon.
But as amateur historians, what we do remember is one of the lessons of American engagements overseas during the whole postwar period – especially the terrible echo of “Vietnam” with its 54,000 American dead.
That lesson was pure and simple: if you are going to fight a war, you must fight it anticipating all the worst possibilities for as generals have always said, the battlefield changes the moment the first shop is fired. If you are to push a failing Vietnamese military aside, then send in the forces you need for the worst of situations. If you are to bomb Hanoi, do it immediately with maximum strength, not increase it incrementally and gave your enemy the ability to meet it. If you are enforcing a naval blockade, then mine the Haiphong harbor instead of chasing small craft up and down a 500-mile coastline, etc., etc.
Much has been made by our fellow talking heads of the American public’s fatigue after the long years of seemingly nconclusive war in the Middle East. That is certainly true.
But it is the primary obligation of leadership to examine current situations with more information than the average citizen and to anticipate the problems ahead. Then the necessary decisions, however difficult they are, have to sold to the American people with whom this president still has considerable support.
Dribs and drabs is not the way to go.