Readers wondering why the Obama administration seems paralyzed and unable to respond decisively to the aggression and terrorism of Islamic forces (i.e., ISII, ISIS, etc.) now rampaging through Syria and Iraq need look no farther than the rhetoric President Obama ran on in his “historic” 2008 campaign. Candidate Obama declared then that he would end wars, not start them. War would no longer be our instrument of foreign policy. Instead, a wonderful new era of kumbya would seat us at the Table of Brotherhood with our former enemies, where we would all work out our differences in a spirit of comity and mutual respect. This would be the glorious centerpiece of his “fundamental transformation” of the nation.
If you yawned through those passages of Candidate Obama’s speeches – possibly thinking it was just his brand of campaign blarney (with apologies offered to any offended Irish) – then permit me to suggest that you could hardly have been more mistaken. Mr. Obama is not just anti-war in word. He is anti-war in thought and deed, as well. He is, in fact, anti-war to the core of his being. Should our enemies actually be coming down the chimney, it’s doubtful if he would do more than issue a stern warning and launch a few airstrikes – while making sure that none of the enemy (probably identified as Militant Methodists, Episcopals or Baptists) got hurt.
OK – enough with the wisecracks. We all understand that Mr. Obama successfully ran as the great “peacemaker” – i.e., the messiah, not the revolver. (Oops, there I go again!) Americans had been at war for over six years, and they were mighty sick of it. Historically, we have a short span of patience for waging war. In many ways that’s a good thing. The Obama Gang understood this and took advantage of it. Their guy swept triumphantly into office like Caesar returning from knocking over Gaul. Wonderful! Peace again, with nobody in the world mad at us. Millions of Americans believed he could do it. As a young friend said, “How could he not succeed when he looked and sounded so good?” We wanted it to be true. It had to be true.
Our new Peaceable President set about giving peace a chance, right after he “fixed” the economy and pulled us out of George Bush’s Great Depression. (He said he did it, so it had to be true.) He drew down troop-strengths, cut the Pentagon’s budget, and unilaterally declared the war in the Iraq “over.” He set a “date certain” for our complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. The boys were coming home. It was all going to work out just as he said.
In 2011, Navy Seals finally located and killed Osama bin Laden. He was quickly buried at sea, so we never actually saw the body – according to the official narrative furnished by the Obama administration. (Mr. Obama said we should show respect for the villain who masterminded the deaths of 3000 Americans in the World Trade Center attacks. We shouldn’t take a “victory lap.”) But by the following year our Warrior President and his faithful Indian Companion, (Tonto) Biden, were victory-lapping all over the country with the war-cry, “Osama bin Laden is dead, and Al Qaeda is on the run!” Miraculous! Really, it had to be all over but the shouting.
The president’s devoted acolytes swarmed out of the woodwork to re-elect him, but then they evidently swarmed right back into the woodwork. Good luck on finding someone outside of his administration who will actually admit to having voted for the guy. (I’m not sure Hillary did.)
In the midst of the media hype over the Great Peacemaker’s triumphs, it somehow escaped our notice that our Islamic enemies didn’t really sit down with us at the Table of Brotherhood – or at any other table. That omission wasn’t in the script of Mr. Obama’s Peace Plan – nor were the resurgent forces romping through Syria and Iraq in full military order of battle, under the new banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (i.e., ISIS). Who were those guys? Nothing to see here, yawned Mr. Obama, as he dismissed ISIS as Al Qaeda’s “JV team.” (After all, everyone knew that Osama bin Laden was dead, and Al Qaeda was on the run.)
While the president’s National Security Team tried to work out where all those freakin’ tablecloth-heads came from, the (really!) bad guys started filming beheadings of civilian hostages and posting the grisly videos to the internet for all the world to see. “This is what awaits you,” was their all-too-clear message. A picture was truly worth a thousand words.
Even our Peace President took notice of the message. By jingo, this was the last straw. We’re gonna hit ‘em! We’re gonna tear ‘em limb from limb! We’re gonna kick some butt, and they’ll be sorry… (“When this baby hits 88 miles an hour, you’re gonna see some serious #@$^%!”)
The president ordered our military forces to carry out air strikes on ISIS. But we would put no “boots on the ground” (or anywhere else). Mr. Obama made it clear that our air-only operation would “degrade and destroy” the ISIS forces. Other countries would be encouraged to send ground troops to defeat this new insurgency, but we would stay above it all.
Military experts say the air strikes – several thousand, so far – appear to have stopped the advance of ISIS/ISIL forces. But the same experts admit that ISIS cannot be truly defeated and destroyed except by organized ground-units. During World War II we learned in both the European and Pacific Theaters that wars cannot be won by air power alone. Although we bombed German and Japanese cities to rubble – including the gruesome atomic-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed nearly 200,000 civilians – both countries surrendered only after the Allies crushed their military ground forces. Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s unprecedented personal intervention to stop the war, after the second atomic bomb was dropped, prevented a climactic ground battle for Japan’s islands that otherwise would have been required.
Knowing all this, why does Mr. Obama not decisively commit the forces needed to defeat ISIS/ISIL once and for all? Experts say that the enemy strength is no more than 80,000 troops – perhaps fewer. An allied army of 200,000 would surely be enough to defeat such a force. America’s contribution might have to be only 100,000 or so. Why not go in with heavy weapons and get it done? As Ronald Reagan liked to say, “If not now, when? If not us, who?”
In my view, the answer is clear: it’s all strictly politics. Mr. Obama and his inner circle see everything through the prism of politics. He is a completely political animal who made his bones as a community organizer and anti-war activist. His party is committed to the anti-war cause – no matter which war it might be. Their playbook calls for Republicans to start and wage wars, while Democrats oppose them and promise to stop them. This is how Democrats recaptured the Congress in 2006, and the White House in 2008.
Mr. Obama knows that a new war, essentially caused by his wishful approach to foreign affairs, is inevitable. But it’s too soon: he’s still in office. He doesn’t want to start the war. He wants to leave office and let a Republican president start it – thereby furthering the legend that the GOP is the War Party. (Only old codgers like me remember that Democrat presidents got us into four wars in the 20th century.) Democrats will then oppose the new war and drag it out, as they did during G. W. Bush’s presidency. They’ll fan the flames of public discontent, while the war grinds on, and hopefully regain both the presidency and the Congress. It’s a tried and true recipe for political success. They believe it can work for them again. Why not? Even a child can see that they stink at economics.
I realize how depressing this sounds. I wish it were not true, but I’m pretty sure it is. Watch for developments – or non-developments, as the case may be. Our enemies have probably figured out Mr. Obama, too, and they know he will do them little harm. It could get ugly before we finally elect somebody who knows what to do.