“We don’t have a strategy yet.”
President Obama, Press Conference, August 28, 2014
From Bagdad on the Tigris to Kiev on the Dnieper U.S. foreign policy is in disarray. At his press conference President Obama noted that he was awaiting a strategy from the Pentagon to deal with ISIL. Wrong!! It is the civilian leadership who makes strategy. Therefore it is up to the Pentagon to come up the appropriate military response to achieve the political ends dictated by the strategy. Simply put the President has it backwards.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, hardly a hawk, referred to ISIL “as sophisticated and well- funded as any group that we have seen…beyond anything we have seen.” If that is anywhere close to being the case then a clear and present danger exists to the national security of the United States. Up to now the President has authorized air strikes in Iraq, but not in the ISIL heartland of Syria. I fear that will not be nearly enough and that both air strikes in Syria and ground combat troops will be necessary as well. ISIL is too well entrenched to be handled by air power alone.
Yes the American people are war weary. But it is up to the President to make the case. Great leaders don’t follow polls they change them and the sooner the President lays the groundwork for action the sooner it will happen. He has to remember he is President first and party leader second.
He has to spend the time to do the hard work of coalition building that will be necessary to dislodge and ultimately neuter ISIL. President Bush ’41 was successful at it, but it took real work internationally to create it and he also had to overcome real opposition in Congress. In order to this the President will have to spend less time on the golf course and schmoozing political contributors and more time with foreign leaders and members of Congress.
Meantime Russia has all but formally invaded Ukraine and is now talking about a creating and independent state in the eastern part of the country. Such an open act of aggression must not go unpunished. It is now time for very real and very hard sanctions on Russia that would end all technology transfers and their access to the western banking system. Further NATO should send advanced weaponry to the Ukraine so that the can defend their homeland against the onslaught of Russian tanks and artillery. Hopefully there will be the will at the upcoming NATO meeting in Wales.
The White House has become a theme park of strategic indecision. The President has to snap out of it quickly because we do not have the luxury of waiting more than two years for a new president. The locomotive of history waits for no one. Just as reminder 75 years ago today, after several years of watching Britain and France vacillate, the German army crossed into Poland starting World War II.