National Security

The Consequences of Leading From Behind

The commander in chief has been so focused on "ending" wars that he loses sight of winning them.

Apr. 24, 2014

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq and focusing on the “good” war in Afghanistan. He kept his promise regarding Iraq, at least in terms of simply withdrawing all U.S. forces. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the war there is over. He then decided to do the virtually same thing in Afghanistan.

Over the weekend, 30 were killed and 70 injured in multiple bombing attacks in Iraq. Al-Qaida, far from being “decimated” as the president repeatedly told us during his re-election bid, now controls much of the country. That includes Fallujah, over which much American blood was spilled. National Review’s Pete Hegseth, a veteran of both wars, writes, “It’s painful to watch so much effort and sacrifice be sacrificed for political expediency.”

The commander in chief was so focused on “ending the war” that he didn’t ensure we won it. Obama refused to finalize a status of forces agreement in order to keep American troops in Iraq for security, leaving a fledgling Iraqi government to try to do so on its own. The result has been predictable – chaos.

Unfortunately, we’re seeing him do the same thing in Afghanistan. There are currently 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which is down from a high of about 100,000. And Reuters reports, “The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan may drop well below 10,000 – the minimum demanded by the U.S. military to train Afghan forces.” In fact, Obama may leave fewer than 5,000 troops there. A status of forces agreement is in jeopardy.

General Joe Dunford, who heads U.S. and NATO forces there, says 10,000 soldiers is the bare minimum, and that a smaller force might struggle even to protect itself, much less accomplish any mission. The Heritage Foundation’s Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst and State Department official, warns, “If the White House opts to keep a lower number of troops, it will put more pressure on the Afghan forces and run the risk of squandering their recent progress against the Taliban.”

But domestic political objectives are always paramount for the president and his administration when they consider national security objectives. That’s why Obama’s foreign policy is so scattershot. Whether it’s Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria or Ukraine, the results are always nearly the exact opposite of what U.S. interests actually are. For example, with Moammar Gadhafi gone from Libya, it left a vacuum filled by al-Qaida, which now occupies a U.S.-refurbished training facility – meant to train fighters who would oppose al-Qaida. Syria perhaps used chemical weapons on rebel forces again recently, despite the president’s “red line.” And Vladimir Putin moves ahead undeterred in his quest to bite off chunks of Ukraine.

The world is a dangerous place and U.S. leadership and stability is key. Obama wants nothing of it, however, and the results are painfully obvious.

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