Strategy? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Strategy!
"We don't yet have a complete strategy," Obama says. No kidding.
In 2008, Barack Obama promised to have all American troops out of Iraq by 2011. And by golly he was going to keep that promise, no matter the damage to U.S. national security interests.
On Oct. 21, 2011, he had this to say: “I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end — for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership. … After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011.”
By the end of December 2011, the only Americans remaining in Iraq were Marine guards at two embassies and 4,000 to 5,000 defense contractors.
Top military officials expressed consternation because they sought a residual force of tens of thousands of American troops, arguing that was the only way to ensure continued stability won at enormous cost in blood and treasure.
Commenting on Obama’s “strategy” last year, Fox News’ Brit Hume quipped, “Obama has an interesting view on wars and how they end. Most presidents bring troops home when the war’s over. Obama thinks he can end wars by bringing troops home. In fact Obama seems to think leaving is winning.”
To that we might add that he apparently thinks he can defeat the enemy by making nice. As Mark Alexander points out, jihadi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was once in U.S. custody. But in 2009, Obama released him to the Iraqis. Now we know al-Baghdadi as the leader of the Islamic State.
With the Islamic State soaking up territory in the Middle East like a dry sponge for over a year now, Obama’s “winning by leaving” strategy is ever more clearly a failure.
Last year, Obama referred to the Islamic State as the “JV team” compared to al-Qaida: “[T]he analogy we use … is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant. I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”
Evidently that meant he didn’t think he needed a strategy to fight them. He informed us last August that “we don’t have a strategy yet.” And this week, 10 months later, he repeated that careless pronouncement.
“We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis, as well, about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place,” Obama said. “And so the details of that are not yet worked out.”
Obama essentially blamed his commanders for the lack of strategy. Last year, he blamed U.S. intelligence for the rise of the Islamic State. He always blames others for his failures. But last we checked, he is, unfortunately, the commander in chief.
No matter. He left subordinates to clean up his mess. Pentagon spokesman Admiral John Kirby insisted, “We do have a strategy. The president was referring to a specific plan to improve training and equipping of the Iraqi security forces. … [T]he goal is to degrade and defeat ISIL, to remove them as a threat … through … airstrikes. We have to train and equip Iraqi Security forces — this is their fight on the ground. We have to stem the flow of foreign fighters.”
Yet Kirby admitted that airstrikes alone won’t “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State. It will also take “competent Iraqi security forces,” which he conceded have been less than stellar.
Another anonymous Pentagon official was less diplomatic: “What the f— was that? We have given him lots of options, he just hasn’t acted on them.”
In the face of criticism even from his allies, Obama announced Tuesday that he’s ready to send hundreds more American military advisers to Iraq, which would bring the boots-on-the-ground total to about 3,500.
If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, you’re not alone. Despite all the bold talk about beefing up Iraqi security forces, the reality is that Iraqis see what happened last time and not many are willing to bet their lives on siding with Obama’s America. Besides, Obama’s real strategy is to procrastinate and let the next president sort it out. And that’s not good enough.