- - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

One of the critical rules of warfare is to never let the enemy know your plans of how, when and where you will respond.

In what is seen as the worst strategic national-security blunder in the long and bloody struggle against terrorism, President Obama broke that rule when he willingly told the Islamist extremist insurgency last week that he didn’t have a long-term plan to repel their advances in the Middle East.

He gave no sign when he would decide on one to deal with the Islamic State’s terrorist armies in their war in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.

“We don’t have a strategy yet,” he told the world in a news conference last week.

That unbelievable remark made front-page headlines around the world, and drew bloodthirsty cheers from terrorist leaders who have rampaged nearly nonstop across much of Syria, seizing territory and slaughtering thousands, as they continued their war in Iraq right up to the gates of Baghdad — threatening Lebanon, Jordan and other neighboring countries on their list.

Illustration by Schrank, Handelszeitung, Zurich, Switzerland
Illustration by Schrank, Handelszeitung, Zurich, Switzerland more >

“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Mr. Obama said, adding that any suggestions that “we’re about to go full scale on an elaborate strategy for defeating [the terrorists there or] that we’ll start moving forward imminently that’s not going to happen.”

The Islamic State’s heavily armed forces, who are attracting hordes of young, fiercely Islamist fighters from the West and the Middle East, have been waging a new and more aggressive war, leaving mass graves in their wake. Meantime, Mr. Obama has been worrying about his sinking job-approval polls, raising big bucks for his party and hoping this terrorism thing would go away.

It has interfered with his total-withdrawal policy in Iraq, his dismissal of Syria’s war as something that needed to be addressed diplomatically, and his focus on the midterm elections, which are expected to deliver a damaging blow to his party in November.

Wise and prudent presidents know you must be ready with well-thought-out contingency plans to handle a wide range of potential national-security threats. The threat to our allies in the Middle East has been building for many months.

Yet, incredibly, Mr. Obama admitted at his news conference that he had just asked the Pentagon to prepare a list of possible military options and that he has begun working on broader military, diplomatic and economic plans to work with our allies in the Middle East.

No wonder our allies in the West and the Middle East no longer look to America for leadership in an increasingly dangerous world.

His decision in August to send in fighter planes to help halt the Islamic State’s advancing armies has temporarily helped the Iraqis military in some engagements. Mr. Obama made it clear, though, that such airstrikes were limited and will end at some future date — another signal to the terrorists to hang in there, the air campaign will end soon.

As for Mr. Obama’s statement that the United States doesn’t have any plans to deal with a more radical terrorist menace in Iraq, even that delaying tactic was quickly shot down by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers:

“There have been plans on the table,” the Michigan Republican on “Fox News Sunday” said, “The president just did not want to get engaged in any way.”

Whatever plans the White House comes up with — and they still remain a mystery — Mr. Obama says, “We’re going to have to do that with other partners.” That could require many weeks or months of negotiations and preparations.

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