- - Sunday, June 14, 2015


There is almost a childlike innocence to the foreign policy initiatives of the Obama administration. These might be admired for their insouciance, were it not for the fact that they are contributing to worldwide instability and promising even greater disaster for the United States.

President Obama, almost off the cuff — or at least off the teleprompter — acknowledges that there is no strategy for taking down ISIS (also known as the Daesh, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and ISIL). That’s despite the fact that only a few months ago he announced he intended “to degrade and destroy ISIL” with a full-fledged strategy underway.

At the same time, the Pentagon announced that it is sending another 450 trainers into Iraq to try to restructure Baghdad’s badly tattered government military, joining another 3,000 or so American military already in-country. In a sense, it is a repetition of the president’s initial strategy in Afghanistan where simultaneously he announced reinforcements and a future total withdrawal.

It does not take much street smarts to know that such announcements are not only contradictory but reveal to even the dumbest and weakest of enemies just what opportunities await them, and suggest how to exploit them.

It is no secret that the president does not want to admit — and never will perhaps — that his 2008 campaign “strategy” proposal which he immediately implemented, demanded a complete withdrawal from Iraq. It certainly helped bring on new regional disasters and, politically, suggested to the American people the huge sacrifices of the two Iraq wars had been for naught.

Now it appears that he is not going to admit publicly that Washington has few options but to move back into Iraq with substantial forces. Not to do so would embolden all those forces lined up, ironically, with both the Sunni Islamic terrorists who support ISIS and the Shia Islamic terrorists allied with Iran, which dominates the Iraq government and whatever resistance it is able to mount against its enemies.

Whatever the shortcomings of ISIS, it has been on a roll. The capture of Ramadi was not the relatively minor “setback” that the White House was able to coax even outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Edward “Marty” Dempsey into saying.

It places ISIS in a position to mount a continuing campaign of terror, including the almost unanswerable weapon of suicide bombings against the 2 million Iraqis inside the capital less than 60 miles away. It also has been instrumental in aligning Iraqi Sunni forces with it, or neutralizing them, and in a surprisingly successful campaign to enlist foreign volunteers, even some from the United States.

We do not believe that a strategy for what needs to be done by the Pentagon has not been rejected at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And this is unfortunate. One of the lessons of American engagements overseas during the whole postwar period — especially the terrible echo of “Vietnam” with its 54,000 American dead — is that if you are going to fight a war, you must fight it anticipating all the worst possibilities.

Much has been made by our fellow talking heads of the American public’s fatigue after the long years of seemingly inconclusive war in the Middle East. That is certainly true. But it is the primary obligation of leadership to examine current situations with more information than the average citizen and to anticipate the problems ahead. Then the necessary decisions, however difficult they are, have to be sold to the American people with whom this president still has considerable support.

Policy in dribs and drabs is not the way to go.

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