Blog No. 87. The President, the Contenders and ISIS

The President’s recent address from the Oval Office was clearly intended to reassure the nation. Whether anyone in fact felt reassured is highly questionable. As many observers noted, he offered nothing new to a strategy that has shown little sign of success thus far and gives little reason to believe that it will be more successful going forward. In fairness to the President, however, none of the current candidates for the presidency have offered a particularly persuasive path to a successful outcome for our struggle with ISIS and related elements of radical Islam.

The most detailed and comprehensive proposal for combating ISIS was provided by Hillary Clinton in a speech on November 14. Clinton’s proposal was similar to Obama’s existing policy, notably in prescribing a highly restricted role for American ground troops and hopeful reliance on the “65 country coalition.” It differed principally in a tone of greater urgency and a recognition, even before the San Bernardino shooting, that the past and present levels of effort were insufficient: […]

Special Bulletin. Bush’s Bobbles

As anyone with even a casual interest in politics must be aware, Jeb Bush had a difficult time last week dealing with self-inflicted wounds on the delicate subject of the Iraq invasion. It is delicate, of course, because the war is widely regarded as a disaster and one for which his brother George bears major responsibility. The first wound was inflicted on Monday when Bush apparently misheard a question and indicated that, even knowing what we now know, he would have approved the invasion. That mistake could have been quickly repaired and soon forgotten, but on Tuesday and Wednesday Bush dug the hole a bit deeper by saying that he had misheard the earlier question but was now declining to answer a “hypothetical” question. Only on Thursday did Bush get it right: “Knowing what we know now, I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.”Jeb Bush bobblehead final […]

SECOND UPDATE to Blog 43, Part I: The ISIS Crisis

Back on July 30, we posted Blog 43, Part I: The ISIS Crisis. In that post we observed that on June 13 President Obama had belatedly acknowledged for the first time the existence of an threat by ISIS that demanded his attention. The action he had announced, however, was conspicuously limited—dispatching 300 military advisers to assess the situation—and he insisted the problem was a regional one posing a threat to “American interests” that was at most remote and contingent. For our part, we quoted current and former government officials who saw a far more serious and immediate danger to the United States, and we urged Republicans “ to press for the articulation of some coherent and realistic strategy” to meet that danger. […]

Blog No. 43, Part II. Afghanistan: More Stupid Stuff On the Way?

One does not have to be Republican—RINO or otherwise—to be critical of President Obama’s foreign policy. It would be sufficient to be a member of what some have described as the “Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.” In an interview in The Atlantic, Ms. Clinton made an observation that would be widely quoted: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” The reference to not doing stupid “stuff” was immediately recognized as a quote that White House aides had attributed, in a somewhat saltier version, to President Obama. […]

UPDATE to Blog 43, Part I: The ISIS Crisis

In Blog 43, Part I, we discussed the ISIS Crisis and the President’s apparent failure to appreciate the seriousness of the situation and to disclose to the public his plan for responding to it. On August 7, nearly eight weeks after his initial statement on ISIS (or ISIL as the President prefers), events forced the President to break his silence and to announce, with visible reluctance, that he had authorized limited military action. Unfortunately, however, his August 7 statement, and amplifications over the two following days, gave little indication that he has yet grasped (or is willing to admit) the extent of the threat that ISIS poses not only to Iraq, and to Americans in that country but to the United States homeland. […]

Blog No. 43. American Foreign Policy Part I: The ISIS Crisis

As readers of RINOcracy.com are doubtless aware, much has been written about President Obama’s approach to foreign policy and what appears to many, both here and abroad, to have been a projection of weakness. President Obama’s approach to foreign policy—reliance on allies with minimal direct intervention by the United States—is just that, an approach. In the abstract, there is something to be said for Obama’s approach (just as there was to the approach George W. Bush’s in the 2000 campaign when he promised humility in a foreign policy unburdened by nation building.) But an approach to policy is not a policy itself, much less a strategy (a plan to achieve specific goals), and it must be flexible enough to respond to changing threats. Does Obama’s approach have that flexibility? Back on March 16, David Sanger wrote a perceptive analysis in The New York Times, “Global Crises Put Obama’s Strategy of Caution to the Test.” Since that time, as the crises have grown more urgent, the tests have only gotten tougher and it is far from clear that Obama’s “strategy” (more accurately, approach or instinct) is passing them.

At the moment, events in Ukraine have forced the President into engagement and leadership. Considerably aided by the tragic downing of the Malaysian airliner with its many Dutch passengers, he has been successful in persuading European countries to adopt stronger sanctions against Russia than many had thought possible. Nevertheless, effectiveness of the sanctions remains to be seen, and the extent of the Europeans’ commitment, the President’s–and ours–remains uncertain. Equally uncertain are the outlines of an overall strategy for Ukraine and more broadly, Europe. What will Europe and the United States do if the sanctions fail to have the desired result or, worse yet, if Russia takes even more aggressive actions. Is providing Ukraine with arms and other military support a good idea or bad idea? If Putin persists in his apparent attempt to revise the post Cold War map of Europe, do the EU and NATO have the resources and the will to resist? These and related questions will be addressed in a subsequent post, but here we will focus on a crisis that, for the moment, has lost prime attention from the media: ISIS.BLog 43 Iraq_ISIS_Abu_Wahe_2941936b

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