President Barack Obama on Wednesday made the case for Congress to formally authorize the use of military force in the war against ISIS. “Now, make no mistake, this is a difficult mission and it will remain difficult for some time,” President Obama said during an afternoon press conference. He also added, “Our coalition is on the offensive, ISIS is on the defensive and ISIS is going to lose.”
Despite the ever-vague, criminally overdue outrage currently being acted out by President Obama, the American people, those on both sides of the political spectrum, must wonder what exactly led to this scenario. American troops will return to a warzone they left in peace; one third of Iraq and Syria is now run by an extremist terrorist organization; the Kurds, America’s single most consistent ally in Iraq, have been virtually abandoned to independently fight ground battles against ISIS; the current coalition against ISIS is constituted by the same groups responsible for the creation of ISIS.
In exchange for his core constituency’s approval, despite the protests of numerous American generals, President Obama fulfilled his campaign goal of removing all troops from Iraq. This abandonment not only included the removal of military personal, it also included the termination of intelligence and communication services.
Without any western supervision, now more heavily reliant on Iran, the divisive Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki proceeded to dramatically increase sectarian strife: Sunni politicians were thrown from office and jailed indefinitely; constitutional promises to the Kurdish people were forgotten; economic funding and oil decisions were decided my an insular, Baghdad based few. The seeds of sectarian war had been planted.
Combined with the Syrian Revolution, which has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions more, the Shiite crescent – consisting of Syria, Iraq and Iran – soon fell into complete war. ISI ( Islamic State of IRAQ in Iraq, strengthened by the same Al Qaeda fighters who fought against the American military’s efforts in Iraq and the population of disenfranchised, politically isolated Sunnis, soon crossed the Syrian border to merge with the Syrian militant group Jabhat al-Nusra.
This Collaboration became known as ISIS. President Obama compared ISIS to a “JV” team. When questioned about the threat posed by ISIS , Obama told the New Yorker that the fledgling group is not a major threat, adding, “I think the analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, 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.” This quote could replace Neville Chamberlain’s dismissal of Hitler as the single greatest misinterpretation of a foreign threat.
Despite the aggressive, terroristic strategies of ISIS, the vacuum left by the Obama Administration’s abrupt exit from Iraq left the extremist group as the only source of food, aid and protection from Shiite militias for large swathes of Iraq and Syria. That ISIS was also the strongest, best armed group in the areas of Syria and Iraq, despite their apparent, western reported “separation from al Qaeda,” brings us to one of the most disturbing aspects of this crisis.
According to Vice President Joe Biden, “The Turks were great friends,” he notes, adding that he recently spent considerable time with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and they have “a great relationship.” Ditto the Saudis and the Emiratis. But when it came to Syria and the effort to bring down President Bashar Assad there, those allies’ policies wound up helping to arm and build allies of al Qaeda and eventually the terrorist “Islamic State.” The vice President continued,” They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadist coming from other parts of the world.” Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the very countries which fueled the proxy war, are now in the coalition to bring an end to the destruction.
In 2014, weeks after Congress approved a 500 million dollar request to train and arm “moderate” Syrian rebels, the Vice president went on to claim there is no “moderate middle ( in Syria ) because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers.” Much like the case of Libya, the illusion of moderate groups was nothing more than a mirage. In addition to the abandoned weapons and equipment left by America for the quick to flight Iraqi army, the steady arms flow from the Sunni Arab world quickly turned ISIS into the largest, wealthiest terrorist group in history. Obama has not said a single word condemning the actions of these countries.
The last year has brought unprecedented chaos to the region America once went to liberate, where in various parts of Iraq – especially in the northern region – American soldiers once were greeted as liberators. While President Obama still considered ISIS a JV team, the terrorist extremists continued to prosper and plunder: capturing Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq; freeing hundreds of Iraqi insurgent prisoners from jail, unending use of suicide bombs, mortars and rocket fire; beheading James Foley, Steven Stotloff and many other Americans; kidnapping thousands of Kurds and Yazidi women for sex traffic; attempting a genocide of Iraqi minority groups; robbing 425 million dollars from banks; the execution of thousands; taking over the Baji oil refinery; acquiring numerous gas fields in Syria, only to transport the gas through our Allie Turkey’s border.
After all the suffering of innocents and massive growth of ISIS, the President is only now requesting increased military ground support. The procrastination of tough tasks only make them tougher, and Obama’s indecisiveness and perplexing misunderstanding of the Middle Eastern world has undoubtedly led to the strengthening of ISIS, as well as the destruction of everything the American and English military sacrificed so much to accomplish.
Even Democrats are equally troubled by President Obama’s actions. Former Obama administration Pentagon chief Leon Panetta said Sunday that the president overruled nearly his entire national security team. Jimmy Carter said,” First of all, we waited too long. We let the Islamic state build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria… Then when [ISIS] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn’t object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned.” On the subject of Obama’s rampid drone use, carter continued,” I really object to the killing of people, particularly Americans overseas who haven’t been brought to justice and put on trial… We’ve killed four Americans overseas with American drones. To me that violates our Constitution and human rights.”
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, at least 2,464 people have now been killed by US drone strikes outside the country’s declared warzone since President Obama became president. Although a purely drone strategy, one which indiscriminately kills innocents, does manage to allow President Obama to avoid the stigma of war in America, the repercussions and ensuing flood of radicalized Muslims who have lost mothers and children to these attacks will not disappear.
For Obama, like many politicians, vote garnering is of paramount importance. This administration’s foreign policy, though it could simply be called bumbling and foolish, takes on a more sinister tone upon a closer view: this foreign policy campaign, every decision constituting it, has all been an exercise in endless electioneering. Ignoring generals and historical precedence (like in the recent example of the failed state once known as Libya ) , President Obama chose catering to his voters over the safety of all Americans and our allies. Much like alcoholics anonymous, the first step to defeat terrorism is to admit that a problem is real. Let’s hopes that moment has finally come for President.