Obama assembles non-coalition to fight not-war against ISIS
By: John Hayward
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States will not be intimidated by Islamic State militants after the beheading of a second American journalist and will build a coalition to “degrade and destroy” the group….
Can we agree that President Obama’s Wednesday night “war speech” against ISIS, far from being the foreign-policy grand slam his sycophants rushed to portray it as, was one of the greatest failures of his presidency? What an astonishing embarrassment, not just for Obama but for the nation he’s led into ruin. The weakness of American influence after six years of this man’s arrogance and incompetence is plain for all to see. If the ISIS head-choppers have a sense of humor that responds to anything other than decapitation, they must be rolling on the floor with laughter.
First we had the United Kingdom and Turkey bail on Obama within hours of his speech. Then it was Germany’s turn to say no dice, expressly because they haven’t heard anything that sounds like a real strategy yet from Obama. International Business Times has the faceplant round-up:
Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier questioned whether Obama’s plan of airstrikes and equipping moderate Syrian rebels was adequate. “We haven’t been asked, nor will we do it,” he said of the airstrikes. “We need to be honest with ourselves in the current situation, we don’t yet have a final, blanket strategy which guarantees that we’ll be successful against ISIS and similar groups.“
Turkey, a crucial U.S. ally in the Middle East that borders Syria, said it won’t allow the U.S.-led coalition to launch strikes in Syria from its air bases. It also won’t participate in any combat operations. “Turkey will not be involved in any armed operation but will entirely concentrate on humanitarian operations,” an unnamed Turkish government official told Agence France-Press.
There was initial confusion after British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond saidearlier on Thursday the U.K. “will not be taking part of any airstrikes in Syria,” according to AFP. A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said Hammond meant to say that the U.K. would not be bombing Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Guardian reported. Obama’s plan does not include any strikes against the Syrian leader.
I don’t think there was any “initial confusion” in London. No one ever thought the American plan would involve bombing Bashar Assad. They said no, then watched in horror as the rest of the world’s leaders gave Obama the backs of their hands, and realized they had to soften their stance to preserve a smidgen of American credibility. The Brits were unwilling to stand by and watch Obama lead the civilized world to defeat inside of 48 hours.
Guess where the most robust support for Obama is coming from? That’s right: the folks Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is currently taking heat for describing as a strong ally of Christians and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East. “All civilized countries should stand together in the fight against radical terrorism that sweeps across the Middle East, that sweeps across the world,” declared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, endorsing action against ISIS in a speech to the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism that dealt primarily with the threat of nuclear Iran. “And we are playing our part in this continued effort. Some of the things are known, some things are less known.”
If Obama can’t put a coalition together against a pack of slave-taking, woman-raping, prisoner-torturing lunatics with about 30,000 men under arms (which is about twice what the intelligence community previously estimated – whoops!) then he’s not going to be leading any global efforts to take out the Iranian nuclear weapons programs. By the way, the same intelligence community that can’t get anything about ISIS right, and which Obama blames for all of his foreign policy failures, is the team he confidently assured us would know the microsecond Iran was close to deploying atomic weapons, during the same presidential campaign where he assured America that Iraq was secure and the Russians were our harmless comrades now.
Not only did Turkey tell Obama to pound sand, but as the New York Times notes, other Arab governments that “grumbled quietly in 2011 as the United States left Iraq, fearful it might fall deeper into chaos or Iranian influence” are giving Obama “tepid support” for his non-strategy to wage non-war with a non-coalition against the non-Islamic Islamic State, with the most enthusiastic support for an American bombing campaign coming from – gulp – the Assad regime in Syria:
While Arab nations allied with the United States vowed on Thursday to “do their share” to fight ISIS and issued a joint communiqué supporting a broad strategy, the underlying tone was one of reluctance. The government perhaps most eager to join a coalition against ISIS was that of Syria, which Mr. Obama had already ruled out as a partner for what he described as terrorizing its citizens.
Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Fayssal Mekdad, told NBC News that Syria and the United States were “fighting the same enemy,” terrorism, and that his government had “no reservations” about airstrikes as long as the United States coordinated with it. He added, “We are ready to talk.”
Others were less than forthcoming. The foreign minister of Egypt — already at odds with Mr. Obama over the American decision to withhold some aid after the Egyptian military’s ouster last year of the elected president — complained that Egypt’s hands were full with its own fight against “terrorism,” referring to the Islamist opposition.
In Jordan, the state news agency reported that in a meeting about the extremists on Wednesday, King Abdullah II had told Secretary of State John Kerry “that the Palestinian cause remains the core of the conflict in the region” and that Jordan was focusing on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
Jordan could very well be the Islamic State’s next target, and not even they will give two cheers to Operation Degrade and Ultimately Destroy But War HUH What Is It Good For Absolutely Nothing Say It Again? Wow. Also notably short of excitement for Obama’s war plans: Iraq, the country ISIS actually invaded.
Even in Baghdad and across Syria, where the threat from ISIS is immediate, reactions were mixed. Members of Iraq’s Shiite majority cheered the prospect of American help. But many Sunni Muslims were cynical about battling an organization that evolved from jihadist groups fighting American occupation.
“This is all a play,” said Abu Amer, 38, a government employee, who withheld his family name for his safety. “It is applying American political plans.”
Mr. Amer is a more perceptive critic of Obama’s theatrics than much of the American mainstream media. CNN should dump hapless former Obama spokesman Jay Carney – last seen getting destroyed during his big debut by Senator John McCain – and hire Abu Amer as a commentator.
It’s not that ISIS has any shortage of enemies in the region, including vigorous competition from marginally less evil terrorist groups. It’s that nobody wants to waste their prestige and political capital signing on to a vague Obama plan that everyone knows was hastily cooked up over the brief span of days since the President blurted out that he doesn’t have a strategy, and he spent over half of that “planning” time golfing and holding fundraisers. Obama’s only priority is salvaging his poll numbers, and there’s not much appetite among international leaders to help him do it.
What’s amazing about all this is how absolutely amateurish it is. You don’t give a big speech announcing a broad international coalition unless you actually have the coalition lined up. It’s increasingly clear Obama and his buffoonish Secretary of State, John Kerry, didn’t actually talk to anyone outside the Administration before throwing the Wednesday night speech together. They just assumed everyone would give them immediate public support, and maybe get in touch behind the scenes to invoice them for whatever pot-sweeteners it would take to secure minimal practical cooperation, such as using Turkey’s air bases. It would be tacitly understood that America did all the heavy lifting on the actual air campaign, which Obama sees as a politically cost-free way to drag the ISIS story out until the news cycle rolls along to something else. Why wouldn’t all those interesting foreign leaders Obama loves to dine with step forward and give him just wee little bit of rhetorical support in his hour of crisis?
No doubt one of the reasons for this tepid global response is that it’s got all the makings of a classic Obama cut-and-run disaster. The Administration is still spending a ridiculous amount of time arguing over the very semantics of what they’re doing. When you can’t even bring yourself to use the word “war,” don’t be surprised when no one is eager to rally to your banner. From The Hill:
The United States is not at war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.
Kerry said the administration’s plan to combat ISIS includes “many different things that one doesn’t think of normally in context of war” during an interview with CNN.
“What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counterterrorism operation,” Kerry said. “It’s going to go on for some period of time. If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is it’s a major counterterrorism operation that will have many different moving parts.”
In a separate interview with CBS News, Kerry also rejected the word “war” to describe the U.S. effort and encouraged the public not to “get into war fever” over the conflict.
“We’re engaged in a major counterterrorism operation, and it’s going to be a long-term counterterrorism operation. I think war is the wrong terminology and analogy but the fact is that we are engaged in a very significant global effort to curb terrorist activity,” Kerry told the network.
“I don’t think people need to get into war fever on this. I think they have to view it as a heightened level of counterterrorist activity … but it’s not dissimilar similar to what we’ve been doing the last few years with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in Yemen and elsewhere,” he added.
This dolt is giving interviews where he describes the citizens of his own country as bloodthirsty knuckleheads quivering with war fever. Meanwhile, State Department spokes-teenager Marie Harf explained why this is, like, totally not a war, no matter how many bombs we drop, and don’t you dare harsh the Administration’s mellow by bringing up that Bush doctrine of pre-emption, dudes: “When we talk about how you degrade and defeat terrorist organizations, it’s not exactly I think how you’re probably using the term. And it’s not one that I’m using. Our goal is to prevent terrorist organizations from being able to attack the United States or our interests, to degrade their capabilities to do so. Obviously those are the kinds of terms I would use when it comes to this current effort.”
She also whined “Why do you always focus on what people say they won’t do?” when asked about Germany backing out of the Coalition to Save Obama’s Poll Numbers. And when Jay Carney’s successor as White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, was asked what “destroying” ISIS means or what “victory” would look like, he sneered that he doesn’t know the meaning of such words: “I didn’t bring my Webster’s dictionary.”
Normally when you’re trying to rally your allies to a serious effort, you say that you don’t know the meaning of the word defeat, not the meaning of victory. Can you blame world leaders for being reluctant to climb aboard such an obvious train wreck? Is it any surprise they find no inspirational leadership in a bumbling White House that’s obviously spending 99 percent of its efforts on political spin and rhetorical positioning? The task at hand is defeating a savage enemy that’s been given enough time to establish itself and train with an impressive arsenal of captured weapons – an enemy that has already routed one of the main American proxies, the Iraqi military. Opening up the second front involves finding the very precise combination of Syrian rebels that are willing to fight ISIS, inclined to serve as reliable and respectable American allies, and won’t hand victory in the Syrian civil war to Bashar Assad by turning their guns against the rest of his enemies.. Absolutely nothing about the history or current behavior of the Obama Administration should give anyone confidence that they’re up to the task, especially since they stubbornly refuse to define the parameters of the mission or establish victory conditions.
Maybe I can be of service by offering a suggestion for the branding effort, so this combination of wheezy political hacks and clueless mall rats can turn their attention to devising an actual strategy. I suggest adding some seasonal flair by calling the battle against ISIS a “pumpkin spice containment and degradation.” Or maybe they could brand the operation as “I Can’t Believe It’s Not War!” – great taste with a lighter emotional burden, available from fine grocery stores everywhere in 3-year