U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency and intelligence agencies surveillance techniques at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., January 17, 2014. (AFP/Jim Watson)
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Obama's "no strategy" on confronting and defeating Islamists is not helped by a "wrong strategy" approach by Congress.
Congress can’t seem to get out of their own way lately with regard to second-guessing the Obama administration’s “no strategy” on Islamic State and inserting a "wrong strategy" of their own.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wants to revoke U.S. citizenship for American Islalmic State members with his “Expatriate Terrorist Act.” Sen. Bill Nelson (D–Fla.) wants to introduce legislation to give President Barack Obama “clear authority” to bomb Islamic State targets in Syria.
There are two problems with these approaches. One, you need Congress to agree, pass the legislation and then have it be veto-proof. Two, you need to be able to FIND the American Islamic State members, both in the U.S. and in Syria. Both of these things are highly unlikely, which brings us back to where we started.
First of all, the number of Obama’s cabinet members who have ANY military experience or background is five out of 54. And only three of those are former military officers, and none of them served in the Army or Marines.
The fact that none of Obama’s advisors or cabinet appointees have ever been land combat leaders handicaps the use of ground troops becoming part of any meaningful strategy. So ALL of Obama’s potentially relevant and effective advice on how to defeat Islamic State might as well be coming out of a box of Cracker Jack. Lone-wolf Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey by default becomes a cry in the wilderness of military ineptness.
Second, even if the Obama team listens to the VERY FEW military and security experts on the White House staff, they are more likely to water down or politicize the advice to the point where it no longer resembles an effective approach. “No strategy” becomes the “wrong strategy” over and over again, and our enemy smells that blood in the water.
Islamic State is so unafraid of the U.S. that they fight like a skilled and sophisticated army. They know this will make them easier targets, but, along with re-enacting the early history of Islam the advantage is the perception of legitimacy among foreign radicalized Islamists who see it as a motivation to join the fight. And join they have, in droves.
It’s obvious Obama and his crew are out of their league when they continually focus on fundraising opportunities and election stumping rather than taking the bull by the horns and addressing the bad guys head on, like President George W. Bush did following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Bush's comments included:
From Obama we get politically correct rhetoric and empty promises instead of action. Empty because Obama couldn’t possibly make good on any of them. He doesn’t have the strategic advantage, which he gave away in December 2011 when he withdrew all of our troops, and planes and intelligence assets from Iraq.
The last convoy of solders from the US Army's 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division crosses the border from Iraq into Kuwait, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011. The brigade's special troops battalion are the last American soldiers to leave Iraq. The U.S. military announced Saturday night that the last American troops have left Iraq as the nearly nine-year war ends. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Iraq was the high ground in the Global War on Terror. Without a power projection platform from which to operate and exact a lasting hurt on the enemy, all we're using are missiles, drones and aircraft. Those are nice tactical advantages, but to create a lasting peace we need to have a PHYSICAL PRESENCE in the areas currently occupied by the enemy.
The lasting and best example of a successful strategy is of course right in front of Obama’s nose during his recent trip to visit Eastern European allies for a NATO summit. Until Russia’s recent assault on the Ukraine, Europe was generally at peace and mostly prosperous. That includes our former enemies from World War II, Germany and Italy, BECAUSE of a U.S. presence, not in spite of it. Our bases and forces give us the ability to project power and influence into areas of weakness or vulnerability.
Without similar areas in the Middle East we are but a paper tiger: No matter how loud we roar, without being able to actually pounce on and then devour our enemy, we will not achieve a lasting peace, nor help provide long-term prosperity to areas currently subdued by Islamic State and other Islamists.
The problem began with Obama’s pre-election rhetoric that he would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then manifested in his May 2013 declaration that “the Global War on Terror is over.”
In this June 16, 2014 file photo, demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they carry the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad. The Islamic State group holds roughly a third of Iraq and Syria, including several strategically important cities like Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. (AP Photo, File)
My mobilization orders for deployments in 2002, 2003, and 2004 stated that I was being activated “in support of the Global War on Terror.” The orders referenced an “operation” (either Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Noble Eagle, or Operation Iraqi Freedom) in that war and then deployment locations, but never mentioned the “wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The perception among low-information voters and Obama Kool-Aid drinkers was that once we were out of Iraq and Afghanistan the war on terror would be over. That naïveté ignored the fact that we had and have U.S. troops and military personnel and material in roughly 150 countries worldwide all fighting the same enemy.
The legislation currently being bandied about in Congress is superfluous to a strategic plan that can work. The modern Global War on Terror really started in November 1979 with both the kidnapping of Americans in Tehran, Iran and the murder of U.S. Marine Steven J. Crowley in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Nearly 35 years later we are still in a war, a global war against Islamists who want us all dead. And unless we admit that, we have no chance at truly defeating the enemy. It will take winning hearts and minds, like the counter insurgency methods used successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan during the surges in those countries. It will take what ancient military genius Sun Tzu said about defeating the enemy:
“One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful, subduing the enemy’s military without battle is the most skillful.”
The problem is, Obama and his advisors don’t possess this knowledge or appreciation for what’s necessary to keep this country safe and our interests secure, with or without random legislature from Congress.
I am the author of "Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior," and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter ID @mjgranger1
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