After the furor following President Barack Obama’s “no strategy” comment, the president is absolutely determined to degrade and destroy the Islamic State.
He is, however, far more determined to avoid the appearance of this being a traditional war. This second, and more powerful motivation, has led to the appearance of American arrogance at its worst.
Outlining his new-found plan of attack in a recent prime-time speech, the president spoke about air, intelligence and various other support that we would be giving to ground troops, specifically anyone else’s ground troops.
In what could be described as a continuation of his “leading from behind” philosophy, President Obama is imploring other countries to commit ground troops in the fight against Islamic State as part of a broad coalition that distinctively lacks American ground forces.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file
Why [insert country here] and not America?
Why is it that America, the country who has always fought evil with its own full force in front, the county who has fought in three Middle Eastern wars over the past 25 years, is willing to ask for other countries to put their soldiers in harm’s way but not theirs?
After all, our involvement in Syria grew from Obama’s strong support of the Arab Spring, a movement which led to the re-emergence of Islamic State. We were involved in Iraq for nearly a decade, the withdrawal from which led to the rise and rapid growth of Islamic State.
But now that they’ve risen to the level of credible threat, warranting a plan of attack and a prime-time address by the most powerful person on the planet, the United States doesn’t want to put their chips on the table.
It is the height of arrogance, a supposed hallmark of the George W. Bush administration that so many on the left were determined and promised to correct. So much for that.
There are really only two legitimate reasons for this non-commitment:
1. The situation is too dangerous and American troops would be at an unnecessarily high risk if they were involved.
If this were the case, then how on earth can we ask other countries to accept a risk that we are not willing to take ourselves? Not only is this a profoundly weak display of American leadership and strength, it is also wildly arrogant.
2. The political repercussions of boots on the ground, despite nearly 1,000 already there, are too much to take.
This is far more likely as this administration is doing everything they can to reassure an anxious American public that this is not a traditional ground war for us, just for someone else. The specter of the Iraq war looms large over that decision.
President Barack Obama address the group of soldiers at US Central Command (CentCom) at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Obama says U.S. forces in Iraq "do not and will not" have a combat mission as part of the effort against Islamic State militants. Obama received a briefing Wednesday from officers at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida. That command oversees military efforts in the Mideast. (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, James Borchuck , Pool)
If this is the case (hint: it is), then the president is putting politics over our security, safety and national interests.
Obama himself said that Islamic State is a threat to us, both in the present and potentially much greater in the future. In order to reduce and eliminate that current and future threat, we need ground troops to confront and kill ISIS, just not ours.
So, if our safety, in large part, depends on those troops, and we are unwilling to place them in this fight because of political reasons, then according to Obama’s own speech, politics trump our safety and security.
How on earth, then, can we turn to other countries and ask them for a pledge of lives when we are unwilling to do so because of simply political complications?
Once again, it is an incredibly arrogant position to take.
Later in the speech, as part of that reassurance of Americans, the president argued that “we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves.”
But isn’t that what we are asking of other countries?
We won’t take on the responsibility of the Iraqis, even though we clearly feel comfortable in telling them what their responsibility should be. Then we turn, and in the same breath, ask others to do the heavy lifting to solve a problem that is, in large part, our responsibility.
In this undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, fighters from the Islamic State group march in Raqqa, Syria. The Islamic State group is often described as the most fearsome jihadi outfit of all: a global menace outweighing al-Qaida, with armies trembling before its advance. But while the group has been successful at seizing parts of Iraq and Syria, it is no unstoppable juggernaut. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)
Islamic State re-emerged from the opposition and chaos in Syria, a byproduct of the Obama-supported Arab Spring. Their growth and breathtaking speed of expansion was due, in large part, to the vacuum of power in Iraq after our withdrawal – something that President Bush and many on the right had warned about for years.
Despite our involvement in their phoenix-like rise, unintentional or otherwise, we are unwilling to fully commit ourselves to their ultimate demise.
Once again, it is the height of perceived American arrogance. The very reputation that we were to shed under this administration is being reinforced in the worst place possible – the Arab world.
To be clear, I am not advocating for ground troops in Iraq or Syria. Naive support and political decisions have led to the problem we now face in Islamic State. Continuing them, via support for “moderate” Syrian rebels and this political tightrope walking, will only make matters worse or draw them out for the next decade.
If we are to take them head on, we must either commit completely or not at all. The president is trying to have his cake and eat it too, but this politically safe middle ground is antithetical to leadership and strength.
To foist the problems that we deem important onto other countries, while we are unwilling to match their level of commitment, is true and powerful arrogance. The reputation we so despised and so promised to change has been found again in this administration’s foreign policy at a time when we can afford it the least.
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