Many recall the debate over then Senator Obama’s lack of experience during the campaign of 2007. The Obama counter argument was, in essence,“look what experience has gotten you, two wars and thousands of dead.” He won the argument, in the moment; He’s lost everything else since.
There are four levels of strategic imperative. Determine who your true friends really are: Canada, England, Australia, Poland the Czech Republic. To those friends you commit undying loyalty and support. There are your “friends on the fringe France, Italy, Germany for instance, in that case you seek commonalities that serve shared interests. There are also the undecided, they know America’s uncertain, inconsistent history in terms of foreign affairs; they should be engaged, the argument for Democracy and personal freedoms should be American regardless of the Oval Office occupant; that should be our position as to the path to national success. The argument should be made unapologetically. The forth category is your enemies. They should be dealt with in a singular fashion: scare the living daylights out of them, aggressively, by word and deed, refuse to accept their point of view, never appease them, make it clear that they’re policy and actions are not in America’s interest. Adopt the proposition that we will play by their rules: no recognition of national boarders, do whatever must be done to win the day and the full application of our resources not to false friends by to enemies. We’re not equivalent, we’re not the same. Our ideas are different, ours are better. We have the proof of it, America is the proof of it! Over riding it all is a genuine commitment to American interests, recent history has demonstrated that American interests are the only available path to relative stability.
The President boasts of bringing two wars to an end, Iraq and Afghanistan. In both cases the administration failed on two fronts; they did not recognize the scope of enemy enmity and commitment to their own interests, additionally we restricted the manner of war fighting that was necessary to win. The facts on the ground argue that these wars have not and will not end any time soon. The President never absorbed the idea that the opposition has a vote which he cannot fix with a phone and a pen. Al Qaeda controls or influences more territory, money, military equipment and resources than ever before: Northern Africa, portions of Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan, portions of Yemen, Kenya, Northern Iraq, Afghanistan, parts of Afghanistan, Maldives, Indonesia, South Western China, Northern India; some days it feels like the White House is on that list. Workplace violence?
The Status of Forces agreement, (SOFA) negotiated by the Bush Administration, granted the Iraqi Government the political cover they needed to demonstrate their national identity independent from U.S. pressures as well as time and space to establish critical institutions. The SOFA also left a variety of doors open to modify the agreement as the U.S. withdrawal approached. The agreement provided for “negotiations” to extend the U.S. presence in Iraq under specific conditions, the fact of their presence in the agreement argued that Iraqi leadership knew that a continued U.S. presence was necessary for long term stability. Support to the Iraqi government would be, primarily, intelligence, training and air power. The Obama administration chose not to walk through that open door, intent on removing the American presence at all costs. Obama chose to gamble with Iraqi security and the results are now upon us as Iraq slips into chaos. Iraq fell prey to dysfunctional foreign policy driven by domestic American politics as opposed to serious, mature consideration of history, realities on the ground and the likely consequences. The consequences we now face are all too apparent as ISIS has demonstrated an ability to take over and pacify huge portions of Iraq.
One the very first day, following our celebrated departure from Baghdad, rampant terrorism broke out, dozens died. It has built from there to today; today Fallujah and Mosul have fallen to radical Islamist insurgents know as The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with Aleppo, in Syria soon to follow. This is no longer an insurgency this is an Islamic Army controlling thousands of square miles. We are nearly guaranteed open civil war and destabilization of the Iraqi government. In the prevalent interpretation of Islam, purported by no less a cleric that Ayatollah Khomeini; Islam recognizes no national borders, The Ayatollah denigrated nationalism and national borders, he saw only the rise of global Islam.
Thousands of lives and limbs lost In Iraq with no return on the investment thanks to ideological blindness, the absence of expertise and an apparent dearth of adult supervision. Tragic! Early support for the more moderate Syrian insurgents and a residual support force in Iraq could very well have averted the disaster that is now in motion and heading for Baghdad.
“This is how we end wars”, said the President. No Mr. President, we end wars by winning them! Overwhelming force saves lives in the end. When there is no clear, decisive winner, the war goes on, it goes on at differing temperatures but the temperature always rises! Whatever happened to unconditional surrender? We have the example of the Israeli / Palestinian / Arab conflict. There have been battles won and lost but the political pressures for cessation of hostilities always forestalled a final resolution on the field of battle; no clear winner, just years on ongoing conflict! The “Highway of Death” in Iraq insured that the first Gulf War I would end absent a final resolution. Years later we suffer the reprise.
Afghanistan will return to exactly the place where we found it and where it has always been. The Taliban will eventually gain control; repression will become the order of the day. Tribes will fall in on themselves because families and tribes are the only thing these people know that has actually worked for them over the centuries. Alliances will shift based on the latest, best offer; “You can’t buy Afghans, but you can rent them.”
Syria is now beyond Western comprehension, the West coming in late to the game will be worse than staying out of the game at this point in time. The dirty little secret is likely to be that we’ve actually been in the game, doing one thing and saying another. Al Qaeda, now in possession of sophisticated weapons, will bring down aircraft of all types. It’s only a matter of time when serious consideration of consequence is absent.
The “agreement” with Iran is already dead; it just refuses to fall over. The agreement with Iran has changed nothing, everything in Iran proceeds, as it has for the past ten years, seven of which saw “serious negotiations.” It’s not in code, it’s not a secret; Iranian leaders have been publically denigrating Obama, Secretary Kerry, America and the supposed deal for months.
Lovers of Hillary and Barack have trouble coming up with a list of Foreign Policy accomplishments, or even just one that the American people generally agree with. Agreement is a critical point, the President can say what he will, but he’s crossed the redline, no longer is he taken at face value anymore. Squandered credibility despite the years of largess offered by average Americans. We want our Presidents to succeed, especially when it comes to Foreign Policy, we discovered our definition of success was 180 degrees in opposition to the President’s. It sounded good at the time but it doesn’t feel so good anymore.
Our friends remain uncertain as to the depth of our commitments; our enemies are clearly not scared to death of us, or even reticent. Those groups in the middle are sliding away from American influence. The narrative that we are in decline is not a Right Wing talking point it is a reality. We are neither loved nor feared.