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Obama’s ISIS Plan Fails to Match Reality

The strategy that President Obama laid out Wednesday night to “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL,” is incoherent, inconsistent, and, ultimately, non-credible.

A year ago, Obama and John Kerry were straining at the leash to launch air strikes on Syrian President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons in “killing his own people.” But when Americans rose as one to demand that we stay out of Syria, Obama hastily erased his “red line” and announced a new policy of not getting involved in “somebody else’s civil war.”

Now, after videos of the beheadings of two U.S. journalists have set the nation on fire, the president, reading the polls, has flipped again. Now Obama wants to lead the West and the Arab world straight into Syria’s civil war. Only this time we bomb ISIL, not Assad.

Who will provide the legions Obama will deploy to crush ISIL in Syria? The Free Syrian Army, the same rebels who have been routed again and again and whose chances of ousting Assad were derided by Obama himself in August as a “fantasy”? The FSA, the president mocked, is a force of “former doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth.” Now Obama wants Congress to appropriate $500 million to train and arm those doctors and pharmacists and send them into battle against an army of jihadist terrorists who just bit off one-third of Iraq.

Before Congress votes a dime, it should get some answers.

Whom will this Free Syrian Army fight? ISIL alone? The al-Nusra Front? Hezbollah in Syria? Assad’s army? How many years will it take to train, equip and build the FSA into a force that can crush both Assad and ISIL? “Tell me how this thing ends,” said Gen. David Petraeus on the road up to Baghdad in 2003.

The president did not tell us how this new war ends.

If Assad falls, do the Alawites and Christians survive? Does Syria disintegrate? Who will rule in Damascus? The United States spent seven years building an army to hold Iraq together. Yet when a few thousand ISIL fighters stormed in from Syria, that army broke and fled all the way to Baghdad. Even the Kurdish peshmerga broke and ran. What makes us think we can succeed in Syria where we failed in Iraq.

If ISIL is our mortal enemy and Syria its sanctuary, there are two armies capable of crushing it together—the Syrian and Turkish armies. But Turkey, a NATO ally, was not even mentioned in Obama’s speech. Why? Because the Turks have been allowing jihadists to cross into Syria, as they have long sought the fall of Assad.

Now, with the Islamic State holding hostage 49 Turkish diplomats and their families in Mosul, Ankara is even more reluctant to intervene. Nor is there any indication Turkey will let the United States use its air base at Incirlik to attack ISIS.

In Iraq, too, thousands of ground troops will be needed to dig the Islamic State out of the Sunni cities and towns. Where will these soldiers come from? We are told the Iraqi army, Shia militia, Kurds, and Sunni tribesmen will join forces to defeat and drive out the Islamic State. But these Shia militia were, not long ago, killing U.S. soldiers. And, like the Iraqi army, they are feared and hated in Sunni villages, which is why many Sunni welcomed ISIL.

A number of NATO allies have indicated a willingness to join the U.S. in air strikes on the Islamic State in Iraq. None has offered to send troops. Similar responses have come from the Arab League. But if this is truly a mortal threat, why the reluctance to send troops?

Some of our Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Gulf Arabs, have reportedly been providing aid to ISIL in Syria. Why would they aid these terrorists? Because ISIL looked like the best bet to bring down Assad, whom many Sunni loathe as an Arab and Alawite ally of Iran in the heart of the “Shia Crescent” of Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Hezbollah. For many Sunni Arabs, the greater fear is of Shia hegemony in the Gulf and a new Persian empire in the Middle East.

Among all the nations involved here, the least threatened is the United States. Our intelligence agencies, Obama, says, have discovered no evidence of any planned or imminent attack from ISIL.

As the threat is not primarily ours, the urgency to go to war is not ours. And upon the basis of what we heard Wednesday night, either this war has not been thought through by the president, or he is inhibited from telling us the whole truth about what victory will look like and what destroying the Islamic State will require in blood, treasure, and years.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.” [1] Copyright 2014 Creators.com.

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Obama’s ISIS Plan Fails to Match Reality"

#1 Comment By df On September 12, 2014 @ 12:43 am

“Some of our Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Gulf Arabs, have reportedly been providing aid to ISIL in Syria.”

With “allies” like that, Who needs Iran?

#2 Comment By John On September 12, 2014 @ 6:39 am

Can we please now secure the borders? Do we not now have enough cheap labor and loyal new Democrats to announce, “Mission Accomplished”? If there is a new bogeyman, can we not now try a little reasonable, less invasive, home security? I don’t need to know what everyone in my house is thinking, saying and doing behind closed doors, because we control who comes through the front door and the back door.

#3 Comment By Wolfgang Franz On September 12, 2014 @ 11:44 am

“For many Sunni Arabs, the greater fear is of Shia hegemony in the Gulf and a new Persian empire in the Middle East.”

Like it or not, the only possible way to bring stability to the Middle East is Iranian rule. More than thousand years Persia has rules this part of the world to the benefit of all.
Today the only solution is to let Iran crush ISIL and the rest also.

#4 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 12, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

Obama is all over the map:

Bomb Assad!

Don’t bomb Assad! (It’s “somebody else’s civil war”.)

Bomb ISIL! (Even though ISIL is the best bet to bring down Assad.)

Obama, as Pat Buchanan rightly points out, is “incoherent, inconsistent, and, ultimately, non-credible.”

But Pat holds until the end the simple truths that he should have begun — and ended — with:

[1] “Among all the nations involved here, the least threatened is the United States.”

[2] “Our intelligence agencies, Obama, says, have discovered no evidence of any planned or imminent attack from ISIL.”

[3] “As the threat is not primarily ours, the urgency to go to war is not ours.”

No threat – No war!

Keep it simple.

#5 Comment By Michael O’Hearn On September 12, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

Looking back over some of the 2001 terrorist attack replays yesterday, it occurs to me that we were naive and stupid in trying to impose our Western values and the capitalistic system in particular on the rest of the world, and were completely unaware of our own complicity in creating the groundwork. Today, most accept the fact that certain powerful factions within America contributed as “home grown terrorists” to bring America into a war against radical Islam which threatened the state of Israel. There were also non-Islamic and Islamic foreign powers involved in making the attacks possible who benefited from the attacks, qui bono, all motivated by greed and avarice, the foundation stoned of capitalism.

Now Americans are being asked to fight again against the Islamic State? Are we really that stupid? Yes, air strikes will be required to weaken the strategic capabilities of our enemies overseas. Who will provide the ground troops to best ISIL? There will no longer be many US boots on that foreign soil for a long time to come. Our job is to build a more just and equitable system to establish God’s Kingdom on the ashes of worn-out human constructs called capitalism, communism, socialism, etc. all built on the misguided notion of creaturely self-interest divorced from God.

#6 Comment By Loic On September 12, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

ISIS is indifferentiable (despite what much–but not all–of the U.S. policy establishment has said), as there is nothing uniquely ominous about it, being as it is but a manifestation or projection of the true monstrous and indomitable condition: that of the multi-operative dynamics of ethnic and sectarian survival and destruction “atavized” and energized by prolonged “a-statality.” The perception of a necessity of prolonging and (at least episodically) intensifying attritional disorder, by powers external and regional, is the true ominous force haunting the region. ISIS’s “degradation,” even to the point of nullity, would not in itself resolve or transform the underlying perniciously anti-human reality, which has been implacably crescendoed by what has become an oscillative and self-dynamizing force of factors and not by one simplistically self-determining/fate-mastering actor. Other “ISISes” would soon form and occupy the strategically critical void of Iraq’s Babylonian plain–unless the statal dynamics are permanently transformed/reconfigured in the “Shia Crescent.” And is this not precisely Russia’s, Iran’s, even China’s, true concern and fear: that the U.S. will use the pretext of an ephemerality such as ISIS to permanently remove the few non-hegemonically allied bloc(k)s (i.e. Syria, Iran, Lebanon) impeding its triumviral strategy (with Israel and Saudi Arabia) for hegemony in the region? As Kissinger recently expressed: “Iran [has] the opportunity to reconstruct the ancient Persian Empire…From a geo-strategic point of view, I consider Iran a bigger problem than ISIS.” Conspicuously he did not say anything about Russia, or even Iran, perceiving ISIS as a “problem” commensurate with a “geo-strategic, permanent reality.” But rather that the aforesaid were concerned with extending or preserving their territorial “patrimony” from the grasp of the U.S (and, by extension, from those in its camp and under its shield). [2]

#7 Comment By philadelphialawyer On September 12, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

There is no “plan.” There will be airstrikes, and perhaps special forces actions.

Then, hopefully, Obama will either declare victory and let the whole thing drop, or let the whole thing drop without declaring victory.

Unless and until there really are US (non special forces) boots on the ground, most Americans will probably be at least marginally satisfied that “something” is being done, even if it does nothing more than drive ISIS into hiding until the all clear whistle sounds, or, at best, knocks it out to the extent that it will take another ISIS (just as ISIS in another AQ in Mesopotamia) to form.

The only way to remotely achieve the kind of re ordering that American presidents and the US FP establishment say they want in the ME would be for Western, primarily American, armies to occupy vast swaths of it for decades. And face constant warfare ranging from low level, terrorist attacks, through guerilla warfare, right on up to the occasional quasi conventional challenge. And that is just not happening.

So, instead, we get this kind of muddled headed, changeable, inconsistent policy. From day to day and month to month and year to year, we not only say we want this, that and the other thing, but that not getting them is “unacceptable.” But then, of course, since we can’t actually get those things with mere air strikes and special forces actions, we do, in the long run, have to “accept” what we say we will not accept. Until the next flare up, the next act of alleged genocide (alleged by folks who want our intervention) or the next execution of busy body Americans who just can’t seem to stay away from places where they aren’t wanted (journos, missionaries, “human rights” and “democracy promotion” “workers”, etc). Then it will all be unacceptable again, and time for some more air strikes and SF assassinations, wedding party massacres by drone, and so on.

There is no plan, no coherent strategy, no nothing. And it didn’t start with Obama. Bush had a fantasy masquerading as a plan or strategy. Clinton had nothing at all, and, much like Obama, seemed to react more to domestic pressures. Bush ignored domestic pressures, but his plan, like he himself, was all hat and no cattle. It failed, grossly, in its first iteration, Iraq, precisely because, again, the real commitment that it would have taken to even conceivably make it work, ie massive Western armies stationed indefinitely in Iraq was never even contemplated. Both Bush and Obama seem to welcome revolutions in the ME, but revolutions don’t produce the kinds of regimes the US really wants. The US says it wants democracy, but, as Bush found out when Hezbollah won in Lebanon and Hamas won in Gaza, and Obama found out when the MB won in Egypt, democracy is not quite the same thing as the kind of polity that the US, in its wisdom, wants for the Arabs (ie pliant, bought out by US military and other support, sold out to Israel, and more than happy to host US bases of one kind or another). And non democratic revolutions, like the ones the US backed in Libya and have half backed in Syria don’t seem to producing those kinds of regimes either. In Libya, it I has led to chaos and anarchy, in Syria to ISIS.

On the one hand, the US says it wants democracy in the ME, on the other hand, it seems much, much more comfortable dealing with kings and sheiks and dictators than with elected officials who represent the will of the people.

Rhetoric on one side, reality on the other. Muddling through with no end in sight.

The US should simply declare that it has no interest, whatsoever, in the internal workings of the region. As long as the oil keeps flowing, the US doesn’t care who rules, how they rule, whether they are elected, or are kings, or take power with guns.

But that would mean dumping Israel, and that just can’t happen. Which means that the muddling must continue, without a real “plan,” forever.

#8 Comment By tbraton On September 12, 2014 @ 7:18 pm

“The strategy that President Obama laid out Wednesday night to “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL,” is incoherent, inconsistent, and, ultimately, non-credible.”
The key word is “incoherent.” Pat, you nailed this latest nonsense, although you seem to have missed the ludicrous news that Saudi Arabia is going to be the training ground for “moderate Muslims.”

#9 Comment By Winston On September 12, 2014 @ 7:43 pm

[3]

Obama just announced that he wants to help the guys who kidnapped Steven Sotloff

#10 Comment By Winston On September 12, 2014 @ 7:47 pm

ISIS is purest form of ideology of Saudi Arabia-i.e. back to future.

[4] alastair-crooke/isis- wahhabism-saudi-arabia_b_ 5717157.html
You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

#11 Comment By Winston On September 12, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

Sunni Arabs are Wahhabi, they are extremists. Please read Clarke’s article. Real justice will be to see Saudi Arabia implode with unemployed youth taking up arms to support ISIS AT HOME!!! As Clarke noted Saudi Arabia has seed of self destructive gene at home!

#12 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 13, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

In the wake of the internet postings of American hostages being executed, American public opinion has once again been manipulated into supporting another useless, counterproductive, politically-driven foreign policy choice.

Recently nearly two thirds of Americans answered “Yes” to the question “Is military action against Islamic State in America’s national interest?” and they gave Obama his lowest-ever approval rating for conduct of foreign policy, just 32%.

Pat Buchanan tells how these polls impacted the President: “Now, after videos of the beheadings of two U.S. journalists have set the nation on fire, the president, reading the polls, has flipped again. Now Obama wants to lead the West and the Arab world straight into Syria’s civil war.”

There is nothing that we can do about the President behaving like the political animal that he is. Neither can we change the fact that his Republican political opponents behave similarly in their pushing the President toward military action for domestic political reasons.

But we need to examine the public opinion component in creating this quagmire that we’ve just stepped into. And, in doing so, we would be wise to urgently re-examine hostage-taking and the current U.S. policy of refusing to negotiate with hostage-takers and refusing any and all demands for ransom money and/or prisoner exchanges .

We used to argue that if all nations refused to negotiate with and pay ransom money to hostage-takers, the hostage-takers would stop making ransom demands.

Well, that argument didn’t persuade most of our allies. As a result, a bunch of European nations – Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, to name just a few – all pay ransom money to have their citizens released. Even Israel strikes deals and offers concessions for the release of its citizens and Israel has been known to release hundreds of prisoners in an exchange for even one of its citizens held hostage.

Only the U.S. and Britain still refuse to negotiate and either pay ransom money or agree to prisoner swaps.

In other words, the refuse-to-negotiate, refuse-to-pay argument hasn’t worked, because only two countries still have followed the policy.

Still, some would argue that if hostage-takers know that the U.S. and British governments won’t negotiate and won’t pay ransoms, then they will decide that there is no point to kidnapping U.S. and British citizens.

You might think so – such reasoning would seem logical – except that it’s not the reasoning or the logic of an organization with the world view of ISIS. Sure, ISIS wants ransom money from the U.S. and Britain, but if the U.S. and Britain won’t pay (which currently they won’t) ISIS is quite happy to execute the hostages and to post the execution videos on the internet. They do so as a recruiting tool aimed at angry young men across the Sunni Moslem world. “This is how we deal with ‘The Great Satan’ – the Arab-language equivalent of ‘Don’t f—k with ISIS’.”

But ISIS has a second reason in posting videos of its brutal slayings: ISIS understands that goading the U.S. government into declaring ISIS a major enemy that needs to be destroyed (which ISIS has now goaded the U.S. into doing) puts ISIS at the very top of the list of serious, tough-minded anti-imperialist organizations world-wide. So, if you’re young, male, and enraged at what ‘The Great Satan’ is doing across the Moslem world, your first choice of organizations to join as of today is ISIS. ISIS — hands-down!

I would argue that it is in our national interest to join most European nations in their approach to hostage-taking: To negotiate with ISIS and to be willing to pay ransom money and/or arrange prisoner swaps for U.S. hostages. Leaving aside the obvious benefit of having our citizens returned to us alive, paying ISIS ransom money (which will no doubt be used by ISIS to buy arms) takes from ISIS a key instrument (the posted execution video) in its ability to anger the American public (“set the nation on fire”) to the extent that Americans and their elected politicians are so easily manipulated toward accepting bad foreign policy choices.

It would have made much, much, MUCH more sense to pay ISIS millions of dollars for the release of James Foley and Steve Sotloff than to spend tens of billions of dollars in pursuit of a confused military strategy that has no chance of succeeding and that will result in unforeseen, unintended military and political consequences for years to come.

#13 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 15, 2014 @ 7:02 am

My mistake: I said:

“We used to argue that if all nations refused to negotiate with and pay ransom money to hostage-takers, the hostage-takers would stop making ransom demands.”

I meant to say:

We used to argue that if all nations refused to negotiate with and pay ransom money to hostage-takers, the hostage-takers would stop taking hostages.

Sorry.