President Obama clearly understands what it takes to win. In fact, he even likes to brag about it. “I have no more campaigns to run,” he said during his State of the Union address this year. “I know, because I won both of them.”
In his elections, President Obama set up a clear goal, had a winning plan, and put in the day-to-day hard work to get to the White House. That is the essence of strategy.
But unfortunately President Obama hasn’t shown the same vision for victory when it comes to fighting ISIS and stabilizing the Middle East.
The President recently announced that he would be sending up to 50 Special Operations Forces into Syria to aid in the fight against ISIS. The White House quickly said that “our strategy in Syria has not changed” despite the fact that this so-called strategy has failed to yield any significant results.
Upon the announcement last week, Leader McCarthy responded to the President’s decision, saying,
“Putting small numbers of troops in Syria is yet another tactical move in the absence of a comprehensive strategy for Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East that does nothing more than create the appearance of serious action.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial board agrees that the President’s decision to send more troops into harms way seems more like an attempt to show that he is “doing something” rather than part of a good strategy to win the fight:
“The deployment sounds more like an attempt by the White House to respond to its Russian humiliation by showing Americans it is at least doing something more against Islamic State. But it doesn’t seem to be part of a serious new military strategy.”
But just doing something doesn’t make good strategy.
Any good strategy is made up of two parts: clear and achievable goals and the means to achieve those goals. The President’s stated goals to degrade and destroy ISIS while also facilitating a political transition that removes Assad from power are worthwhile. But it is increasingly obvious that the President has no feasible plan to actually accomplish his stated goals. Worse, he hasn’t shown interest in creating a winning plan despite repeated calls from Congress.
Putting our Special Operations Forces into harms way with no clear plan for victory—no matter how brave and capable those forces are—is not a sufficient strategy for success.
With the fall of cities like Mosul, Ramadi, and Fallujah, the expansion of ISIS’s territory, the Russians’ targeting the last moderates left in Syria’s civil war while supporting Assad, and Iran playing a growing role in the regional fray, sending 50 troops into Syria is, in the words of the Washington Post editorial board, “incremental and underpowered.”
Wars should be fought to win, but President Obama seems willing to fight only as much as necessary to run out the clock until the next President takes over. Perhaps he believes that this incremental and under-powering approach allows him to achieve his mutually exclusive desires to both defeat ISIS and enjoy peace.
But peace cannot be enjoyed until it is first achieved. And we have not yet achieved peace.
Defeating ISIS and stabilizing the Middle East is not the same as winning Presidential election campaigns, that’s for sure. But at the very least, America and the world needs President Obama to have the same passion to defeat terrorism as he did to win the White House.