obama-syria-speech-story-topThe 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?

ISIL-fighterThe 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.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Republished by gracious permission of Pat Buchanan.

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2 replies to this post
  1. That Mr. Buchanan is right is hardly worth pointing out after 14 years of experience since his last Presidential run having borne out that EVER single one of his warnings about the challenges, foreign and domestic, facing the United States in the XXI century have come to pass.

    I would like to note, once again, what bears repeating: namely the effects of US withdrawl from Vietnam which for many years after seemed tragic and bloody, but ultimately led to Doi Moi in Vietnam and a free, independent and certainly not Marxist Vietnam (which had never been Ho Chi Minh’s intention). Thus, as “unimaginable” as it may be for some to simply leave the MIddle East be – ISIL or no ISIL – what appears to be a nightmarish Islamic State may, in time, become something tolerable – particularly if the regional powers are allowed to take care of matters. Certainly American military intervention has not resulted in a political solution and will not.

    Second of all: I would not be surprised if, many decades from now, we learn that the Pentagon, having realized that showing pictures of dead Syrians on American television and claiming they were killed in a Chemical weapons attack by the Assad government did not stir the American people to action (since, in the end, these were pictures of non-Americans being killed, which the American people have been conditioned to regard with a pathos of distance), then in 2014, someone brilliantly realized that what the American public needed were a few beheading videos where Americans and British subjects were the victims of the violence.

    It is either a lie that America is going to war on account of these few deaths (because no serious nation goes to war over a few deaths), or it is indicative of a lack of strategy on the part of the US government, which has no organs remaining wherein long-term strategic thinking takes place, but rather, is impulsive and tied down to the news-cycle and the polls.

    Here, I part company with conservatives who complain that America has too strong an executive: friends – can you not appreciate that America has a WEAK executive? A strong executive, a strong President, has a long term strategy and uses the power of the Presidency to implement it. The United States clearly has no strategy and the executive branch is weak. Yes, it can bomb at will – but this is like saying “Nero is strong because he can burn down Rome at will” – yet does anyone really think that Nero was a “strong” executive? Or could it be that Nero was weak, because having all the power in the world – he wasted it, he used it thoughtlessly, he wasted Rome?

    It is not the “Imperial Presidency” that threatens us, as Libertarians contend, and as many conservatives seem to believe – it is the Democratic Presidency – the Presidency that is not strong, that is too worried about what the talking heads will say, about the chattering classes, the protestors, the ratings, the TV stars, the facebook comments – it is a weak, weak Presidency that endangers America – and the more unconstitutional the President acts, the weaker the Presidency is – because to weaken the constitution is to weaken the Presidency and vice-versa.

    Maybe I am completely wrong in this view – but I am convinced the sickness is not the nature of the office crafted by the Founders, but the character of the men occupying the office of late. Had Patrick Buchanan been in that office – I do not think we would be complaining that an “Imperial President” or “Strong President” was abusing his powers by bringing the troops home, securing the border and restoring the Republic with all the strength that the constitution gives him to do it.

  2. We may be the least threatened for now but we are the ultimate target. That should hold our attention as the various murders and atrocities continue. I find it hard to believe that given. the antipathy against America that at the least there aren’t sympathetic would be or actual jihadists in the U S right now, it beggars imagination to think otherwise. We haven’t been crowned with the sobriquet The Great Satan because of a shortage of mosques. Granted the savages will expend mountainous resources and energy doing the only thing that they do well, butchering people, each other if no one else, but ultimately we are the target.
    Sadly we have vacillation and evasion, at the top. A monstrous homicidal movement, another one!, raised it’s Gorgons head in the M E over a period of say three years. It and assorted other maniacs have no problem asserting who they regard as the ultimate enemy and already we observe the reactions within the circles of the believers in the U S, volunteers for jihad. They have plans for us, we better have plans for them.

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