Comment: Obama’s world of wishes
September 13, 2014
Displayed with permission from National Post
Since Obama is neither a Muslim nor a scholar, his judgement about what is and isn’t Islamic is meaningless
“Now let’s make two things clear,” Barack Obama told the world on Wednesday, adopting a brisk schoolmaster’s tone. First, ISIS, the self-professed “Islamic state” that has taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq, is not actually Islamic. Why would he say that? Because, as Obama explained, “No religion condones the killing of innocents.”
Charles Krauthammer: Obama leads fictional coalition with halfhearted strategy into reluctant battle
WASHINGTON – In his Islamic State speech, President Obama said many of the right things. Most importantly, he finally got the mission right: degrade and destroy the enemy.
This alone will probably get him a bump in the polls, which have dropped to historic lows. But his strategic problem remains: the disconnect between (proclaimed) ends and means.
He’s sending an additional 475 American advisers to Iraq. He says he’s broadening the air campaign, but that is merely an admission that the current campaign was always about more than just protecting U.S. personnel in Irbil and saving Yazidis on mountain tops. It was crucially about providing air support for the local infantry, Kurdish and Iraqi.
Since Obama is neither a Muslim nor a scholar, that judgement is above his pay grade, as he would put it. As Bernard Lewis, a great authority on Islam, puts it: “It is surely presumptuous for those who are not Muslims to say what is orthodox and what is heretical in Islam.”
It’s equally presumptuous for someone in Obama’s position to say what is a religion and what isn’t. If members of ISIS call themselves Muslims, they are Muslims. The U.S. President is relying on the world’s tolerance for politically correct claptrap, but this is going too far.
Even in his most confident moments, Obama falls into wish-it-were-true statements like that one. Now that he’s abandoned his moody disengagement and decided to lead the free world, what he says requires especially serious scrutiny.
American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world, he declared. That was to explain why the United States is now leading a multi-national (including Canada) campaign to destroy ISIS, but it’s been a while since anyone considered American leadership “constant.”
Obama’s speech on Wednesday unquestionably was the major news event of the week, but on reflection it was not a happy experience for those who look for coherence and inspiration. In fact, it was standard Obama – its logic unsound, its rhetoric over-blown, its assumptions questionable. It contained little to reassure those who find ISIS threatening, and provided still less encouragement for those of Obama’s fellow Democrats who face the voters in the mid-term elections on Nov.4.
As talk, it was well-manicured, containing no embarrassments like the line Obama used to reassure his listeners during a fund-raising speech in August: “The truth of the matter is that the world has always been messy.”
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But it was filled with pipe dreams. Obama said that Americans, while working around the world, including the Middle East, “stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity.” That sounds good, but exposing these words to even a trace of reality makes it ridiculous. After all, we know that in the ISIS-destroying project, the United States is partnering with bigots and misogynists such as the Saudi Arabian leaders and other despots who want nothing to do with freedom, justice or dignity for their people.
“This is American leadership at its best: We stand with people who fight for their own freedom.” That’s the way it should work, so Obama wills himself to believe (or says he believes) that in fact it works that way.
When Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, he said “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” Did he believe that at the time? Since then, Iraq’s government and army both have failed, and stability has disappeared. So Obama has not only ordered the bombing of ISIS positions in Iraq (and now Syria), he has deployed hundreds of American soldiers to Iraq and will send hundreds more. They won’t fight, he promises (he knows Americans won’t tolerate that), but they’ll provide training, intelligence and equipment.
Even so, we know that the Iraqi forces defeated by ISIS also were trained and equipped by Americans, perhaps the same Americans. There’s no reason to think that newly trained Iraqis will give a better performance. It’s true that Iraq has a new government, reputedly more tolerant of Sunnis than the one the United States found unsuitable earlier this year. But change won’t come overnight. It seems almost inevitable that U.S. Special Operations forces will end up fighting, perhaps at first in covert ways, then possibly in the open.
It seems almost inevitable that U.S. Special Operations forces will end up fighting, perhaps at first in covert ways, then possibly in the open
Obama has a way of making promises that aren’t credible. When he says his plan is “to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all,” it sounds like pure wishful thinking. To that end, “We have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition.”
Three years ago, the then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, argued that the Syrian Free Army deserved U.S. backing in opposing the Assad government. Obama has said that idea was no more than a fantasy. What makes the opposition more deserving today than they were then? That’s one of many Obama self-reversals, one for which he doesn’t give even the beginning of an explanation. Still a man of hope, he seems to trust his listeners to share his vain, unfounded dreams.