The War Irresolution
Napoleon famously said that in warfare if you vow to take Vienna—take Vienna. President Obama ’s version of that aphorism might be—on the way to Vienna stop to summer in Salzburg, only use air power, and if the fighting isn’t over in a couple of years call the whole thing off.
[Also see – Obama’s Fantasy-Based Foreign Policy]
How else to interpret the amazing draft of a resolution that Mr. Obama sent to Congress Wednesday requesting an authorization to use military force against Islamic State? The language would so restrict the President’s war-fighting discretion that it deserves to be called the President Gulliver resolution. Tie me down, Congress, please. Instead of inviting broad political support for defeating ISIS, the language would codify the President’s war-fighting ambivalence.
“Mr. Obama’s draft language fairly describes his current war strategy. But a flawed military strategy that is ambiguous is better than a flawed strategy written into law. Mr. Obama’s strategy can be changed by the next President—unless it is codified by a flawed authorization.”
The draft is especially notable for its disconnect between military ends and means. The preamble contains a long and accurate parade of horribles about the “grave threat” posed by Islamic State. These include “horrific acts of violence” against women and girls, the murder “of innocent United States citizens,” and its intention “to conduct terrorist attacks internationally, including against the United States, its citizens, and interests.” Really bad guys.
“The time limit alone is reason to oppose the resolution, as we’ve seen in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama’s deadline on U.S. operations there has given the Taliban confidence to wait us out. A time limit also tells our coalition allies that the U.S. commitment against ISIS could end no matter the state of war at the time. “
But then the resolution proceeds to inform these killers about the limits of what the U.S. will do to defeat them. Mr. Obama wants Congress to put into statutory language that it “does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations”; and that “the use of military force shall terminate” in three years “unless reauthorized.”
“Rather than put shackles on his generals, Mr. Obama should be urging them to mount a campaign to roll back ISIS as rapidly as possible from the territory it holds.”
The time limit alone is reason to oppose the resolution, as we’ve seen in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama’s deadline on U.S. operations there has given the Taliban confidence to wait us out. A time limit also tells our coalition allies that the U.S. commitment against ISIS could end no matter the state of war at the time. Mr. Obama has said himself that degrading and destroying ISIS may take years, yet his draft would force the next President to seek a new authorization in 2018.
“That would be a genuine defeat—and the world would see it as one. It would also be a demonstration to potential ISIS recruits that if you join the jihad, you are likely to die, and soon.”
As for ground troops, Mr. Obama is asking Congress to endorse a military strategy that his own generals have said may be deficient. In a letter to Congress elaborating on the draft authorization, Mr. Obama says his draft “would provide the flexibility to conduct ground operations” in “limited circumstances, such as rescue operations” or “the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership.” He says the resolution would only bar “long-term, large-scale ground combat operations” as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry »
With just about two and a half years left of President Obama’s second term, it’s legacy-building time at the White House. Last week the president gave two foreign policy speeches, in Afghanistan on Memorial Day to announce that the U.S. war in that country was ending by the end of the year, and at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he announced 10,000 troops would be left behind in Afghanistan. The president told graduating cadets they could be the first class since 9/11 not to serve in Afghanistan or Iraq.
With the seemingly open-ended military commitment President Obama is making by leaving such a large residual force in Afghanistan, it may be just as likely that this class, like every class since 9/11, will serve in Afghanistan, or even Iraq.
Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq is still in effect. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a resolution to revoke that AUMF in January of this year, but it has still not been acted on by the Democrat-controlled Senate. And in the beginning of his first term, President Obama actually resistedthe George W. Bush-negotiated end to the war, insisting on a residual force of about 10,000 troops. The U.S. has been providing support to the Iraqi government in its campaign against Al-Qaeda, a campaign that began during the U.S. war in Iraq and has continued after the end of that war. Read the rest of this entry »