Pete Souza

World News


Obama’s War

For years I have asserted that there has not been a definitive foreign policy decision from the Obama White House. The events of the last nine months have proven this, as global events have forced the American president to learn on the move and possibly take a position. Obama has put the United States, its interests and its forces, in a perilous situation. This is the manifestation of an American Commander-in-Chief who has guided foreign relations solely based on domestic politics and not on realities, which his philosophy does not allow him to acknowledge.

There was a veritable row when Barack Obama was “caught” in an open mic moment telling then Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, that he would have more flexibility following his 2012 re-election. The Freudian slip was dismissed. The negotiations over nuclear weapons accompanied by the U.S. concession and failure to follow through with plans to station anti-ballistic missile batteries in Eastern Europe sent a clear message of weakness to the Kremlin, namely Vladimir Putin. Putin, who understands force and power politics understood that the U.S. would fail to honor the plans for ABM batteries in Eastern Europe and would also fall short in the American role in the Budapest Memorandums. Weakness and an ill-advised announcement of a “pivot to Asia” were an invitation for Putin to continue retaking Soviet territory, which Putin did by invading Georgia in 2008.

This weakness pails in comparison to Obama’s tactics in dealing with the Middle East. First, it is important to recall that Obama used the unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as campaign issues. He ran in 2008 on a mantra of “Bring Our Boys Home!” This illustrates the primary weakness of the president.

In deciding policy, one must account for three different factors: your allies, your enemies and your electorate. Obama decided to virtually ignore the first two and make his moves based solely on domestic politics. This is illustrated by the withdrawal of forces from the Middle East, his treatment of the manufactured immigration crisis on the southern U.S. border and his response to the crisis in the Ukraine. Until now, Obama could simply brush off his foreign policy obligations. Then, the Islamic State began executing Americans.

Only after overwhelming domestic political pressure did the President attempt to address the situation in Syria and Iraq. Previously he declined to get involved in Syria despite hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Pulling American forces out of Iraq is a key part of his presumed legacy. Now, he is forced to deal with both. Unfortunately, his lack of experience is more evident than ever. He fails to understand the nature of the enemy. Not unlike Putin, who understands one thing: force. Obama continues to politicize everything for the sake of domestic politics and the upcoming midterm elections in November. While it is clear that the Islamic State cannot be defeated solely using American airpower, his administration will not call it a “war,” when in fact it is a war with the increased number of American air sorties. This means that Obama can avoid going to Congress to ask for authorization past the 60-day limit of the War Powers Act. Essentially, that would make Iraq his “war.” The days of “blame Bush” would essentially be over.

One can only hope that this president can navigate global events without the loss of U.S. prestige and power and American lives. I am not optimistic. Obama was briefed about the coming threat of the Islamic State as far back as 2013 and did nothing. Even as recently as last week, he concerned himself with domestic issues, speaking at a rally calling for the increase of the minimum wage to $15. The situation is ridiculous. In the context of parenting, why would he concern himself with raising his children’s allowance when the people across the street are trying to kill them? We are dealing with a president who does not understand global leadership. Instead he was born to campaign.