Would You Follow President Obama Into Battle?

There is good reason to believe that President Barack Obama will not conduct an effective battle against the Islamic State.  As Townhall’s Katie Pavlich explains, several generals have stated that his current plan will not accomplish his stated goal, and he has consistently rejected sound military advice regarding Iraq and Afghanistan.  He and his subordinates obfuscate the nature of the enemy and the battle, and are not indicating that they are serious about defeating the Islamic State.

It is becoming clearer each day that Obama wants to micro-manage and restrict the battle.  On September 18, 2014, the New York Times reported “that requests to use the [American] advisers to call in airstrikes to provide tactical advice [support] on the battlefield to Iraqi units would need to be approved by the president on a case-by-case basis.”

According to a source quoted by The Daily Caller, on September 19, 2014, the former head of the Marine Corps stated that Obama’s strategy will fail:

“I don’t think the president’s plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding,” retired Marine General James Conway, who served as the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps during the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama administration, said at the Maverick PAC Conference in Washington, D.C. Friday, according to a source in attendance. (snip)

The source said Conway’s major concern was that the U.S. did not have a force on the ground in Syria it could rely on, like the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq.

Despite Obama’s disingenuous statements about America’s withdrawal from Iraq, it was he who abandoned Iraq when a residual force of about 24,000 would have likely prevented the horror we are now witnessing.  During an interview with Megyn Kelly on September 18, 2014, General Jack Keane stated that al-Qaeda was defeated in Iraq by the time Obama became President:

Kelly:  Let me ask you this because Nancy Pelosi was asked about this today.  And what she said was, and I quote: “Been there, done that,” when it comes to combat troops and we’re not doing it.  She’s pointing to the Iraq war and that situation as a justification for not sending any ground combat troops of Americans there now.  

Keane:  That’s a misunderstanding of the facts and quite an absurdity in that statement.  By the end of 2008 and in the beginning of 2009, President Bush’s surge strategy, led by General Petraeus and General Odierno, now the Chief of Staff of the Army, defeated the al-Qaeda in Iraq.  I saw the transmissions because I was advising Petraeus on the ground in Iraq.  They showed me the transmissions from al-Qaeda that they were intercepting.  They said: “We are defeated, don’t send any more foreign fighters.”  So we knew how to deal with this enemy in that category.  What happened to us, and I don’t want to go back and replay all the mistakes.  But the fact is we didn’t leave a force there and we’re paying a huge price for it, for not leaving something to help the Iraqis.

In a “60 Minutes” interview aired September 21, 2014, CBS News reported that Leon Panetta, former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense under Obama, stated that America left Iraq too early:

Pelley: Back when you watched the stars and stripes being lowered for the last time in Baghdad, were you confident in that moment that pulling out was the right thing to do?

Panetta: No, I wasn't. I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that “[w]e are at war with ISIL.”  But Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that America is not conducting a “war” against ISIS, but is conducting a “counterterrorism operation.” 

Secretary of State John Kerry said the Islamic State is an enemy of Islam.  In response to a question at a Congressional hearing he stated: “If you’re more comfortable calling it a war against this enemy of Islam then please do so.  We’re happy to call it that.”  Contrary to Kerry’s belief, in reality, America’s fight is with those who murder or subjugate others in the name of Islam, which includes the Islamic State.

Obama said: “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’  No religion condones the killing of innocents.”  But Obama’s statement is false, as explained by Robert Spencer and Jerold Auerbach.  As Andrew McCarthy explains, Islam condones the beheading of Muslims whose only “offense” is converting to another religion.  That sounds like the killing of innocents to me.  Robert Spencer explains that Islam condones the killing of non-Muslims whose only “offense” is not being Muslim and not paying a “tax” for being non-Muslim.  This also sounds like the killing of innocents.  Gregory M. Davis puts this in context in Islam 101.  Fortunately, most Muslims are largely non-observant.

Defense Secretary Hagel said: “If left unchecked, ISIL will directly threaten our homeland and our allies,” and “ISIL poses a real threat to all countries in the Middle East, our European allies, and to America,” and “[w]hile ISIL clearly poses an immediate threat to American citizens in Iraq and our interests in the Middle East.”  But in the same statement he also referred to the Iraqis and said: “This is ultimately their fight.”  Contrary to Hagel’s belief, if the Islamic State is at least “a real threat . . . to America,” then the fight is ultimately America’s fight, and America must win it despite what the Iraqis do.

At Obama’s request, on September 18, 2014, Congress approved of Obama’s plan to train and equip so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels to battle the Islamic State in Syria while they are battling President Bashir Assad of Syria.  We don’t know how many legislators in Congress read reporter Jaimie Dettmer’s article published on September 15, 2014, in which he described those “moderates” as not being so moderate.  Describing his visit to Syria in the summer of 2012, Dettmer stated:

Later that night I sat with two local sheikhs who explained how they were forming a court to adjudicate civil disputes and rule on criminal cases.  “We will use Sharia law,” said Abdulbaset Kuredy.  “What else is there?  After Assad, the whole country will be governed by Sharia.”  Then he launched into a condemnation of the corrupt West and its acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  The sheikhs were aligned with the Free Syrian Army, the rebel group now touted in Washington as the “moderates” to support in the fight against Assad on the one hand, ISIS on the other.

There was nothing I saw in Al Bab in August 2012—still early days in the insurrection that is now halfway through its fourth year—that led me to feel that if the Syrian uprising toppled Assad, it would lead to an inclusive, minority-respecting, and more or less democratic outcome.  Like other countries convulsed by Arab Spring insurrections, there was a mismatch between Western expectations and perceptions and the thinking and religious views of the majority involved in the fighting, and that was a year before the emergence of ISIS.  The war back then was clearly becoming more sectarian and Islamic—the trajectory was obvious.

After two years of brutal and barbaric sectarian warfare, the Syrian rebellion has seen an even greater hardening of sectarian attitudes among Syrian opponents of Assad and his regime, which is dominated by members of the minority Alawite sect.  Many secular activists from the urban areas of Damascus or Aleppo withdrew long ago, sickened by what the uprising was becoming.  They were appalled at the rise of the jihadists and their cruelty, worried by the strength of Islamist factions among the rural fighters who are the backbone of the militias.  The center did not hold.

Dettmer reported that the situation has worsened since 2012:

But the decision to do so prompts a key question once again: Who are the moderates?  Who in rebel ranks can be trusted not to turn Western-supplied weapons against the West later, or switch sides as we’ve seen in Mali and other countries racked by Islamist rebellions?  Who can receive arms that won’t be shared with ISIS or the official al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra?  Who won’t embarrass the West by engaging in some act of egregious cruelty, torturing prisoners or executing foes?

There were not many moderates around two years ago, as I found in Al Bab then, and there are far fewer now.  A year ago the town was overrun by ISIS and many of the young rebels joined the group; others who remained loyal to brigades affiliated with the FSA pulled out.  The bulk of those, according to locals, hooked up with the Islamic Front, a coalition of Islamist militias who are the second largest fighting insurgent formation after ISIS. The front has close ties with al-Nusra.

Dettmer reported that in 2013:

[A] respected British defense consultancy, IHS Jane’s, released a study claiming that more than half of the rebels battling to oust Assad were either jihadists or hardline Islamists.

“There are certainly moderates remaining,” says Jonathan Schanzer, a Mideast expert with the Washington-based think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.  “The problem is that they are few in number and lacking in support.  They have been marginalized by U.S., European, Turkish, and Arab policies that have only served to boost the presence and capabilities of the more radical factions.  It’s unclear to me how Washington’s new approach can help reverse this trend in an urgent or expeditious manner—which is what is needed.”

Dettmer referred to the rebel groups that are the most effective fighters and reported: “Most are Islamist to varying degrees and some, like Ahrar al-Sham, which lost most of its top leaders last week in a bomb attack in Idlib, are dedicated to establishing a Sunni theocracy in Syria.  They don’t subscribe to transnational jihadism, but they do have strong ties to al-Nusra, which is part of the al Qaeda international franchise.”

Dettmer concluded:

There are already signs emerging that key Islamist groups aren’t ready to fall into line with the Obama agenda.  Last week a deal was struck between IS and an important Islamist coalition, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, which is made up of about 20,000 fighters.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based Syrian opposition monitoring group, the jihadists and the Front have agreed “not to attack each other” while fighting the principal enemy, Assad.

On September 5, 2013, CNS News reported that the leader of the Free Syrian Army is extremely hostile to Israel:

Brigadier General Salim Idris, who Sen. John McCain has called a “fine leader” and who leads the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is supported by the Obama administration, told Al Jazeera in a May 8 video interview that “Israel is an enemy country” and that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese terrorist group Hizballah are “Israeli collaborators.”

“Israel is an enemy country,” Idris said, according to a translation of his remarks made by the Middle East Media Research Institute.  “I say this loud and clear.  It occupies Syrian lands.  The FSA will not change its position regarding that country before it withdraws from the Syrian lands, and recognizes the legitimate rights of the Arab Palestinian people.”

The prospects for America are bleak with Obama as Commander-in-Chief.  If Obama has authority to fight the Islamic State, all indications are that the most truthful comment Obama will be able to make is: “If I had a war, it would look like Vietnam.”  I fear for our soldiers who must suffer under his command.  Because they are loyal to America, they will follow his orders, no matter how foolish.  But how long will that last?  I can’t help but think of this excerpt from the 1969 fictional movie “Viva Max!,” which is about a modern-day Mexican general who wanted to recapture the Alamo:

General Maximilian Rodrigues De Santos: A friend of mine, a woman, she told me the men do not respect me.  She said they would not follow me even into a whorehouse!

Sergeant Valdez: She is wrong, senor.  The men would follow you into a whorehouse.

Allan J. Favish is an attorney in Los Angeles.  His website is allanfavish.com.  He has co-authored with James Fernald, a book about what might happen if the government ran Disneyland entitled "Fireworks! If the Government Ran the Fairest Kingdom of Them All (A Very Unauthorized Fantasy).

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