War Powers and Sucker Punches
Leading with your chin is always bad form, especially in politics. The newly minted Republican Congress is just about to step into a sucker punch from the White House. The President claims that he needs a new authorization from Congress to pursue the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); an authority the President didn’t think he needed for the last six years.
Mr. Obama prefers to call the al Qaeda doppelganger, the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL). At the same he denies the adjective, claiming that ISIS is not Islamic. Such semantic shenanigans are designed, among other things, to avoid illuminating Iraq and Syria, two of the more notable strategic failures on Obama’s watch. The Levant can now be put in the loss column like Iran, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. And the “war of necessity” in Afghanistan now looks like a skedaddle too, just as the war in Iraq now looks like the new “war of necessity.” Follow closely, this gets worse.
The troops that remain in Afghanistan and Iraq somehow are not “boots on the ground,” the same kind of boots that bled in the same theaters previously during the Bush administration. Repeat deployments under the Obama regime don’t seem to qualify as combat tours. Does an all-volunteer force deserve such patronizing babble from the Commander-in-Chief? With administration spin, we are led to believe that American troops deployed to the Ummah in the future will be more schoolmarms than warriors -- in little danger of becoming targets.
Such absurdity might be new insult, but not new injury. The Obama regime and the Pentagon have insisted for years that America is not at war. You could be led to believe that all those body bags and wounded warriors passing through Dover AFB for the last decade were simply casualties from workplace violence. If America is not at war, why then is there a need for any new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), nee “war powers” legislation?
For the good part of a decade, the Oval Office has cultivated strategic failure in South Asia, the Mid-East, and North Africa without the Bush charter. Would another AUMF bill from Congress change the effectiveness of heretofore failed leadership?
The paper drill on Capitol Hill and the semantics charade at the White House may not be coherent strategy but these things do have purpose. The Obama legacy and the 2016 presidential election come to mind.
To date, the Obama foreign policy record is a litany of serial fiasco, indeed the ISIS crisis abroad and the AUMF feint at home serve only to divert attention from the engineered chaos in places like Yemen, Libya, and Afghanistan. If the White House can persuade a Republican Congress to sign on to a new war powers resolution, then Democrats will surely argue in 2016 that the foreign policy record for the Obama years is a shared or “bipartisan” failure. The Muslim wars are already bipartisan bungles, why give the next fiasco a legal imprimatur?
Mister Obama’s strategic concerns for the next two years are likely to be focused on personal legacy and blame shifting not defeating ISIS or any other Muslim army in detail. Calling for bipartisanship at this late date has little to do with foreign affairs and everything to do who pays the political piper at the ballot box.
The emerging Islamic state now displacing Iraq and Syria is symptomatic of another imperial Muslim success in the East and another allied failure in the West. In 2016, the Democrats would like Republicans to share blame for the foreign policy and military mess that the next American president is likely to inherit.
Betrayal is the unintended consequence of such venality. Tactical incompetence and strategic impotence is measured in lives. Those who have been killed or maimed may have suffered in vain. The best trained and equipped military in the world has been squandered in small wars that the Oval Office and the Joint Chiefs, by their own admission, have no intention of winning. Half-measures and stability seem to be the new strategic euphemisms for defeat or surrender.
Mister Obama doesn’t need any new authorities, nor does he need obvious Republican collaborators. He might, however, need some cover for Hillary in 2016 and that’s what any new war powers resolution is all about.
Alas, if any new paperwork is required, it should be a declaration of war against a named enemy before another soldier is deployed. The alternative might be a presidential finding of surrender. Surely Abu Bakr al Baghdadi would give a brother like Barack Hussein Obama the best of terms.
Withal, team Obama is beginning to lose its chokehold on the American Left and a pandering Media. Stalwarts like NBC and The Atlantic are finally giving Oval Office foreign and military policy some serious scrutiny. Richard Engel and James Fallows are recent examples, although in both cases you might wonder where they’ve been for the past two decades. Fallows, in particular, has become a skeptic but still has trouble distinguishing between “can do” and “should do.”
Still, Fallows is correct to the extent that feckless European and American politicians, Right and Left, continue to dither with timid policies while Islam is spreading the fires of religious recidivism and barbarity. By now it should be clear that the so-called “moderate” Muslim majority is either passive aggressive, cowardly, or suicidal -- maybe all three. If Islam will not fight to save itself from Islamists, why not let the apathetic Muslim majority experience the inevitable? Then allow Allah to sort the rubble.
At this point, for America and Europe, doing little or nothing might be the most prudent economy of force option.
G. Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security.