A group of European pacifists gave a Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama shortly after he became president in Jan., 2009 because he had made eloquent speeches about world peace. It didn’t take long, however, until Obama discovered the real world is different and much more violent than the peaceful world he talked about in his campaign speeches.
And now, five years after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama is a war president. So much for hope and change, and welcome to the real world. As someone who’s suffering from a severe case of buyer’s remorse — I actually voted for Obama in 2008 — I should have seen through his soaring rhetoric and empty promises and recognized him for what he is: a dedicated left-wing “progressive” who is just another opportunistic Chicago politician.
So what happened to our peace president between 2008 and 2014? In 2008 Obama promised to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to bring all of our troops home, and that’s exactly what he did when he became president. His withdrawal strategy backfired, however, by opening the door to the murderous Islamo-fascist fighters of al-Qaida and the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), who proceeded to capture several important cities in Iraq and Syria. Although I opposed the Iraq War from the outset, I recognized the need to station a residual force in Iraq to consolidate and protect whatever gains we had made there.
But Obama withdrew our troops on an announced timetable and told our enemies what we were and weren’t going to do. We can thank his national security team for those highly questionable decisions: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power and White House Counselor Valerie Jarrett. Some team! Taken together, along with President Obama, they project an image of weakness and vacillation.
So the president who preached world peace finally declared war (well, almost) against ISIS/ISIL. Sounding a lot like his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama told the United Nations “No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions (the beheadings of innocent civilians). . . . The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.”
That’s the strongest statement yet from our peace-loving president, and I congratulate him for finally facing the brutal reality of the dangerous and chaotic world we live in.
William Galston of the moderate Brookings Institution praised the president for recognizing the U.S. cannot succeed by itself; other nations in the Middle East and in Europe “must contribute ground forces and other resources to the struggle,” he wrote. Although five Gulf states signed up for the air war against ISIS, necessary ground forces are notably scarce.
As most military experts have noted, air power cannot defeat ISIS; boots on the ground will be necessary. Whose boots? There won’t be many Iraqi boots on the ground because when the going got tough, Iraqi soldiers dropped their weapons and fled even though we’ve spent billions of taxpayer dollars to train and equip them to fight their own battles.
Conservative commentator Victor Davis Hanson doubts whether Obama’s current strategy can succeed. “The military effort against the Islamic State hinges on a successful threefold approach involving intelligence, homeland security and diplomacy,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the Obama administration doesn’t have much past history in those areas to warrant confidence,” especially because “from the president on down, they’re in resolute denial about radical Islam.” I agree with the good professor and urge President Obama to clearly identify the enemy and provide our military with the resources needed to defeat ISIS/ISIL.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.