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Fast and Curious
Fast and Curious

Failure Is Not Our ISIS Strategy?

Blog From
October 14th, 2014

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry informed anyone who would listen that losing the Syrian City of Kobani to ISIS is not a big deal. According to Kerry, the anti-ISIS coalition strategy is not defined by its failed efforts to save Kobani because the City is not a top priority.

 

Kobani may not define coalition strategy but it certainly condemns it. The battle to save the City is a microcosm of the coalition master plan in action. U.S. involvement has been limited to airstrikes on ISIS targets, including more than 50 sorties last week alone. Threatened regional partners with boots on the ground are aplenty.

 

And yet, the coalition, resisting the ISIS siege for nearly one month, is teetering on the brink of defeat. Last week, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby wrote the City off. In his words, U.S. airstrikes “are not going to save” Kobani. The reason, according to Kirby, is that airstrikes alone cannot stop ISIS.

 

So, where are the boots on the ground? Kobani sits on the Syrian border with Turkey. The Kurds who inhabit the City are excellent fighters and have been engaged in the struggle against ISIS from the beginning.

 

But, Turkey, a fickle NATO partner, prefers to see the Kurds lose so their footwear stayed home. Turkish forces even prevented Kurds in Turkey from crossing the border to fight on behalf of civilians trapped in the embattled City.

 

So far, the Turkish government refuses to let U.S. airstrikes originate from Turkish bases. Meanwhile, the Kurds defending Kobani without ground assistance have been overwhelmed by superior forces.

 

Kobani stands as a tragic testament to the foolishness of Obama’s steadfast refusal to include U.S. ground troops in his recipe to defeat ISIS. Relying on regional armies is merely wishful thinking. It’s more than the lack of trained, dedicated personnel, which stymie consequential contributions from Syrian rebels and Iraqi security forces.

 

It is also the political reality of the region, which caused the Kobani downfall. Today, there is also the concern that Iraq will turn to Iran, its ancient enemy, for sustained military aid to defeat ISIS. In fact, the Iranian military already claims credit for keeping Baghdad out of ISIS clutches.

 

Could there be a worse result of Obama’s policy than making Iraq beholden to Iran?

 

Maybe one or two. Attacks on the United States would be worse at least in the short run. After that, even the Obama administration would send ground troops to crush the Islamic militants where they live. But, U.S. concessions to Iran to contribute ground-bound fighters to the coalition would be a nightmare with long-term negative outcomes.

 

That Team Obama would do a deal with the devil for political expediency is not much of a stretch. Without the linchpin of adequate ground forces, we can expect the wheels to fly off the coalition bandwagon as it rolls across the larger region. As a former head of British Armed Forces remarked, “[D]on’t expect a guy in an airplane to be able to seize and hold terrain.”

 

Kerry did acknowledge yesterday that the impending slaughter of thousands of Kobani citizens, many elderly and unable to escape, is a tragedy. His words must be a great comfort to those who face impending death by the heavy blade of the ISIS juggernaut.

 

With the City’s fall, ISIS will control a strategic corridor stretching 62 miles between the ISIS capital in Syria to the Turkish border. In light of this truth, Kerry’s characterization of the loss as insignificant can only be described as a surge in political face-saving. That strategy should fail as well.

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Fast and Curious

ISIS: Obama’s Color–Blind Problem

Blog From
August 23rd, 2014

LFU_FastCurious_Crash_vFDid you ever notice how the color red comes up a lot in politics? It’s mostly a negative, like red tape, red herring, red ink, caught red-handed and, of course, red line. Speaking of line color, this week marks the second anniversary of President Obama’s infamous, and unfulfilled, threat against the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

 

A lot of red flowed from the wrong people reading nothing but bluff into Obama’s words. The following year, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government launched an attack on Damascus suburbs killing 1,500 inhabitants with the nerve agent, sarin.

 

For the U.S., one of the worst long-term outcomes of the attack unfolded over the following three weeks. During that period, the President engaged in repeated public displays of angst about the action he should take. He bared his soul on the international stage leaving no doubt in the end of his inability to protect American security interests. His breast-beating and ultimate abdication opened the door to a type of aggression that has not been experienced in a very long time.

 

On August 28, Obama confirmed in a PBS interview that the Syrian government, not the opposition, had used the chemical weapons. He agreed that there had to be consequences but he had not decided whether U.S. military strikes would be forthcoming. Meanwhile, U.N. envoys were claiming that Syria was the biggest threat facing the international community.

 

Two days after that, on August 30, a self-described “war weary” Obama repeated the need for a firm response. He was still undecided whether it should be military in nature, although he realized inaction was a “danger to our national security”. He also fretted publicly about sending the “wrong signal” if the international community did not respond in an appropriately decisive manner.

 

On September 14, 2013, Obama chose the “danger to our national security” door and sent the wrong signal. On that day, the U.S. and Russia put the finishing touches on a deal to rid Syria of its chemical weapons by mid-2014. The agreement concluded the American response to the sarin gas massacre.

 

By the end of June 2014, all chemical weapons stockpiles that Syria “declared” were removed from the country. But, there was no verification by independent examiners that all stockpiles were in fact gone. Everyone simply took the Syrian government’s word for it. Not surprisingly, the Syrians had hailed the Russia-U.S. agreement a year earlier as a victory for its side.

 

The agreement was also the end of any U.S. endeavor in or with regard to Syria other than ad nauseam talking. Despite requests to arm the opposition, Obama was absorbed in other international matters like his string of loses to Putin in Crimea and Ukraine.

 

Withholding military aid to the opposition created a vacuum that permitted ISIS to rise in Syria and extend into Iraq. Noting that fact earlier this month, Hillary Clinton observed that “don’t do stupid stuff” is not an organizing principle of great nations. Or the near great or even the not so great. Where does that put the U.S.?

 

Even Obama should be red-faced about a failure acknowledged both by a former Administration star and his current Secretary of Defense. Yesterday, Chuck Hagel labeled ISIS, with its apocalyptic vision and billions in funds, the most dangerous threat to the U.S. in years. But, Obama isn’t red-faced, possibly because he is now preoccupied with baring his soul again, this time over ISIS in Iraq.

 

The President talks too much, wrings his hands too much and makes one thing too clear. The shortest distance between now and an international disaster is through his White House. That’s no reason to paint the town red.

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Fast and Curious

Hurricanes Have Been Very, Very Good To Barack Obama

Blog From
March 16th, 2014

LFU_FastCurious_Crash_vFHurricane Sandy was very helpful to Barack Obama in his successful bid for re-election in 2012. Mitt Romney’s incompetent campaign and the President’s stage presence weren’t enough to secure victory. Obama was trailing in the national polls for most of the month preceding Election Day.

 

Then, on October 29, Sandy made landfall with a vengeance along our northeastern shore. The natural disaster halted the campaign of both candidates while the President surveyed the damage. Obama’s perceived handling of the Hurricane’s aftermath gave his campaign the bounce it needed. He bested Romney in the voting booth barely more than one week later.

 

But, Hurricane Sandy was not the first monster storm of its kind to play a significant role in Obama’s political career. In August 2009, the Telegraph Media Group published an excerpt from ‘Renegade: The Making of Barack Obama’ by Richard Wolffe.

 

Wolffe, a British-American journalist and MSNBC commentator, wrote a fawning account of Obama’s rise to the White House, a process that began in 2005. Its obsequious tone aside, the excerpt is important for what it reveals about Obama’s view of himself and his presidential motivations. For example, his restless ambition won out over the cost to his family, hardly a unique trade-off among politicians.

 

Perhaps more surprising is Obama’s conceited belief that he is a great president. In his mind, greatness is the result of the characteristics and strengths in the officeholder matching the needs of the people and the country. But this, of course, is just a start. Strengths matching needs is all drawing board stuff. Action and accomplishment are the measures of success, facts that seem to have completely escaped Obama.

 

What does this have to do with hurricanes? In 2005, an Obama run for the White House was on schedule to happen, if at all, in either 2012 or 2016. And then Hurricane Katrina slammed into the southeastern U.S., changing Obama’s political timetable.

 

George Bush, whose strong national security leadership had earned him a second term in the White House just the year before, appeared incompetent. He became an easy target of charged racist claims. Obama recognized his opportunity immediately. He decided to become the voice of the impoverished and forgotten and use it as a springboard to an earlier than planned presidential bid.

 

According to Wolffe, Obama understands that one of his main strengths is making good speeches. Another is working a crowd. Yet another is an excellent sense of timing. He looked and sounded fresh at a time when the country was desperate for change. A unifying message of hope was a surprisingly easy sell.

 

Critically, what is missing from Wolffe’s account is any mention of Obama’s substantive qualifications to be the country’s Chief Executive. Rather than management skills, experience or prior achievements, Wolffe writes of personality, verbiage and ingratiation. His lack of qualifications makes Obama less than visionary. What he sees as his greatness is, in reality, a perfect storm of political smoke and mirrors and a populace made gullible by weariness.

 

No small part of Obama’s Hurricane Sandy boost was the direct result of very laudatory comments from Chris Christie, the Republican Governor of New Jersey. But, one year after Sandy lifted Obama to re-election, federal aid had not yet reached the people of New Jersey. Obama’s Johnny-on-the-spot verbiage helped him right away but those most needy went begging for quite a while. This all blow and very slow go has come to typify the Obama Presidency both in domestic matters and internationally.

 

His all style presidency has made Obama himself very much like a hurricane. He blew into the White House, tore down what little was left of bipartisanship and is leaving economic and foreign policy devastation in his wake. He will eventually blow out, but it will be some time before the damage is repaired.

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Fast and Curious

Obama: The Audacity of Thoughts Sours Hope

Blog From
February 16th, 2014

LFU_FastCurious_Crash_vFBarack Obama makes millions of dollars from his book sales. One of his best known books, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, is a particularly good performer. Endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, it shot to the top of the political books bestseller list where it remained for more than 30 consecutive weeks.

 

The tome has sold well over 1,152,000 copies. Together with his earlier effort, Dreams From My Father, Obama’s book sales have eclipsed those of the Clintons’ combined. Taken separately, each one blew away the memoir sales of long time Republican Senators, Trent Lott and Jesse Helms. The hoopla surrounding Audacity and its bestseller status were a first for a young, unaccomplished politician.

 

Bolstered by its outstanding popular reception, the then junior senator from Illinois announced his run for the presidency less than four months after Audacity’s publication.

 

The early successes of Obama’s books and the attendant publicity have a downside. To understand the negative impact of all of it in combination, put yourself in the President’s position. These heady experiences have given him the impression that his words are more than enough. Accomplishment is in the messaging. Speak and it will happen.

 

Actions are not merely overrated. They are an unwanted complication because they run the risk of failure, which can be difficult to talk your way around. But, the problem with relying on chit-chat is that your mouth can get to the finish line before the finish line is built. Fast first, curious later is not a great combination. And Obamacare is not the President’s only problem with just talk.

 

The speech-is-enough theme runs through his Presidency. The most visible evidence of it these days is the pervasive absence of accountability among Obama’s staffers. The President is content to watch his people engage in striking, and recurring, episodes of ineptitude. When the fallout happens, Obama responds with talk. A lot of it.

 

Why not fire some of the worst performers? Or authorize independent investigations? Or just ‘fess up and move on? Why attempt containment with words? Some have suggested friendship as a reason. Obama is good friends with Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, but certainly not Lois Lerner.

 

Maybe the President is averse to being tarred with the same brush that paints his people into a corner a la Chris Christie. Or maybe he won’t tolerate his agenda being put on hold while investigations are conducted. He is running out of time. Or maybe delving too deeply into the inner workings of his Administration will reveal much more than he can talk his way out of.

 

Whatever the reason, being better with dueling words than his opponents, he chooses to draw the line there. So, we’re treated to the 2013 accountability lowlights reel starring Kathleen Sebelius and the healthcare.gov website, Hillary Clinton and Benghazi, Lois Lerner and the IRS misconduct, Eric Holder and the seizure of major media outlet records and the NSA phone spying.

 

Obamacare remains a divisive issue for the Dems, in part, because of Obama’s refusal to hold Sebelius accountable for any part of the unfolding mess. The latest blowup is over the still unanswered question of whether the President knew of the healthcare.gov problems before its launch.

 

Last week, a review of White House records revealed that the HHS Secretary visited the President 18 times last year. That she never mentioned the issues plaguing the development of the website is incredible. But as unconvincing as it is, Obama continues to insist upon it. 

 

Another recent example showcases the extreme positions that the Administration will take in order to avoid accountability for the negative impact of Obamacare on jobs. Businesses must certify under penalty of perjury to the IRS that job reductions are not motivated by Obamacare costs.

 

Of course, no job will be saved by these pieces of paper. The Affordable Care Act is only affordable for most businesses if they can avoid it. The required certification is just a PR stunt. It allows the President to claim that businesses agree with his no-jobs-lost claim for his signature legislation. It would be laughable except for abusing the power of the IRS for political gain.

 

In retrospect, Obama’s talking head presidency is par for his course. He’s earned his income strictly on his ruminations first as a community organizer, then law professor, politician and, of course, book author. He does like to make speeches with his sleeves rolled up, giving the impression that he, like us, is hard at work. But, it’s only an impression. Actions are for people missing a silver tongue.

 

There is one thing that Obama missed among his book reviews. George W. Bush’s volume, Decision Points, has sold 1,900,000 copies in the past decade, outdistancing all other sales in the politics category including Obama’s. Decision beats Audacity by a very wide margin.

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