September 29, 2012

Obama and his military strategies

US Soldier in Afghanistan (US Army photo)

As the United States prepares to decide who will be the commander in chief for the next four years, President Obama's performance in that role is under scrutiny. While the President is basing his military leadership prowess primarily on the killing of al-Qa'idah leader 'Usamah bin Ladin, perhaps it is more useful to examine the totality of his military strategy - or more correctly, strategies - over the last three and a half years.

This should be read in conjunction with my earlier analysis, President Obama and the "end" of two wars.


In Iraq, the President pursued a strategy of basically quitting, declaring victory and going home. There was an agreement in effect, negotiated with the Iraqis by the Bush Administration, to withdraw U.S. troops by the end of 2011, with the possibility of extension based on the security situation at the time. Although the security situation was not conducive to a complete American withdrawal, the President opted to pull out the troops anyway.

While that premature withdrawal gives Mr. Obama the opportunity to claim that he kept a campaign promise to end the war in Iraq - I think he even added the word "responsibly" - all he did was pave the way for the resurgence of al-Qa'idah in the Sunni heartland and for increased Iranian influence in the Shi'a areas - not to mention increased Iranian influence in the Shi'a dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. There has been an increase in bloodshed in the country since in the absence of American troops.


Possibly the defining military strategy of his Administration, his so-called "leading from behind" has become more of a joke than a serious serious strategy. The reason? You can't lead from behind. It was an attempt to downplay the U.S. role in the military operation that ultimately gave victory to the Libyan rebels. I am not sure why the President was reluctant to openly acknowledge the American role in the operation. Perhaps the left-wing of the Democratic Party - his power base - would not approve of his use of force, although that has not stopped the President's exponential increase in the use of armed drones to attack targets with increasing numbers of "collateral damage." That is a euphemism for civilian (innocent) casualties.

The problem with the Administration's use of the term "leadership from behind" is that the operation succeeded. It succeeded because of the superb efforts of American airmen to get the job done despite the absence of leadership from Washington.


In addition to the strategies of quitting in Iraq and "leading from behind" in Libya, in Afghanistan we see yet another Obama strategy - warfare by timetable. The President has declared that the mission will be accomplished and we will withdraw our forces by the end of 2014. In the President's own words, "We are bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. And I've set a timetable. We will have them all out of there by 2014."

I have already expounded on the absolute idiocy of this policy (see the earlier article referenced above). Can you imagine President Roosevelt or Prime Minister Churchill announcing that World War II would end on a specific date in 1945? Ludicrous. You should fight wars until you win or achieve your objective. Specifying an end date merely tells the enemy when he wins.


Now we come to Syria. The strategy here seems to be "ignore the problem and maybe it will go away, as long as it does not affect my chances for re-election." Syria is fast turning into a humanitarian disaster. The world looks to the United States and the West for leadership, yet we seem to be paralyzed by the involvement of Iran and the unwillingness of Russia and China to rein in their favorite Middle Eastern tyrant-dictator.

I will call this strategy the "deer in the headlights" campaign. It fits in with the President's overall leadership doctrine of abdication. Why lead if you can be re-elected without it?