Muftic: Obama sticks to his foreign policy guns
President Obama, the reluctant warrior, showed flexibility in using military force when U.S. interests and overwhelming humanitarian needs were at stake and he authorized air strikes against ISIS in northern Iraq.
His critics, the same who had urged him to take more military action in nearly every crisis, are left to whine that he does not have a consistent overall foreign policy. News flash: He does. The more pertinent questions should be is this action too little, too late, and will it work?
First, does President Obama even have a foreign policy? Yes. It is just not the one hawks like, but it is one for which he was elected. The list: Avoid more ground wars and withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan; use diplomatic engagement and other means to forward American interests; provide humanitarian aid; or to protect national security, with military engagement a last resort; bring in neighbors, allies, and others; promote self-governance that is inclusive, effective, and no springboard for terrorists to attack the West. Much of this was restated in his interview with Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times on Aug. 8.
Are Obama’s strategy and tactics consistent with that policy? Obama did not wait for a slaughter to happen first as President Clinton did in Bosnia. Instead, he used military action to head off ethnic cleansing of minority Christians, Kurds, and others. He has involved the U.K. and France to deliver humanitarian aid.
Should he have intervened in Syria to cripple ISIS’ rise? If the U.S. had supplied weapons to Syrian rebels, they most likely would have found their way to ISIS, which was also a major part of the rebel force. Sometimes no action is wiser than action.
He is pressuring the Baghdad regime change to promote an inclusive and effective Baghdad. It is a work in progress. Prime Minister al-Maliki had laid the seeds for ISIS when he became a Shia despot, persecuting and excluding Sunnis from government. The result: ISIS was welcomed by Sunni villages and Sunni members of the Iraq military, enabling the rapid advance nearly to the gates of Baghdad.
Obama has forsworn a ground war while he was decisive in ordering air strikes. The old truism, air strikes alone do not win wars, holds water if there are no boots on the ground to fight. Air superiority has worked before when there were other armed forces fighting the ground war.
.In the early 1990s in Bosnia and in Kosovo, President Clinton belatedly authorized U.S. air power through NATO to give support to Muslims fighting the Bosnian Serbs and Serbian Kosovars, bent on establishing a greater Serbia cleansed of Muslims. It resulted in a diplomatic resolution.
The Kurds are the best fighters in Iraq. With U.S. weapons, training, and air support, the plan is for Kurds to get time to gather strength and slow down ISIS’ advance to Baghdad, giving an opportunity for Baghdad to get its act and resolve together and fight its own war.
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