A reader succinctly sums up a common sentiment in the in-tray:
Give the president some time and see how this works out. I can’t believe that after six years of meep meep, you keep freaking out like this.
Another adds, “Is it too much of a cliché to say Keep Calm and Know Hope?” Another:
Really disappointed in your attacks on Obama. So far, his actions against IS(IS) have been quite successful. Most of the Yazidis are off the mountain and receiving food and medicine rather than a horrible death, the same for the Shia community of Amerli. IS’s march towards the Kurdish capital of Irbil, a rare success story in the region, has been stopped. IS have lost control of the Mosul Dam, which controls the region’s water and electricity supply and if destroyed would unleash a tsunami over a huge area. Maliki’s been replaced in Iraq. All this without generating any real outrage against America.
Some of the rhetoric about destroying IS may be way unrealistic, but I think his actions have been careful and effective. I think Obama will stall and partially reverse what was an alarmingly rapid expansion of this frightening group, and at an acceptable price ensure the Middle East becomes a little less awful in a situation when doing nothing would see it become a lot more awful. Doesn’t that deserve our support?
As for “war,” calm down. We’re going for containment. ISIL is not ten feet tall, they’ve lost repeatedly when faced by peshmerga or Iraqi forces backed by US air power. If Mr. Obama really meant to obliterate ISIL, we’d be talking Marines, not air power supporting the locals. So this is containment to be followed we hope by ISIL making a hash of things in their territory and eventually being nibbled to death by Baghdad and the Kurds and Assad and even the Free Syrian Army. Al-Baghdadi’s only possible winning move is against Mecca and Medina, and if we block that effectively, he’ll wither over time. If ISIL attacks the US or Europe we have their home address and we have lots of bombs. None of this is good, but neither is it time to panic.
Mr. Obama played a bad hand about as well as it could be played.
Another switches metaphors:
As always, I think we underestimate Obama when it comes to playing foreign policy chess. Remember how it looked like Syria was an utter disaster for him a year ago?
But he achieved his objective, near complete destruction of Assad’s chemical weapons. I think his long game in the current situation is this: continue a punishing air campaign against ISIL while ramping up intelligence to thwart more videos of Americans being murdered and prodding reluctant allies to step up. In two months (the extent of his authority, according to the War Powers Act and after the elections), he’ll go to Congress for further authorization. Then the hot potato is in their laps. They can’t punt it then – the whole country will be watching. If the allies have started to roll ISIL back, the chorus for further escalation might be defeated. If they haven’t, it still might – a lot of Republicans AND Democrats resent our having to clean up other country’s messes alone.
But much more importantly, the decision won’t be made by an imperial president. It will be made by the recently elected representatives of the people – and that, I think, is Obama’s real objective.
Another references our most recent Email of the Day:
“My gut reaction was that this wasn’t the guy I voted for – what happened to that guy?” What is it about Americans that they constantly delude themselves that the Candidate is ever going to bear any relation to the Office-holder? When junior Senator Barack Obama was running for President in 2008, he had no access to classified information, comparatively little information about the world beyond the borders, and absolutely no information whatsoever about the nature of the threat or of other national security interests in the REAL WORLD. Which is why, incidentally, Mitt Romney quit talking about Benghazi after he was officially the Republican nominee – because if you were reading the papers, you read that the day AFTER the Republican convention ended he got his first, albeit limited, classified intelligence briefing.
The President of the United States is not, cannot be, and should not be expected to be, the “same guy” as the candidate for the office of President of the United States. Get over it already.
Another questions the idea that the president should have a set strategy on ISIS:
Isn’t it possible that the reason Obama did not give a long-range detailed plan for how to deal with ISIL is that he has learned that war in the Middle East is very fluid and constantly changing? If so, then he is the smartest one in the room, because he is not predicting anything. He is taking an action (which will have a military effect on ISIL) while basically saying, “Let’s see what’s going on in six months before we choose our next step.” Maybe the Iraqi government will be more solid; maybe the Kurdish troops will be better trained; maybe our relationship with Iran will be stronger because of a mutual enemy … who knows what will be. Obama is taking his usual centrist approach and saying let’s see what’s happening later before we decide our next step.
Or as another puts it:
Obama’s proposed path occupies a more flexible, middle ground between the extremes of the neocon’s “shock and awe,” total-war argument and your new “do nothing,” burn-and-rebuild position.
Another round of dissents coming soon.
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)