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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Politization of the ISIS Threat: Business as Usual.

Link: Juan Williams says ISIS will Benefit Democrats in Midterms

Former CIA Director Panetta Critical of Iraq Pullout

The first news story that grabbed my attention today focused on threats made by the Islamic State (IS) to French, Australian and American citizens, and it came as no surprise.  IS is not pleased with the ongoing air campaign which has disrupted IS attempts to establish itself in oil-rich areas of Kurdistan.  It is estimated that IS already earns over one billion dollars a day in oil revenue.  By the way, who is purchasing oil from IS?  Shouldn't our military resources be focused on shutting down this IS cash cow?  Now that kind of valuable intelligence would make an Accessions List sparkle (excuse the Agency insider comment).  As for the threats against Yanks, Frenchies, and Aussies, take it at face value.  This part of the world is known for drama.  Remember the Iraqi Spokesman who, during Operation Enduring Freedom, continued to broadcast about Iraqi battlefield victories, as Abrams tanks were pulling up outside his office?  In warfare, bullets are a lot more dangerous than words.  The second article that grabbed my attention highlighted comments by Fox News contributor Juan Williams on the IS issue and how it plays into U.S. politics.  Williams hypothesized that President Obama's approval ratings would improve because of his declaration of "war" against the IS. Williams added that Obama's improved image would benefit Democratic Senate and House candidates in this year's November midterm elections.  I normally disagree with Juan regarding policy, but he is usually on the money with political forecasting.  I agree that an increased military effort in support of our national security is a no-lose proposition for President Obama.  But it doesn't make me happy.

I am one of those folks who believe that Hurricane Sandy helped President Obama win re-election in 2012.  Mitt Romney playing defense for the last month and bizarre instances of voter fraud in key battleground states also played a role, but in the end President Obama won re-election in 2012, and it appears he might be about to do it again, albeit in a different political venue.  I really like Juan Williams.  I have heard he is a true gentleman and I believe he plays his part of the Fox News "counter argument" in fine fashion.  But I am thoroughly disturbed with the glee he seems to express, as he pronounces that, yet again, smoke and mirrors will decide a major U.S. election.  I did not vote for Barack Obama, and I am not a supporter of his policies.  Oddly enough, considering the subject of this blog, foreign policy is not my "Obama complaint".  Simply put, he has taken our grandchildren's credit card out of the White House wallet, and has charged up seventeen trillion dollars in debt in six years.  This is not a GOP-doctored number.  Check it out for yourself.  Now what have we purchased that was worth going into debt (much of it to China) for seventeen trillion dollars (and counting)?  The economy is sluggish, employment figures are disturbing, and we keep on spending.  Be that as it may, I write this blog to comment on issues of intelligence and international conflict, not domestic economics.  In my position as host of this blog, I have opined on more than one occasion that I believe the Obama Administration has not handled the "IS" issue very well.  As former CIA Director Leon Panetta (an Obama appointee) has stated, we should not have left Iraq without some military presence in place.  In the second link provided above, Panetta argues that the IS has become an issue because of Obama's desire to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan quickly.  Panetta also argues that the Administration should have made the decision last summer to support the New Syrian Army (NAS). I don't agree with Panetta on the last point, but I am very concerned by what appears to be a military policy that is designed to affect U.S. elections.  No doubt the Democrats were not seeding the Tropics to create Hurricane Sandy and give Obama the opportunity to look "presidential" just prior to a national election, but in this instance I would not be surprised if politics was at play in forming military policy.  And I am frustrated by the voting public for being such a patsy.

U.S. Air Force strikes on IS positions in Iraq and Syria will make nice clips for the evening news.  Every American (count me in) will no doubt find some satisfaction in our response to the murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.  But would we be engaged in this bombing campaign if we weren't approaching a pivotal election?  Why am I so cynical?  I have trouble supporting a policy that has so many questions and so few answers.  More importantly, I believe our policy to arm surrogates to fight the ground campaign of this conflict is a repeat of past errors.  One of the hallmarks of this Administration has been its unwillingness to provide a complete policy for any of its initiatives.  I will repeat a few of the questions I have been asking over the past week.  Will IS also be engaging regular Syrian forces with the weapons we provide?  Of course they will, and the Russians, with their guy Assad sitting in Damascus, will respond.  I do not believe that we should be involved in the Syrian civil war.  But we will be, once the New Syrian Army turns its focus away from the IS and towards its real target, the Ba'ath regime in Damascus.  Call me old school, but I believe wars are terrible things and should be fought with all vigor and ended as soon as possible.  If the IS is a threat to our national security, then we need to revisit the original decision to high-tail it out of Iraq, and hit IS from three directions: Iraq, Kurdistan, and Syria.  We should use every appropriate military tool to obliterate this group.  It is possible to defeat an ideology; we ended the scourge of National Socialism (Nazis) in 1945, and we discredited communism with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  If we attack the IS with this kind of approach, we will discourage the next nut job who wants to take us on.  Instead, we have an air campaign, conducted alongside our French friends (again, this conflict is making for some strange bedfellows), and a surrogate army of ex-Syrian soldiers to bleed out for us "in proxy".  I believe the New Syrian Army, trained and equipped by the U.S., alongside an air campaign that destroys the IS supply routes, will be successful.  And this is where the problem begins.  What if our surrogate is successful?  Do we recognize them as the next Syrian government?  Do we immediately end all military support and say "you've gotten all your getting from us, folks- good luck?"  Again, no answers.  Actually, that's not true.  Someone may proffer up a vague response or two, but the real issue is, NO POLICY.

Juan Williams is a Democrat, and understandably looks forward to the political "bump" the Democrats will gain from the image of a "wartime President".  But its an illusion.  We all know that Obama is no Hawk.  But he can play one on TV for a while in order to win an election.  I hope Juan is wrong.  I hope that the Democrats don't keep control of the Senate, so that I don't have to listen to people regret their vote for the next two years.  President Obama does not appear to have a "complete" strategy for entering into this conflict with the IS.  But he is very strategic when it comes to the political battlefield.  I am very concerned by Obama's repeated threats to use Executive Authority to create and enforce domestic policy.  Most important is the issue of Immigration; are we are going to reward folks whose presence in the United States is predicated on breaking our laws?  Any form of Amnesty will only increase the flow of undocumented aliens crossing into the United States from Mexico; its not Rocket Science.  So it becomes an issue of National Security.  The only reason Obama is able to accuse Congress of not doing its job, is because the Democratically-controlled Senate under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, refuses to let any House-passed legislation reach the floor of the Senate.  It gives Obama the "manufactured" authority to act unilaterally.  If the GOP controls both the House and the Senate, Obama will be forced to either pass or veto all sorts of issue-driven legislation.  And the reasonable and well-thought House Immigration Bill provides an alternative to Amnesty.  President Obama will no longer be able to tell the American people that he must use Executive Authority because Congress is lazy.  Basically, we would have a government that utilizes the "checks and balances" theory of administration, which is the way its supposed to be.

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