President Obama recently surveyed his anti-terror efforts and gave himself high marks. In an address at MacDill Air Force Base, he wrote his own version of history, defending himself as the only president to spend two terms at war.
His defining criteria? The death of Osama bin Laden, eradicating “al-Qaeda,” “delaying Iran’s nuclear program,” and (efforts at) destroying ISIS- all while bringing troops home and protecting the country from another 9/11-style attack. As he put it, “No foreign terrorist organization has successfully executed an attack on the homeland.”
It’s true that we haven’t endured another 9/11-style attack. But killing Osama bin Laden was a dubious achievement. We are advancing in Iraq and Syria. ISIS is in retreat, we’re told. Few would try to minimize the challenges he has faced. But could he have done better?
Every president since WWII has watched plans of peace in the Middle East evaporate, and Obama made his own mistakes- mistakes that cost many lives and led to an immensely elevated threat. Obama’s Libya intervention was the first of many missteps. American and allied forces removed a dictator but failed to fill the power vacuum.
Four brave Americans died horribly in Benghazi- whilst begging Hillary Clinton to send help. We lost a great deal of ground there- ground which ISIS quickly occupied. Now our forces are back on the ground- trying to remove jihadists from their hiding places in a tangled urban environment.
Obama’s pulling out of Iraq cannot be criticized too harshly. We lost important gains and delivered a soft target to jihadists in 2014 in Syria. By 2015, ISIS controlled more ground, had more men, and more firepower than any jihadist force in history. It’s inspired Muslim militants all over the world and helped trigger the prolonged Syrian refugee crisis. And the withdrawal from Iraq improved Iran’s military position considerably.
At every turn, Obama’s choices reinforced and emboldened the Islamic Republic. His nuclear deal enriched Iran and did nothing to slow its weapons program, and his irresponsible foreign policy has fostered many opportunities for Iran to forward its interests.
Iran has killed many American soldiers and worked to undermine our position in the Middle East, yet we have responded by providing ayatollahs with relief, cash, and access to the global arms market.
Considering the power imbalance between Iran and the U.S, the nuclear “deal” is sure to go down in history as among the most foolish diplomatic agreements ever made. In Syria, Obama had few options, nevertheless, he choose the worst options every single time. He drew a limp-wristed “red-line” which was never enforced. He failed to see the threat presented by ISIS. He failed to mount a meaningful response to the still exploding refugee crisis- even as parts of Europe endure a rape and mass murder epidemic burgeoning on historic in scale. Vladimir Putin has had to step in on several occasions and take up the slack. Today, it’s difficult to imagine a solution that doesn’t leave Iran and the Kremlin with more influence in the region.
There’s a running theme here: as we retreat, our enemies advance. The alternative to projecting American military power, as it turns out, isn’t peace- but power vacuums that the enemies of western values are all too eager to fill.
By 2015, Obama had awoken to the reality of military and diplomatic failures on almost every single front. Suddenly, almost as a kind of reflex shame response- thousands of U.S. troops went back into Iraq, engaging in ground battle, again. We now maintain troops in Afghanistan, and U.S. air power has attacked targets in half-dozen different countries.
That is to say, Obama- in a frenzy- started fixing key mistakes. If the Mosul offensive succeeds by inauguration day, he will have one real victory to take credit for, and Trump will face a profoundly weakened ISIS.
But Trump will certainly face a reinforced Iran, a seemingly endless Afghanistan conflict, a dangerous situation in Syria, and emboldened jihadists who have spread to cities all over the world. Bin Laden is dead, but ISIS is not.
There have been no 9/11-style attacks, but there was the Paris attack, the Brussels attack. There was Fort Hood, the Boston bombing, Chattanooga, the San Bernardino shootings, St. Cloud, Orlando, Manhattan, and Columbus Ohio. Jihadi violence has displaced millions and killed hundreds of thousands, and Iran enjoys magnified power.
Only now does Obama move on ISIS- hoping no one will notice his willfully bad decision making. In the end, history will judge President Obama as either massively incompetent or an outright traitor.
~ Liberty Planet