Over a month ago in June 2014, as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) took over strategic cities in Iraq, the Obama administration sat on the sidelines, pondered on what to do. The administration had said at that point, that it does not rule out air strikes against ISIS, and Iraqi government also specifically sought U.S. help for air strikes against ISIS. But, nothing happened. Instead, Obama went on to criticize the incumbent Iraqi Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his failure in forging an inclusive government to include Sunni Muslims. Furthermore, Obama and his associates also blamed the previous Bush administration for invading Iraq 11 years ago.
Sure, George Bush had his share of mistakes and blame regarding Iraq, invading Iraq with the pretext of finding “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMD), and he found none. Shortly after initial U.S. military success in May 2003, Bush stood in front a large banner that read “Mission Accomplished” and declared the end of “Major Combat Operation” in Iraq, only to find U.S. troops engulfed in increased and incessant urban guerrilla warfare and un-abating sectarian violence.
Blaming George Bush for his Iraq policy failure is fair game. But, over against George Bush’s recklessness, we now have a sitting president who is indecisive, incompetent, and equally if not more reckless than his predecessor. Barack Obama pulled out U.S. troops entirely from Iraq in 2011, leaving the new Iraqi government to its own devices. This is a very different approach compared to U.S. military policy of having troops stationed in Japan and Korea for peace keeping purpose after World War II and the Korean War, and underestimated the ensuing sectarian violence in Iraq after U.S. troops left. In fact, like Bush, Obama declared in 2011 that “we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq.” Just as history proved George Bush wrong, history has already proved Barack Obama wrong, and he continues a flawed foreign policy and refuses to change.
The ISIS has proved itself to be more extreme than al-Qaeda. It is so extreme that even al-Qaeda has disowned it. On June 15, 2014, ISIS’ leader Al-Baghdadi issued a message for the U.S.: “soon we will face you, and we are waiting for this day.” On July 24, 2014, a senior State Department official told lawmakers of both chambers on the Hill that ISIS is no longer a terrorist organization, but a “full-blown army.” The official also warned that ISIS is “worse than al-Qaeda,” it is a threat to U.S. interests, and it has a chilling message for the U.S., “we are coming for you, Barack Obama.”
It is in this context and other major events that took place recently that we see more clearly the current President Barack Obama’s incompetence, indecisiveness and recklessness. He seems to have completely caught off guard and does not know how to respond. In the face of a grave threat to U.S. national security interest, he continues to sit on the sidelines, giving his nice speeches, with no actions to back up his lofty words. Yes, George Bush was reckless, but Barack Obama is more reckless in the sense that he would rather risk the security of the United States and the safety of the American people, than facing the real threat with doable actions, such as air strikes against ISIS in the early stage of the game. He refused to act and continues to do so, and by the time he does act (if he does), it might be too late. Unfortunately, it is already too late for some in the Iraqi cities like Mosul, Iraqi Christians who now face either conversion to Islam, paying a ridiculous tax to ISIS, or death.
Obama’s touted foreign policy can be summed up in the phrase “leading from behind,” which will become a laughingstock in history, as allies have become doubtful of U.S. leadership and alliance, and enemies/unfriendly forces seeing Obama administration’s weaknesses and advance to take advantage of it. Leading from behind, well, has sort of become another word for inaction, and that invites aggression.
It is fair game to blame George Bush for his failed Iraq policy, but at least he’s got something Barack Obama does not have, guts.