In June 2014, before ISIS became perennial headline news, I had written that Obama is an indecisive, reckless and incompetent president, especially in the context of his dealing with ISIS. Mr. Obama had at first declared that ISIS was only a “JV Team,” a sort of non-serious terrorist group unworthy of attention. Well, he was wrong. Over the course of many months, Obama did not act at all to treat ISIS as a real threat to contend with, but repeatedly reiterated that there will be no “boots on the ground.”
When ISIS proved that it was no “JV Team” and took over city after city, town after town in Iraq and Syria, killing hundreds and thousands, and enslave many with their brutality, Mr. Obama started to pay some serious attention to ISIS, but only committed to conduct air strikes against ISIS targets with allies, and leave ground battle to the listless Iraqi troops. Military experts have warned again and again that air strikes alone will not defeat ISIS. Mr. Obama ignored these calls.
As time went on, and as ISIS occupied more territories and U.S. air strikes has proved to be of limited effectiveness, Mr. Obama’s war bill to Congress was again very limited, that would prohibit the use of “enduring offensive ground forces” and limit engagement to three years.
And now, as ISIS took over another major city recently, Mr. Obama again declared that “I don’t think we are losing…” Utterly delusional. If we analyze Mr. Obama’s record with ISIS, we can only draw one conclusion that he is incompetent, reckless and indecisive, he is a president who is not capable of defending Americans against foreign threats such as ISIS. Does Mr. Obama want to wait until ISIS launches a major attack on US soil to finally realize that he’s been wrong all along? At the rate it is going, it only seems like such tragedy is becoming more imminent, as we sit around and do nothing against this threat, and hoping it will go away on its own without U.S. military intervention. This is utterly childish and irresponsible. The one-term Senator-turned-President has proved himself to be someone incapable of defending Americans from harm.
George W. Bush’s reckless invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a disaster, and Barack Obama’s reckless complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is a failure of equal magnitude. His policy left a vacuum for ISIS to expand its influence, and poses its real threat in the Middle East and beyond. Eight years of Obama presidency proved that lofty campaign words cannot replace decisive and effective policies. Obama’s campaign slogan “Hope and Change” has become such a platitude now. U.S. is not more secure because of Obama’s policy, it is false hope, and there is no positive change in this regard. Obama’s dealing with ISIS is a complete fiasco.
The U.S. “strategy” in dealing with ISIS is fundamentally flawed, and time will prove it that the current “strategy” (and the past no-strategy) if you can call it one, falls short of an effective strategy capable of eliminating the ISIS threat, a threat which US president Obama referred to as a “cancer.”
Barack Obama did not acknowledge ISIS as a legitimate threat since the beginning. In fact, he casually dismissed it as a “JV team.” It was not until ISIS forces started taking over Iraqi and Syrian cities and towns that the Obama administration started to treat this threat more seriously. But still, as my readers can tell from my past posts going back months ago, Obama persisted in pondering and waiting; he refused to take any meaningful actions for months, fearing that the U.S. may be dragged into another major military conflict in the Middle East.
The truth of the matter is, whether the U.S. likes it or not, ISIS is treating the United States as an enemy and its rhetoric has already consistently and clearly indicated that it is determined to attack the United States and its citizens. However, we observed no meaningful actions to destroy the ISIS cancer by the Obama administration, until we suffered the losses of two U.S. citizens’ lives, who were beheaded by a certain ISIS militant.
Throughout the past 3-4 months, Obama has been a very reluctant warrior, while he started to acknowledge ISIS as a threat; he has only instituted very limited military measures, which is no strategy to eliminate the ISIS threat. While Obama orchestrated a new strategy to deal with ISIS (which marked a great departure from past Obama policies on ISIS), epitomized in Obama’s speech on September 10, 2014, he again emphasized a limitation, that there will absolutely be no boots on the ground to combat ISIS.
Now, today on September 13, we observed another killing. This time, a British citizen David Haines was beheaded by the same ISIS militant. As more and more U.S. and UK citizens (potentially citizens from other countries too) are killed by ISIS, is the Obama administration (and the UK) going to change its policy again?
As we have consistently observed for the past few months, dealing with a grave threat such as ISIS in such reckless manner is NO strategy at all. The pattern has been that, Obama waited until something bad happens, then he escalates his responses to deal with ISIS in light of that new happening.
What is worse is that, our leadership continuously “assures” our enemy that our fight against their brutality and barbarism will be “limited,” at the same time Obama also assures the American public that he will “degrade” and “destroy” ISIS. I simply do not know how these two assurances can coexist.
How can we degrade and destroy ISIS by using air strikes alone? Sure, the Kurdish and Iraqi forces are part of this broader fight against ISIS, but are we sure that we want to rely on them to “destroy” ISIS? By emphatically and consistently limiting our involvement in the fight against ISIS to that of only air strikes, is not acknowledging ISIS as a “real enemy” to the United States!
It is time for the Obama administration to start taking seriously ISIS as a real threat to the United States. We need President Obama to show real courage, not timidness; real strategy, not ever-shifting and tenuous policies; real leadership, not a mere speech-giver.
I have not been shy in criticizing President Barack Obama for his foreign policy lately, specifically with regard to his foreign policy in dealing with the growing threat of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL).
Many pundits have commented that the Obama foreign policy lacks both vision and strategy. I could not agree more, and I have repeatedly criticized him for his foreign policy of inaction, and now it seems that it is growing to become a reactive one. There is a pattern that we now see. Obama waits until something happens, he ponders and waits on what should be done, then he takes a limited action—just enough to make a dent on ISIS advance in Iraq but not enough to fully eliminate this grave threat. He then seemingly becomes satisfied with a temporary fix, until something else comes along, then the whole cycle restarts.
This is now the situation, after the brutal execution of American journalist James Foley. It is becoming abundantly clear that ISIS, if given the opportunity, will try to inflict harm on American lives. Even Obama’s own cabinet member, Defense secretary Chuck Hagel and military leader Gen. Dempsey both warned the American public of the real threat that ISIS poses to the United States. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that we will see decisive, immediate action from the Obama administration. He will continue with his pondering and waiting game, until this ISIS threat grows to unmanageable extent.
His pondering and waiting game in June afforded ISIS the two-month time it needed to grow to become the massive threat we now see today. If Obama continues with his indecisive policy—now after the death of an American life—we will likely see more American causalities, not only in the distant land of Iraq, but also at home possibly as a result of a 9/11-style terrorist attack which ISIS is capable of.
Rest assured, Obama will continue the aforementioned pattern of foreign policy decision making, pondering and waiting, until his indecisiveness ultimately harms the security of the American people.
Six years into Obama’s presidency, his general leaning in foreign policy has become abundantly clear. It’s one of reaction and passivism.
When crises come, Mr. Obama usually ponders, waits, gives nice speeches that entail warnings against offending foreign entities, he follows up with no concrete actions, he then waits more, and as situation escalates, he reluctantly commits to some kind of limited actions (or no actions) that do not provide a solution to the problems. This pattern can be seen in his dealing with crises in Syria, in Ukraine, and most recently in Iraq, as Islamic militants (ISIS) slaughter Christians and other ethno-religious minorities in areas that ISIS controls.
When it comes to the Obama foreign policy, it can be said that Mr. Obama is a man of many words, but not too many concrete actions.
Don’t get me wrong, despite my criticism of Mr. Obama’s policies, I think he is an intelligent man. He is thoughtful, articulate and calculating. He would not have won two battles for U.S. presidency if it were not for these traits that he possesses. Meanwhile, these positive traits could become negative assets if he does not engage others and continues to be aloof and indecisive in decision making.
Some observers (including both democrats and republicans, and even his half brother) have pointed out that Mr. Obama is an introvert and aloof, who ostensibly does not always engage others effectively to solve problems at hand. Let us not forget, Mr. Obama also lacked executive experience, and had always been a law-maker (at state and federal level) prior to assuming the position as U.S. President. He had not been equipped and trained to handle crises that are often involved in an executive-branch position.
As crises, both domestic and foreign, piled up on after another, Mr. Obama acted in a manner that suggests that he is totally inept in dealing with these situations. His thoughtful and calculating traits do not serve him well in these situations. Why is Obama so reluctant and reactive in foreign affairs? It is partly because he is too calculating. Unfortunately, when someone is too calculating, he becomes short-sighted and can fail to see the big picture.
During his press conference regarding air strikes against ISIS, Mr. Obama emphasized yet again that these air strikes are only of limited scope, and under no conditions will the U.S. send ground troops again to Iraq. This kind of rhetoric only emboldens our enemies, knowing the United States does not want to get involved in foreign problems.
Why would Obama do something like this? We cannot lose sight of the fact that mid-term elections at home is only less than three months away in November, which will decide whether the Senate will revert to Republican control. Mr. Obama wants to assure the war-weary American public that he is not sending U.S. troops to Iraq again, to strengthen the possibility of a democratic-controlled Senate after the mid-term elections. If both the House of Representatives and Senate turn Republican, Obama becomes lame-ducked and will not be able to effectively implement his policy goals during the last two years of his presidential term. He won’t like that.
His calculating nature which in part resulted in his reactive and passive foreign policy, comes with severe consequences. The first consequence is of humanitarian nature. It took Obama two months to decide to drop bombs on ISIS, as the militant terrorist group threatened the Kurdish-controlled region and U.S. military advisors in Iraq. During these two months as ISIS militants seized control of much of Iraq, Obama did nothing; and when he does decide on air strikes, it has already become too little and too late. Thousands of Iraqis were killed, women raped, people beheaded and crucified, including young children, who were also cut into halves, as news reports noted. Had Mr. Obama struck the nascent ISIS early on, we probably would not be here today dealing with issues of genocide and massacre of Iraqi civilians.
The second consequence of his reactive foreign policy is of national security nature. It is naïve for the Obama administration and some members of congress to think that an Iraq under ISIS threat is none of our business. This militant group is more extreme than al-Qaeda, and has issued threats against the United States. ISIS has no problem cruelly slaughtering civilians in Iraq, and given the opportunity as it grows larger and more influential, it will definitely strike the United States. The Obama administration’s inaction and failure in proactively dealing with ISIS’ threat right now, will translate into a growing ISIS threat against the United States in the future. The reality is, the emphatic and self-defeating promise of “no ground troops on the ground” is meaningless. When ISIS becomes a real and imminent security threat to the United States (due to our inaction to stop them right now), we would have no choice but to send ground troops to Iraq to deter this threat, which would most definitely result in more causalities to the U.S. military.
It is true that the future of a stable Iraq is not something that the United States can obtain by its military power alone, but one that requires an inclusive and effective Iraqi government that does not alienate different ethno-religious groups. We do not argue with Mr. Obama on that point. However, Obama administration’s passivism in dealing with the growing ISIS threat does not facilitate the realization of that “stable Iraq,” nor does this foreign policy of inaction and passivism help to strengthen U.S. national security in the future.
If Mr. Obama cares so much about his last two years in office and the potential effect of U.S. military actions against ISIS in Iraq on the mid-term election, he should care more about the long-term interest of U.S. national security and also his legacy in history as a U.S. President. His 2008 campaign slogan of “hope” and “change’ has become vacuous after six years in office; and as of 2014, he is very unpopular with the American public in recent polls. His administration is plagued by domestic scandals one after another, and his foreign policy has been largely ineffective and even invites aggression from foreign entities. If Mr. Obama does not change course, he will surely go down in history as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. Then, he will probably be remembered in history more for who he was—the first Black President—than what he had accomplished.
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.
Having known some Jewish friends across religious and political spectrum, it is hard to reconcile Dispensationalist’s literal understanding of Israel. (Note that this understanding has come to impact American Evangelicals’ understanding of U.S. relation with Israel. Therefore, it is no longer just a mere theological question, but one that has political and public-policy implications).
First, if “Israel” meant the physical “State of Israel” as we know it, then American evangelicals must understand that many within the State of Israel would not be “Israel.” For the State of Israel is comprised of citizens across political, religious, ethnic spectrums. Who then, is the true “Israel?” Is it the Ultra Orthodox Jews? Is it the Reform Jews? Is it the so-called “Russian-Jews” (for some were not by heritage Jews at all when they immigrated to Israel), what about the Arabs who are Isareli citizens? What about unbelieving Jews that are Israeli citizens?
If Dispensationalist understanding of “Israel” – at least in part – meant the physical state of Israel, its theology does not hold up, for dispensationalists must necessarily distinguish the real “people of God” from that of the non-Jews and unbelieving Israeli citizens. Confusing a religious Israel with the modern physical State of Israel as a political entity is incoherent in itself.
Secondly, Dispensationalist’s dichotomy of “Israel,” one to mean the physical state of Israel, another the church, is bizarre. Almost, if not all dispensationalists insist on the Israel/Church distinction. Despite Progressive Dispensationalists’ softening of the Israel/Church distinction, this strand of Dispensationalists still believes that God’s promises to Israel is that to the physical state of Israel. This interpretation seems quite far fetched, for Pauline theology speaks of the breaking-down of the wall between the Gentiles and Jews, and that we are fellow citizens and members of God’s household (Ephesians 2). How then can the dispensationlists erect a wall that God had already torn down?
Are the dispensationalists, as a group, truly “literal” in its interpretation? If they insist on their understanding of the “literal” interpretation of the Scriptures, especially and specifically on the distinction between the church and the State of Israel as “God’s two separate peoples” with two different sets of promises and destinies, then I must argue, there are then two meanings of “literal interpretations.” Is covenantal theology less literal? I beg to differ. What then, is being “literal?”
Dispensationalists’ Israel/Church distinction is far fetched, and they must reconcile the problems and inconsistencies their “literal interpretations” present to them. In addition to the extant traditional theological debate regarding the distinction, I would like to pose the political/public policy/foreign affairs question as well. If dispensationalists truly believe in that the State of Israel as a physical earthly separate entity that inherits a set of God’s promises and hence a different group of God’s people if you will, then who in the State of Israel is the recipient of that covenental promise? If the Dispensationalists further break it down into separate groups within the State of Israel, we are going beyond more than just a Israel/Church distinction. (I am interested in knowing how they would do that and on what scriptural basis, not to mention that the two-destiny theory lacks scriptural basis). In fact, such a proposition would result in perhaps multiple destinies and different promises God give to His people, if we follow the dispensationalists’ logic.
Then, I wonder, if such a dichotomy/distinction is warranted at first place.