Islamic State flagThe Islamic State group has taken control of Ramadi and political pundits want to know why Iraqi forces have fled — again — despite training by U.S. troops, an abundance of U.S.-supplied weapons, and the assistance of U.S. airstrikes. The short answer is that the Obama administration has no strategy for Iraq. Dropping bombs on people is not a strategy. Regardless, here is the big picture: the U.S. has an incoherent foreign policy because it no longer knows what it stands for. America’s foreign policy failures are symptoms of a much deeper problem.

To provide a quick example of just how bad things are going in Iraq, first read Wednesday’s reporting by The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The United States is rushing 1,000 antitank rockets to the Iraqi military to help combat the massive suicide vehicle bombs that Islamic State militants used in capturing the provincial capital of Ramadi, a first step as the Obama administration weighs a range of difficult options to help its beleaguered ally. …

Obama administration officials have called the fall of Ramadi a huge setback, but they have sought to quell critics in the region and on Capitol Hill by portraying the defeat as a temporary blow that will not change the overall strategy for fighting the Islamic State or lessen the administration’s support of Mr. Abadi’s government.

Then read Tuesday’s reporting by The Associated Press:

Iraqi troops abandoned dozens of U.S military vehicles, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery pieces when they fled Islamic State fighters in Ramadi on Sunday, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, estimated that a half dozen tanks were abandoned, a similar number of artillery pieces, a larger number of armored personnel carriers and about 100 wheeled vehicles like Humvees. He said some of the vehicles were in working condition; others were not because they had not been moved for months.

This repeats a pattern in which defeated Iraq security forces have, over the past year, left behind U.S.-supplied military equipment, prompting the U.S. to destroy them in subsequent airstrikes against Islamic State forces.

Got it? The U.S. is supplying Iraqi forces with antitank weapons just days after Iraqi forces let U.S.-supplied tanks fall into the Islamic State group’s possession. As AP noted, there is now a pattern of Iraqi forces losing U.S. equipment to the terror organization.

Here is what White House Press secretary Josh Earnest told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl when he was essentially asked if this kind of pattern constitutes success:

JONATHAN KARL: On the overall track record of military operations, and the president’s strategy on this, you said we’ve seen periods of progress and success. Would you say that overall the strategy has been a success?

JOSH EARNEST: Look Jon, yeah, overall, yes. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been areas of setback as we saw in Ramadi.

KARL: Is it the exporting terror to Libya? Taking over the capitol of Iraq’s largest province? This is overall success?

EARNEST: We’ve also seen a coalition of 60 nations around the world join the United States in this fight. We’ve seen a new Prime Minister take office in Iraq and unite that country and deploy a multisectarian security force against ISIL that has succeeded in liberating important areas of Diyala, Ninevah, Babel, Kirkuk provinces. …

Translation: We’re “doing something” with a coalition of 60 nations and security forces are “doing…stuff…and things.”

Here is what I said September 13, 2012 regarding President Obama’s foreign policy:

At best, I consider it “Finger Painting Foreign Policy,” in which he takes a globular mess, rubs his hands in it, makes a bigger mess and then smiles with what he’s accomplished — while the media likens him to Jackson Pollock.

Syria has no functional government. Libya has no functional government. Yemen has no functional government. Iraq has a dysfunctional government. It seems safe to say that time has shown the finger painting analogy to be an accurate assessment, which is probably why Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is nowhere to be found.

Nancy Youssef TwitterFormer Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, however, is willing to talk. Here is what he told CBS News on Monday:

“I think first of all we need to change the rules of engagement for our troops. I think we don’t need a significant increase in troops in my view, but how they’re used needs to be changed.”

The sad news is that Mr. Obama is not likely to change the rules of engagement for American troops in any productive way because, again, he has not articulated a strategy. He reacts to world events based on political calculus, but does not try to shape them based on a core set of principles.

Even if the president had an epiphany in the final leg of his presidency, it would matter little. The collective mind of the American people is no longer moored to its founding principles. We are fractured. We are splintered. We are not united. The greatest strategy in the world cannot succeed when its implementation depends upon a nation that has stewed in moral relativism so long that it no longer knows right from wrong — or even cares to learn.

If you believe in God, then I suggest praying for the future of America. Strange days certainly lie ahead.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

12 comments

  1. “At best, I consider it “Finger Painting Foreign Policy,” in which he takes a globular mess, rubs his hands in it, makes a bigger mess and then smiles with what he’s accomplished — while the media likens him to Jackson Pollock.”

    That’s frickin’ beautiful.

  2. Talking on the phone or sitting in a room talking does not equal doing something. I think he is so bent on keeping soldiers out that he is failing to do his primary job of protecting us.

    1. The president has said multiple times that he is committed to not sending in U.S. troops in any meaningful way. Okay. Fine. Let’s run with that. He acts as if the Islamic State is not going to take that knowledge and then adjust its own strategy accordingly. By taking U.S. troops off the table — no matter what the circumstances — it frees terrorists groups to act in ways they otherwise would not.

      Even if the president was bluffing, there would be a psychological change to the organization if it always thought in the back of its mind that U.S. troops were still an option. They know he’s terrified of going there, and then act accordingly.

    1. Mr. Obama is constantly vacillates. There is nothing firm about him, which is why he talks out both sides of his mouth. Is he a committed liberal? Generally, yes. But his commitment to liberalism ends where the self-interest of Mr. Obama begins; whatever “principles” he holds are fungible.

      My guess is that America would have a more successful foreign policy under someone like Bernie Sanders, whose positions — positions he would fall on his sword for — are clearly known.

      If you’re arguing that the president is some sort of secret communist out to destroy America, then I do not agree with you. No.

      Business Insider has a good piece on this: The problem with Obama’s foreign policy is becoming clear

      “‘When I talk to foreign ministers from every country around the world, every one of our allies — they’ll all tell you privately: ‘My God. What does America stand for? Like, what do you guys want?’ And they all want to hedge as a consequence of that,’ [Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group] told BI.”

    2. “Secret communist” is a false argument easily dismissed, and I don’t believe that either.

      The truth, six years in and based on the full portfolio of his foreign and domestic policy actions, is that he believes America must pay for its alleged sins, and that he is the man to save the Middle East and other regions from the toxicity that he believes is us.

      He is no erratic and childish painter: he is a careful artist of destruction of American power and influence abroad and liberty and the rule of law at home.

    3. He is no erratic and childish painter: he is a careful artist of destruction of American power and influence abroad and liberty and the rule of law at home.

      This is where we slightly disagree. I think you give him too much credit. I think if he was truly a “careful” artist, then we would not have a Republican-controlled House and Senate as his presidency comes to a close, and Hillary Clinton wouldn’t even be an option as a candidate in 2016. Hope and Change would be on the march with Elizabeth Warren. Obama would have built on his 2008 success into a legitimate movement. He has not accomplished that goal. The culture itself keeps creeping to the left, but that isn’t because of him.

      I think Mr. Obama is a smart man who is in way over his head. He may have been happy to “manage the decline” of America (e.g., see his infamous line about America being just as exceptional as Greece or the United Kingdom), but I don’t believe he had any idea that his foreign policy would implode as it has. If he was truly careful, then he wouldn’t issues “red lines” and then backtrack when those red lines are crossed. That was an amateur mistake. He has made many such mistakes, but the media has done a wonderful job covering up for him. These days, even outlets like The New York Times are willing to essentially say, “Ummm. What the heck is going on here?” That is not the mark of a liberal artist.

  3. We can’t develop and implement a strategy when we are not even allowed to identify the enemy. Obama insists that the Islamic State is not really Islamic, and he says that “whatever ideology” drives terrorism is morally “bankrupt.” The ideology is right there in the organization’s name, Mr. President.

    And, to be fair, the Republicans have been just as apologetic about fighting terrorism. Bush insisted that we were not at war against Islam, Islam is really a peace-loving religion, the terrorists are just a splinter group of extremists who have hijacked the Religion of Peace for their own non-Islamic ends, blah, blah, blah.

    If we had fought WWII with this same sensitivity and political correctness, we would all be speaking German and/or Japanese now.

    And we can’t have a strategy or policy when the Commander in Chief is, as Charles Krauthammer accurately described him, a “bewildered bystander.” The IRS scandal, the NSA scandal, the VA scandal, the Secret Service scandal, all of which Obama ostensibly learned about from reading newspaper articles after the fact. Obama likes the pomp and circumstance, attending Washington parties, playing golf at the Dover Air Force Base country club, taking selfies at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. But when it comes to the actual business of running the executive branch of government, he has shown (to quote Krauthammer again) “little interest and even less aptitude.”

    1. I agree with you regarding political leaders who are incapable of defining the problem, Tom. I do find it strange that the president seems to know more about what constitutes true Islam than men who have dedicated their lives to studying the religion.

      I’m willing to cut Bush some slack, although I do agree that the “religion of peace” line was painful. Bush had to deal with an American culture that was already weirdly steeped in political correctness, media elites who disagree with his worldview, and political allies who aren’t very articulate. It’s rather amazing that he actually got Congress (Democrats and Republicans) to approve a resolution for war, a U.N. Resolution that gave him the green light on a global scale, and a decent coalition of a nations willing to do some of the lifting.

      America’s enemies knew exactly where Bush stood. That’s why Muammar Gaddafi gave up his chemical weapons after the U.S. invaded Iraq. That’s why Pakistan played ball. (I think it was Rumsfeld who said we’d blow them back to the Stone Age if they didn’t cooperate.) The world’s worst actors hated Bush. Meanwhile, guys like Sean Penn cried because they wanted the world to know that Hugo Chavez and his goons were all really nice guys at heart.

      I also agree with you (and Krauthammer) that Obama is not nearly as smart as others make him out to be. Mr. Obama says in his own memoirs that he was psychologically lost for years because his father abandoned him. I think it may have been Jonah Goldberg who said the U.S. is paying the price for Mr. Obama’s “daddy issues.” I agree. The president is lost on multiple levels. He’s like a man in the woods who keeps wandering around but in the end he keeps coming back to the same spot. I must respectfully disagree with sasco’s assessment and say that we give the president way too much credit if we say that the chaos we are seeing in the Middle East and parts of Africa is somehow all part of a diabolical master plan. If it is, then how does a Republican-controlled House and Senate fit into the equation?

    2. Obama a bumbler, stumbling around, not smart? No theme guiding him? He didn’t know about all those scandals, and only learned of them in the newspapers? Accountability is officially dead if those on this blog believe he is a leaf blowing in the wind rather than a man influenced by his father’s passionate writings and Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, and so many others who sought America’s comeuppance.

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