President Obama’s ISIS Strategy – What I Heard – and Didn’t

I found president Obama’s response to ISIS to be unsatisfying.  It described why we feel a threat from ISIS and that we are planning an extended bombing campaign.  However, it isn’t clear how it really differs from current policy except that it will go on longer  and may extend into Syria.  Most of my questions are still unanswered.

  1. Represent a wide coalition.  All I heard about the composition of the coalition was that Secretary of State Kerry is working on it.  It is intended to be a large group but apparently is not yet.  This is not the George H. W. Bush style of preparing a coalition before the fight starts.  Too bad.
  2.  Enable building respect for traditional Islam.  The president noted that ISIS is not an Islamic organization by any stretch but could have done more to attract true Islamists and promote moderate clerics.
  3.  Make our motivation is clear.  Our motive seems to be only the interests of the US.  That’s ok for us but there was no story to tell those who are inclined to believe that all we care about is oil and our business interests.  He mentioned groups that have been severely oppressed but it was sort of a passing comment rather than a strong motive.  We would not be increasing our activity solely to protect Iraqis.
  4.  Goal. How do we know when we’re done?  How will we know if we are winning?  I still don’t know.  I guess we’ll know when ISIS is defeated because we’ll know it when we see it.  I was hoping for something a little more specific.
  5. Roles.  Since we don’t know who the partners are, we can’t say their roles.  Makes this post easier to write though.
  6.  Sunni relationships. As I feared, the president took the wishful thinking approach that the new government is automatically a better and more inclusive one and that the Sunni’s will therefore automatically be motivated to fight ISIS.  Time will tell but this is a major issue.
  7.  Exit Strategy.  Oh well, maybe that will be clear as well.  It certainly is not now.
  8. Forward.  Last, can we leverage the coalition for the future?  Well, we don’t know who is in the coalition, what their roles are, how they are motivated so a prediction of the future can only be made by a politician.

I give the president an A for effort and for taking on a campaign he really does not want but a D for content.  Now I hope there is more to come and wish John Kerry remarkable success in his mission.

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