Posted by Curt on 3 September, 2014 at 6:33 pm. 3 comments already!


Richard Fernandez:

Much of today’s commentary revolves around the president’s inability to articulate a policy towards ISIS. The president was pressed in Estonia to outline his plans amid multiple crises,  especially in the aftermath of Steven Sotloff’s decapitation. The New York Times in an article headlined “Commitments on 3 Fronts Test Obama’s Foreign Policy” captures the dilemmas the president is facing.

WASHINGTON — In vowing in Estonia on Wednesday to defend vulnerable NATO nations from Russia, President Obama has now committed the United States to three major projections of its power: a “pivot” to Asia, a muscular presence in Europe and a new battle against Islamic extremists that seems likely to accelerate.

American officials acknowledge that these commitments are bound to upend Mr. Obama’s plans for shrinking the Pentagon’s budget before he leaves office in 2017. They also challenge a crucial doctrine of his first term: that the use of high technology and only a “light footprint” of military forces can deter ambitious powers and counter terrorists.

How, the article implicitly asks, is Obama going to take on three fronts and shrink the armed forces at the same time?  No one has the answer to that head scratcher, but the president’s supporters are trying to interpolate one.

Kevin Drum argues that Obama’s statements have been so incomprehensible of late because the world is a complicated place. “I should add that nobody on the planet—not even John McCain!—knows how to destroy ISIS. Everybody wants some kind of magic bullet that will put them out of business without committing any ground troops, but nobody knows what that is. So until one of the blowhard hawks comes up with an actual plan that might actually work, I’ll stick with Obama’s more cautious approach. I figure he’ll do something, but only when politics and military strategy align to provide a plausible chance of success.”

As for Russia, Drum asks ‘what is all this talk about gray areas’. The president has been clear cut and decisive. “In fact Obama’s statement was unusually straightforward. He said the same thing he’s been saying for months about Ukraine, and it’s really pretty clear.”

  • We are committed to the defense of NATO signatories.
  • Ukraine is not part of NATO, which means we will not defend them militarily.
  • However, we will continue to seek a peaceful settlement; we will continue to provide military aid to Ukraine; and we will continue to ratchet up sanctions on Russia if they continue their aggression in eastern Ukraine.

It’s clear in the way an eviction notice is clear; so clear it apparently means: Kiev is on its own.

Vox also tries to read the tea leaves. Zack Beauchamp argues that with respect to ISIS, what Obama is trying to convey is hard.   “Obama’s rhetoric on ISIS is confused because his administration’s policy on ISIS is confused by internal contradictions. On the one hand, Obama really does have long term ambitions to destroy ISIS. On the other hand, he recognizes that this is impossible in the near term, and that the best the US can do is lay the groundwork for ISIS’ eventual collapse. This essential tension in American objectives explains why Obama’s rhetoric and actual policy on the group are so at odds.”

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