As President Barack Obama considers options on how to approach the situation with ISIS, he continues to face questions about how effective his leadership is both in American and around the world. The president had a press conference earlier this week about the crisis in Iraq and Syria and the nature of the terror threat from ISIS. The big headline following that press conference was that there was no ISIS strategy as of yet.
There are people on both sides of this issue. Some, mostly Republicans, have criticized the President for not acting quickly enough. Many from that group would blame President Obama for how things have turned out in the Middle East because he did not leave a residual force in Iraq when America withdrew, and because he did not do airstrikes in Syria.
Others, mostly Democrats, understand the threat that ISIS brings, but is appreciative that President Obama is thinking critically about what to do and what the consequences of America’s actions will be. They want Congressional approval and an international coalition dealing with this crisis.
Now the Real Talk…
Personally, I am glad that the President is taking time to actually think about our response to the terror threat. I think that ultimately thinking about the pros and cons, thinking about the consequences of our actions, and trying to amass an international coalition is all great for the country. I am one of those war weary Americans. I don’t want us to go to war, especially indiscriminately. We do need to think about the best way to approach this situation in a way that makes sense, has clearly identifiable and attainable goals, and that the American people are comfortable with given the current crisis.
While there are differences in approach, it does appear that the American people understand the nature of the threat and are a have slightly changed their opinions on the issues. A few months ago, the public was weary about going into Iraq and were content with the US airstrikes because it did not commit boots on the ground. But with the beheading of American journalist James Foley and reports about Americans and other westerners joining the jihadist fight, they understand that the calculus has changed.
Last week, I addressed the possibility of going back to war in Iraq but briefly mentioned my displeasure with America always being the world leader that polices other countries. Why does it have to be America? This is a threat that affects many countries around the world and therefore presents an opportunity for there to be a coalition force against ISIS if it does escalate further beyond what we see with the airstrikes being administered by the United States.
Now, while I appreciate the President’s thoughtfulness when it comes to war, one thing I would criticize him about is how he communicates his methodical approach to these various issues. President Obama was slammed for saying that there is no strategy for how to address ISIS. Even if there really is no strategy at the time, that is not something that you say openly. This allows those who will criticize you regardless of what you say to use those damaging words against you in a way that makes you look weak.
However, it should be understood that gaffe’s happen; this is not a good time for a gaffe but they do happen. Obviously, there is more to the story than simply there being no strategy. There could either be no strategy that they are prepared to announce at this time. Or, there could be a series of options for strategies that the president is still deciding on. But while it is obvious that there is more to the story, something like that should not be implied or left up to interpretation, which is what happens when the president makes statements like these.
Regardless of gaffes, communications strategies, or damage control, the bottom line is that President Obama is actually thinking about the best way to go about building support, and how to engage with ISIS. As someone who remembers how hastily this country invaded Iraq under the false pretense of weapons of mass destruction, I can appreciate a more methodical approach before putting more American lives at risk. That will ultimately be the legacy of this president.