In July 2007, Barack Obama was running for president after holding the title of U.S. Senator for only two-and-a-half years. His lack of experience, however, was rivaled by his lack of modesty.
“One thing I’m very confident about is my judgment in foreign policy,” he told a gathering of elites in Manhattan, touting his “set of experiences that come from a life of living overseas, having family overseas, being able to see the world through the eyes of people outside our borders.” Six months earlier he had bragged on ABC’s “Good Morning America” about how, in college, he “majored in international relations.”
More than seven years later and five-and-a-half into his presidency, with Russia’s Putin poised to invade Ukraine, it seems President Obama’s super advanced foreign policy judgment is a couple Crimeas short of a Kremlin.
And then there’s Iraq, a country that turned into one big terrorist tent revival while the Obama administration told everyone it had al Qaeda “on the run.” Caught totally off guard, the president has no comprehensive strategy to reverse the resurgence, and his nebulous guiding principles are painfully evident. “I’ve been trying to figure out this man’s [foreign policy] doctrine now for six years,” NBC’s Chuck Todd said on Sunday. “He doesn’t have one.” Andrea Mitchell followed: “To permit ISIS to do what it’s done [in Iraq]. … And to say that he didn’t have intelligence. … The fact is there was intelligence. … The White House wasn’t listening.”
Never one to accept responsibility, President Obama has been in full blame-spreading mode. ISIS’s “advance … has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates, and I think the expectations of policy makers both in and outside of Iraq,” he said.
National Journal’s Ron Fournier rejected this buck passing. “This is a president who underestimated [ISIS] …. He underestimated what was going to happen after Libya …. He underestimated Putin; he underestimated several other areas. He’s been … the underestimator in chief. … We can’t afford [for] the president to underestimate this threat. … I wish I was more confident that the president really understood the threat to our homeland[.]”
The Obama administration’s detachment, aloofness, and lousy judgment has been a team effort. Here are three times they got Iraq completely wrong:
#1: Vice President Joe Biden predicted Iraq “could be one of the greatest achievements of this administration.”
- Appearing on CNN in February 2010, Biden said, “You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.”
#2: Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan dismissed the possibility of a “violent Islamic caliphate.”
- On June 29, 2011, Brennan said, “[A]l Qaeda’s grandiose vision of global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate …. is absurd, and we are not going to organize our counterterrorism policies against a feckless delusion that is never going to happen.”
- As The Weekly Standard noted, “Three years later to the day, on June 29, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) [also known as ISIS] announced that it now ruled large swaths of Iraq and Syria as a caliphate.”
#3: President Obama flippantly described ISIS as a “jayvee team” that was not a serious threat.
- In The New Yorker in January, the president said, “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”
Turns out terrorists got game. Speaker Boehner sounded the alarm in January and urged the president to “get engaged.” But as Andrea Mitchell said, the White House wasn’t listening – to anyone. Here’s what the outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, had to say this month about his warnings regarding the growing terrorist threat, which the White House ignored:
We said many times, “Hey, we need to get this intelligence in front of the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the National Security adviser! The White House needs to see this intelligence picture we have!
We saw all this connective tissue developing between these [proliferating] terrorist groups. So when asked if the terrorists were on the run, we couldn’t respond with any answer but ‘no.’ When asked if the terrorists were defeated, we had to say ‘no.’ Anyone who answers ‘yes’ to either of those questions either doesn’t know what they are talking about, they are misinformed, or they are flat out lying.