Many, if not most, people assumed it, but it was still alarming to hear the President of the United States actually say it.
“We don’t have a strategy yet,” President Obama conceded yesterday, referring to his approach – or lack of one, rather – to confronting and defeating the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
As CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr remarked, “[It’s] worth remembering that ISIS fighters, ISIS leadership will hear this statement that the U.S. right now has no strategy to deal with them.” And let’s not forget about the hundreds of American troops on the ground in Iraq. What should they think?
For nearly a year, Speaker Boehner has urged President Obama to “get engaged” and “lay out a plan for how we can reverse the momentum and spread of terrorism in Iraq,” Syria and the rest of the Middle East. But after all this time, President Obama has still got nothing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has certainly taken note. Earlier this month, President Obama told The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman that Putin “‘could invade’ Ukraine at any time, and, if he does, ‘trying to find our way back to a cooperative functioning relationship with Russia during the remainder of my term will be much more difficult.’”
Columnist Charles Krauthammer was taken aback by the president’s statement then: “A Russian invasion would be a singular violation of the post–Cold War order, a humiliating demonstration of American helplessness and a shock to the Baltic republics, Poland, and other vulnerable U.S. allies. And Obama is concerned about his post-invasion relations with Putin?”
Yesterday, with the predicted invasion in full swing for the entire world to see, President Obama refused to call it what it is when asked point-blank. Russian military convoys in Ukraine, he said, are merely a “continuation of what’s been taking place for months,” and “not really a shift.” Instead, he alleged, “the fact that Russia has taken these actions in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukrainians has resulted … in a weakening of Russia[.]” This from the man who claimed he had al Qaeda on the run and the terrorists on their heels.
Are we really to believe that Russia is weaker now that it’s gobbling up a sovereign country? “That may not be apparent immediately,” President Obama admitted, no doubt to Putin’s amusement.
To counter Russian aggression, President Obama says he is attempting to “mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia.” But Putin is also applying pressure – by mobilizing tanks.
Today’s Washington Post editorial alludes to President Obama’s anemic response thus far and urges him to show he’s serious about holding America’s number one geopolitical foe accountable:
“What is evident is that Mr. Putin cares little for diplomatic ‘off-ramps,’ as the West calls the various face-saving solutions it has dangled since Mr. Putin first began his squeeze on Crimea, and to which Mr. Obama alluded yet again Thursday. … [G]iven the global repercussions of this struggle, the United States and its allies cannot afford to let Mr. Putin break the rules. It is time to hit Russia with the full brunt of financial sanctions, to supply Ukraine with the arms and intelligence it needs to defend its territorial integrity (which Russia itself once pledged to respect), to halt all military sales to Russia by Western nations — and to bolster the neglected North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”
For now, red lines go wholly unenforced and the Islamic State goes largely unchecked.