Why Obama’s ‘Don’t Have a Strategy’ Comment on ISIS was Exactly What He Should Have Said

obama-isis-1Sometimes I just sit back in awe of how ridiculous people can be. I get that I’m somewhat part of the “media” and a large part of what I do is dissecting comments made by politicians. But like with most everything I do in life, I try to take emotion out of it and see things in a “bigger picture” sort of way.

But when it comes to our politicians, it’s amazing how people can so grossly overreact on certain things. Which is partially the media’s fault.

Take, for instance, President Obama’s recent comments during a press conference (the now infamous tan suit one) where he said “we don’t have a strategy yet” to handle ISIS.

The moment I heard him say those words I knew the right-wing media were going to have a field day. Which is exactly what happened. And like Republicans often do, they’ve made absolute fools out of themselves following his statement.

Because guess what? It’s a good thing President Obama doesn’t yet have a strategy. You know why? Because ISIS is a very complex and dangerous situation. 

At this point, what “strategy” do they want from him? Sending tens of thousands of ground troops back into Iraq? I think it’s pretty obvious by now that he’s trying to avoid doing that at all costs.

And that still doesn’t address the fact that ISIS would still have a strong foothold in Syria. Pushing them out of Iraq would only be a temporary fix, because Syria is the real root of the problem.

But getting ISIS out of Iraq would require thousands of American men and women being sent there to get it done. And at this point, after over a decade at war, any president should be hesitant to put more of our brave men and women in harm’s way unless they absolutely have to.

Though, again, that still leaves the issue of Syria. Like it or not, it’s still a sovereign nation. You want to see absolute chaos? Let’s “pull an Iraq” and try to invade Syria.

So, should we arm Syrian rebels? Okay… which ones? Because there are an estimated 1,000 or so different rebel groups in Syria. Good luck finding out which ones are the “good guys.”

Oh, I know, let’s work with Bashar al-Assad. That’s what we should do, right? Work with a dictator who used chemical weapons on his own people last year. You know, the whole “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of thing. Yeah, real good idea.

That was sarcasm by the way.

Or we can do what I believe President Obama is actually attempting to do. That is, trying to get other nations (specifically Muslim ones) in the region to get on board with some kind of a collaborative plan to handle ISIS. Because that’s ultimately the best strategy.

The United States “going it alone” again in Iraq (and possibly Syria) would ultimately be a disaster. The best thing for us to do is get some of these other nations in the region (many of whom don’t like one another) to work with each other, as well as with us, to deal with ISIS.

Because without some kind of organized and coordinated effort by some of these Muslim nations in the region, we have a few “simple” choices:

  • Completely ignore it.
  • Limit ourselves to only airstrikes.
  • Send in ground troops to push ISIS out of Iraq.
  • Bomb targets in Syria.
  • Send troops into Syria.

And guess what? None of those are intelligent solutions for dealing with ISIS.

I would much rather President Obama say that we don’t currently have a strategy, while he’s working tirelessly to formulate the best one possible, than for him to come out with some thrown together “plan” that ultimately won’t accomplish much of anything.

The airstrikes he ordered are buying him time right now to come up with the most sound, and logical, strategy to deal with the very real threat of ISIS. Because when it comes to the lives of our men and women in uniform, and putting those lives at risk, nothing should be done half-assed.

Because I think we all remember what happened the last time we had a president get us involved in serious military operations without any kind of real plan.

Nearly 4,500 Americans died and over a decade later we’re still having to clean up the mess.


Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • amjpnc

    “The moment I heard him say those words I knew the right-wing media WERE going to have a field day.”

  • Jim Valley

    The republicans are outraged by every single thing Obama says and does anyway. The more sensible and mature his statement, the more unhinged and demented their response. It’s entertaining in a way, but also sad.

    • Eg Kbbs

      If you haven’t seen it, google King’s tirade on camera about the color of Obama’s suit.

      • allinfun

        Those sad bastards are now down to the slimy level of criticizing the color of the man’s suit. How sad is this for a level of discourse in American Politics? These low slime need to stand down, STFU, and admit that they have no capability of being adults about anything.

      • Mimi

        They do that to female politicians all the time. It’s only noticed because it was done to a male pretty much for the first time ever. I’m sure there have been other clothing choice crisis things in the past but not enough to warrant being able to pick a random one from historic memory.

        That said, you’re correct. I tweeted King and asked him if that was really the MOST important thing on his agenda. Not that it made one iota of difference to him of course (or rather his social network handlers) but it felt oddly good in the moment.

  • Jim Wiggin

    He probably should have said, “We have not chosen a strategy; things are evolving.” There are undoubtedly strategies in existence–the Pentagon plans for many possibilities in advance–but as Clifton says, it is a complex, dangerous and evolving situation. Presidents such as Reagan and Bush apparently had a “Whack-a-Mole” strategy which was that when ever trouble arose in the world (usually small troubles), the United States would just respond with overwhelming force (i.e., the invasion of Grenada, the invasion of Iraq). What do President Obama’s critics want us to do, invade Iraq, Syria and Ukraine (not to mention North Korea and Iran)? Lots of moles

    • Erik Brock

      OR, the Right wing extremists could just stop twisting everything he says into an excuse to rationalize their hatred of him and give him.
      It’s all just semantics, and if your goal is to not even potentially offend anyone then you’re going to end up spend more time considering your phrasing than you do on the message itself.

  • Sam Lockwood

    If Obama said that people shoud not stare at the sun the entire Republican party would probably go blind

  • forpeace

    “Thinking before speaking” is one of so many good qualities I admire about President Obama.

    If it was up to his critics, GOTP, and the warmongers such as Lindsey Grahams, or John McCain which his own campaign committee and leadership PAC have received more than $125,000 in combined contributions from defense contractors’ corporate PACs, and is always urging the U.S. Military intervention in any where he can, the entire civilization would have been destroyed by now.

  • Mel Sharples

    Obama has failed us. I voted for him twice. His foreign policy is creating a vast void. ISIS and Putin are making land grabs while the getting is good. ISIS must be destroyed.

    • suburbancuurmudgeon

      And how is that exactly? What do you expect us to do about Putin? What did Bush do when Putin invaded Georgia? Do you REALLY think we are the world’s cop and have unlimited power?

      • Bootytime

        Not for long we don’t. Its going to be a much different world with China in charge and Russia selling them unlimited resources. Not to mention Russia is claiming the entire North Pole for themselves and the only countries training to stop them right now are Finland, Norway, and Canada (watch VICE news). The United States economy is about to collapse, you have no idea how dangerous the situation is if we don’t make a stand. When other countries dictate world policy you will hate it even more then us in charge.

      • OZ_in_TX

        Amazing that you devote an entire paragraph to avoiding cuurmudgeon’s question. ‘…if we don’t make a stand.’ What does that MEAN exactly – fight Putin’s Russia? Or China (since you mention both countries)? What strategy do you SPECIFICALLY want the U.S. to follow?

      • Sunnyhorse

        And, Bootytime, when are you planning to enlist? I’m sick and tired of armchair warmongers.

      • I’m hearing this same stuff about how dangerous China and Russia are now over and over and over again whenever this ISIS situation is brought up. This must be a rightie talking point this weekend.

        Here’s someone writing at the Huffington Post:
        “China is building up their military and we are not their best friends either. This is a world problem buddy. While we thin our military others are building up. I wouldn’t be so hard on Bush. At least we felt safe. This guy is a pacifist and an appeaser. Not good for strength and security.”
        Best answer: “We already spend over 40% of all military expenditures worldwide, more than the next ten countries combined. How much more do you want to spend? As far as feeling safe, I have no fear at all, that’s what those people want and you fall right into their trap.” and ” yeah , China has a whole Aircraft Carrier now . It was made from an old freight ship . Planes land on it but I don’t know if they take off yet . China has its own problems with all its neighbors and a violent Islamic separatist insurgency . So does Russia.”

      • My reply to the sabre rattlers:
        “I just shake my head when I see these charts of our military expenditures compared to those of other countries, including China. I guess the righties really do feel that we should be in charge militarily of the WHOLE WORLD … while our infrastructure, our education system, while the people in this country collapse. How many people do we lose to stupid gun accidents (not counting intentional gun homicide) compared to how many we’ve lost to terrorism, terrorist attacks, and foreign enemies since 9/11? How many people have we lost to preventable illnesses because of no health insurance compared to how many we’ve lost to terrorism, terrorist attacks, and foreign enemies since 9/11? How do we get our priorities right as a country? Why are the righties so obsessed and filled with such fear?”

    • Twinks

      well if Obama failed you that’s too bad I did not vote for him and he pleases me in every thing he do and say you know why, In all the millions of lives we lost in wars are we as humans any better off for it I am dealing with a vet and from the way John Mc. behaves he have head injuries also so you go buddy and defeat all of them all by your self.

  • C Erich Dunne

    “We do not have a strategy for defeating ISIL yet . . .”
    Ineffective leadership? Nope.
    He’s just doing what he did in Iraq, forcing them to act first before helping them. If he had come to the rescue before they removed Malachi he would have stayed in power making things much worse.
    That statement was for ISIL as well as Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran . . . To scare them into action and let them know they will have to do the heavy lifting on this one.

    He has dozens of advisors with nothing to do all day but come up with strategies, all he has to do is pick one. Thank God we have a thoughtful and deliberate leader who doesn’t rush into war at every little crisis. If the critics had their way we would have troops in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and the Ukraine by now.

    Neo-cons think we can make the whole world do what we want because God is on our side, sound familiar? They are more dangerous to America than ant terrorist organization. -me

  • Eg Kbbs

    As well, if Obama had said “If they do X then we will do Y” then we are immediately backed into a corner. We can’t act till X and we have to do Y and only Y whether or not it is still the proper action.

    From a military standpoint, you don’t reveal your strategy beforehand. How much more conservative can you get than “loose lips sink ships”.

    But the thing that frames the desperate attempts to chip away at the president are that a prominent repub was almost instantly on TV criticizing Obama 1) for starting the press conference by highlighting the good economic news before talking about ISIS and 2) wearing a tan suit.

  • El Viejo

    The ISIS problem should be dealt with by the United Nations on a global scale. The USA must stop acting unilaterally on world conflicts. The whole world bears responsibility on such situations, and that’s why there is a U.N. Organization. Let them do their job. The USA is not the self-appointed policeman of the planet. No more US troops on foreign soils anymore!

    • Mimi

      Agreed, but while we’re at the whole flagellating ourselves for acting like the world police let’s not forget the WHOLE REST OF THE WORLD, particularly Middle east countries that just ignore everything and don’t actually DO anything.

  • Bootytime

    “I would much rather President Obama say that we don’t currently have a strategy, while he’s working tirelessly to formulate the best one possible”
    Did that go in the trap or on the green?

  • brikkijim

    The United States has an image to uphold. We are the world’s watchdog and should be ready for anything. Overreacting should not be one of them but I do believe impressions are a key factor in policing without casulties. He could of left that sentence out and dealt with it internally.

    • Twinkle

      Just as I taught all we must be about is image and is that same shit that have us in every body business and our own here stinking why not concentrate on fixing our broken system then tackle what is going on overseas we have thousands of soldiers suffering here the after mart of WAR.

  • Chas Mcarty

    Where is it written that he has to tell the tabloids anything he plans to do?

    I think his statement was aimed as much at the neocons who feel that his terms are mere interruptions in their agenda of wars. They are still in the background calling shots to the republicans, they just dropped the PNAC name for the new Foreign Policy Initiative.
    Same players, same agenda that voters already rejected twice.