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Salena Zito


Why Obama Lacks ISIS Strategy

by Salena Zito
 

SHANKSVILLE

Lambertville Road eerily remains the same bumpy local byway, from U.S. 30 to this small town, that it was 13 Septembers ago. Venerable trees still crowd its two lanes; mobile homes sprinkled among worn wood-frame houses appear unchanged.

But it is a rustic veneer tacked over a country that changed forever that awful day.

In the weeks after terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, after Flight 93 nosedived onto the fringe of this town, President George W. Bush – no matter what you thought of him politically – rose to the challenge. We can legitimately debate why we went to Iraq, the impact of the Patriot Act and a whole host of things, but deep down we cannot debate that Bush acted.

Barack Obama, who won the presidency largely because he was not George Bush, desperately wants to be what his voters were looking for – a domestic president done with wars, and not preoccupied with big foreign policy and national security issues.

You can see it in his eyes, his voice, his body language, in the lack of conviction in his words.

The reason there is no strategy, as he said, about Islamist terrorists in Syria (and why there likely won't be one) is that his brain trust – Valerie Jarrett and key people on his National Security Council – are nowhere near qualified to advise him on security issues; they focus more on domestic issues and politics than on national security.

This is why, the day before ISIS said it beheaded journalist Steven Sotloff, you saw Obama in Wisconsin, whipping up 6,000 union members, preaching in full campaign style, castigating Republicans as the opponents of everything he wants to do.

He was in his element, with thousands of supporters hanging on his every word. No questions, no speculation, no accountability, no "hard stuff" – just pure adulation.

Twenty-four hours later, he brushed off questions about Sotloff's killing and boarded Air Force One for Estonia, where he took two questions about ISIS; he sidestepped both, neither answering nor offering clarity. Coolly and dispassionately, he summarized his strategy as making ISIS a "manageable problem."

Merging his beloved campaign mode with his governing mode has hurt Obama.

The assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs and the two State Department spokeswomen, Marie Harff and Jen Psaki, are all Obama campaign people – "message minders" for the administration. The daily State Department press briefing has become a daily defense of the president.

National policymakers decide what America's desired strategic end should be, and the military then does the strategic and operational planning to achieve that end.

But President Obama shows absolutely no desire, no will, to do what must be done; so far, the only will he has shown is to kick this threat down the road, past the midterm elections.

The fear is, will he continue kicking the terrorist can down to the end of his presidency? That is, if he can do so without something as horrid as 9/11 striking this country again?

He may make some key decisions after the midterms. But addressing the ISIS threat in a manner that accomplishes some strategic end is not the Obama way.

Another apparent element to what we are seeing from this president is tactical decision paralysis. If true, and if that becomes strategic decision paralysis, what will happen to our national security? Will that contribute to another 9/11?

Just look at our southern border: ISIS has the motive and the means to get into the nation, and the drug cartels will help it. (Remember that Iran used those cartels to attempt an assassination of a Saudi official here in 2012.)

We are running out of time and space; it is not inconceivable that ISIS is coming our way, perhaps again to a rural coal and farming town like Shanksville, or to major cities like New York or Washington – or, even worse, to all three.

What we need is leadership for all of America.

What we have been getting is a guy who can give a darn good divisional speech about raising the minimum wage, but who offers nothing about his strategy to protect us.

Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (szito@tribweb.com).

Read more: http://triblive.com/opinion/salena/6740968-74/isis-obama-national#ixzz3Cj4TIIBZ
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