Don’t tell Ray Odierno that Barack Obama doesn’t want to put boots on the ground. As he tells Joe Scarborough and the Morning Joe panel in this segment, the US already has boots on the ground — we just don’t have enough of them. A few dozen commandos won’t suffice, Odierno warns. Until we put a significant number of troops in the theater, our allies in the region won’t risk it either. And make no mistake, Odierno says, that’s what it will take to “destroy” ISIS. As the former Army chief of staff says, air power alone has never dislodged an entrenched army, let alone collapse a quasi-state:
Odierno says that the US has lost its credibility in the region, both with Obama’s half-hearted ISIS strategy and the way in which he grasped at a bad deal with Iran. The point of putting conventional American troops on the ground for combat is to rebuild trust that the US is actually committed to this fight:
Odierno singled out the Iran nuclear deal as an issue that has strained the U.S.’s relationship with its partners.
The deal, which trades tens of billions in previously-frozen assets and economic activity in exchange for short-term restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, has strengthened Iran’s influence in the region. This is concerning to Sunni nations like Saudi Arabia and nations concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism like Israel.
“With the nuclear deal with Iran, you’ve got to rebuild relationships with Saudi Arabia and others,” Odierno said.
Odierno said that the U.S. must regain the trust of its partners so they will contribute more to the coalition effort against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group. Saudi Arabia has reduced its commitment to the anti-IS coalition in recent months in order to focus on the Iranian-fueled conflict in Yemen, on Saudi Arabia’s southeastern border.
“They’ve got to believe we’re going to do what we say. That’s how you build this coalition,” Odierno said.
It’s not just the Saudis who need their confidence restored in Obama. The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer and Michael Shear report that Democrats are losing confidence in Obama’s handling of ISIS and the Middle East, too:
Many of President Obama’s Democratic allies in Congress say they do not believe he is being aggressive enough in confronting the terrorist threat of the Islamic State after last week’s attacks in California, undermining Americans’ sense of safety, especially among voters who will decide the party’s fate in elections next year.
The concerns began to surface last month, when senior administration officials went to Capitol Hill to urge Democrats to reject a bill to curb a Syrian refugee program and were rebuffed. That hostility grew with their increasingly uncomfortable efforts to defend Mr. Obama’s strategies in the Middle East after the attacks in Paris and California.
And Mr. Obama’s address to the nation Sunday — which several congressional Democrats said was an idea they pushed — left them wanting more.
“When you interrupt the nation with an urgent and unscheduled statement from the Oval Office, or the White House, there’s I think an expectation that the address will contain a new approach or a new element,” said Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee.
This is a point that needs to be underscored, and one that truly shows Obama in a bubble. The speech he gave Sunday from the Oval Office — strangely with a podium in front of the desk — could just as easily been given the next day in the White House briefing room. It had nothing new in it at all; it was a set-up that had nothing to deliver. It was as if Obama’s handlers convinced him that the moment needed dramatic framing, and Obama agreed to it but failed to grasp why.
Nate Beeler’s editorial cartoon from last month seems more pertinent than ever:
Obama is lost in his own world, and even his close political allies are belatedly realizing it.