It takes a while to get to Senator Marco Rubio’s point here, but it’s worth watching the whole video. Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer sets the stage by opening with what Rubio wants to hear from Barack Obama on Wednesday as to the strategy for dealing with ISIS. When Rubio tells Schieffer that Obama has to start bombing the Syrian oil fields to deny ISIS the black-market revenues they produce, Schieffer challenges Rubio’s previous opposition to action in Syria, but Rubio reminds Schieffer that the earlier strikes were going to be conducted against Assad — and those would have benefited ISIS.
In fact, that’s Rubio’s main point — that Obama has mismanaged foreign policy in the region so badly that it amounts to “presidential malpractice”:
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that President Obama has committed “presidential malpractice” when it comes to his foreign policy in the Middle East.
“I think that Exhibit A is what he’s done with the Middle East. He ran for office under the notion that our national interest in the Middle East was to disengage as quickly as possible and disentangle from the region. And that has been chaotic,” Rubio said. He argued the president’s actions, “have been dramatically counterproductive to our foreign policy, and I think have created some generational and reputational damage to the United States of great significance.”
Rubio said the administration has sent mixed messages about the U.S. plan to combat the Islamic State of Irag and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL), leading American allies to believe that the country’s foreign policy “is in the hands of someone who does not know what he’s doing.”
Rubio scoffs at the White House contention this past week that ISIS doesn’t present a direct threat to the US:
Rubio said he believes ISIS poses a threat to the U.S., particularly because of the foreign fighters who have become radicalized but still hold U.S. passports, which calls for a different approach.
He was critical of the president’s assertion in “Meet the Press” Sunday that there has been no immediate intelligence to indicate ISIS poses a threat to the homeland.
“For us to simply sit back and say, ‘We don’t think they pose a threat,’ because we haven’t seen one, I think would be short-sighted,” Rubio said. “The fact of the matter is this group has among their ranks hundreds if not thousands of people with the capability of entering the United States quickly and easily. And we should not take that lightly.”
Rubio also dismissed calls for disengagement, from both parties, which is what he believes Obama tried to accomplish without explicitly stating his intentions. “It’s never worked any time it has been tried,” Rubio said, and assumes that the problems in the world are created by American engagement. The push for non-interventionist policies has abated in the weeks that ISIS has become a too-obvious threat, and Rubio welcomes the change. “Reality in the real world has a way of doing that,” he told Schieffer.
The question will be whether reality will intrude enough on American foreign policy. ISIS controls a lot of ground, and embeds itself into urban areas in ways that make a bombing and drone campaign very difficult. The Obama administration insists that US ground troops will not be part of the solution, and even Rubio didn’t mention them as a possibility. Obama will argue that the Iraqis and the Kurds will have to step up to defeat ISIS on the ground, but as the New York Times reports and as I pointed out in my earlier post, that’s a non-starter:
The White House is counting on an effort by American, Iraqi and Gulf Arab officials to persuade Sunni tribesman in western Iraq, now aligned with ISIS, to break their ties after chafing under the harsh Shariah law the group has imposed.
Unless the new Iraqi government is substantially more inclusive, American encouragement and support for these groups to turn on ISIS may be far less effective than it was in 2007, when many tribes fought the forerunner of ISIS, Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Some Sunni tribal leaders are still bitter at the treatment under former Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite.
“Even if they try we will not accept it,” said Sheikh Ali Hatem Suleimani, a tribal leader in Anbar who lives in Erbil. “In the past, we fought against Al Qaeda and we cleaned the area of them. But the Americans gave control of Iraq to Maliki, who started to arrest, kill, and exile most of the tribal commanders who led the fight against Al Qaeda.”
They won’t ally with the Shi’ites backed by Iran unless they have solid guarantees that they won’t get oppressed again in the next Baghdad government. They will want to see Western boots on the ground to give them those guarantees before they take their chances with Baghdad and make themselves targets for ISIS — and this time with a solid commitment to stick around for the long haul. Failing that, the Sunnis will stick with fellow Sunnis, and the US “strategy” will remain yet another fantasy emanating from the fantasy foreign policy of this administration.