Watch this all the way through to see an excellent report from the front lines from Richard Engel, in which he embeds with Kurdish fighters in Kobane, including a female soldier attempting to push back against the seventh-century ideology that would enslave her if it succeeds. To get to Joe Scarborough’s point, skip ahead to 3:25 or so, in which the implications of Barack Obama’s “lead from behind” approach get fleshed out — to the general agreement of Joe’s guests, but the silent annoyance of Mika Brzezinski, whose eye rolls during Joe’s insistence that Obama get out of his bubble and wake up to reality (via Mediaite):
Scarborough: I keep wondering if it won’t show in history: George W. Bush went too far, too excessive, too prepared to use force and Barack Obama overcorrected and we’re paying a terrible price for it now.
If he does not change, if he does not do what every other president does, what Bill Clinton did, what F.D.R. did, what Ronald Reagan did, George W. Bush did, and learn from his past mistakes — if he stays isolated in a bubble — there will be a tremendous price for America to pay. I’m not saying to go invade the Middle East. I’m saying to get out of your defensive crouch and get out of your bubble and figure out what’s going on here and start connecting the dots.
Tina Nguyen notes that one panelist tries to claim that Obama had “this mess handed to him” by noting the supposedly unexpected collapse of the Iraqi army. However, that claim doesn’t hold water. By 2009, the Iraqi army was an effective security force; it had been operating independently of American combat leadership for some time, while the US kept up training, logistics, and — critically — a political defense of its independence from Nouri al-Maliki. Even Obama acknowledged that the Iraqi army operated sufficiently enough to stand on its own militarily, making that one of his arguments for the total withdrawal of US forces in 2011 rather than negotiate a substantial residual force.
The complete withdrawal of the US forces in 2011, about which Obama repeatedly bragged during the next three years until ISIS routed the Iraqi army, allowed Maliki to conduct purges of Sunnis and Kurds from military leadership, engage in persecution, and caused the relapse of the Iraqi military into a spoils system of sinecures for the politically connected, and reduced its readiness to a shadow of its former self in a short period of time.
The biggest mistake, therefore, was not negotiating a permanent presence to keep Maliki from doing exactly what everyone involved predicted, including Leon Panetta. Obama handed this mess to himself, and he’s been in denial about ISIS from well before January’s “jayvees” comments until now, claiming to this day that air power alone will “degrade and eventually destroy” ISIS. Scarborough’s correct to demand that Obama come out of his bubble, even if Mika silently dissents.