Not having a strategy yet makes good strategic sense against ISIS

No doubt he meant that sincerely — the U.S. financial system was still deep in crisis — but in the context of this summer’s events, Obama’s assumption that he would be focused mainly on domestic concerns suggests how little even a president of the United States can claim control of world events.

This was Obama’s foreign-policy agenda for August 2014, in no particular order: Taking out the too-sectarian leader of Iraq, helping to stand up a more inclusive government in Baghdad and then ordering airstrikes to support efforts to keep the country from folding further into the Islamic State, which had just publicly murdered the American journalist James Foley and this week made good on its threat to murder another, Steven Sotloff. The month began with a “green on blue” attack in Afghanistan that cost the life of a U.S. general (the first such casualty in 44 years) and ended with a resumption of political hostilities between the presidential candidates that threatened the stability of the Afghan government on the eve of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Meanwhile “liberated” post-Gadaffi Libya slid further toward chaos, Israel and Hamas waged war in Gaza and Russia more or less invaded Ukraine.

Last week, while most of that was still going on, the president was asked at a press conference whether he would seek congressional approval to take action against the Islamic State in Syria as well as in Iraq. He said yes, but it would have to wait until plans were fully developed in light of all possible variables: “We don’t have a strategy yet.”