According to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, President Obama’s Syrian strategy has not only resulted in the mess we have in the region currently, it will not achieve the goals Obama publicly intends to achieve. In fact, Panetta said that Obama’s current baffling strategy appears not to be aimed at any particular goal whatsoever.
Speaking to CBS News, Panetta said that Obama’s strategy would lead to a future where “Assad continues to stay in power, continues to kill Syrians. That refugees continue to flow out of Syria, that the Russians continue to have a presence there and continue to attack our moderate forces that we’re trying to train in Syria. And that ISIS then uses that and creates an even bigger base from which to conduct attacks against this country.”
Panetta said that it was as important for Obama to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin as it was for him to defeat the Islamic State. “They’re not going to do the right thing without pressure,” he said. “We have got to make very clear that we have objectives to achieve, that we intend to press to achieve those objectives, and that we will not allow them to divert us from the goals of defending ourselves.”
Panetta speaks with the weight of experience, but it’s hard to give credence to anyone who wants to again trust “moderate forces.” Do we have any other reasonable alternative? Perhaps not, at this point. But we’ve seen in the past that today’s “moderate rebels” can easily become tomorrow’s “JV squad” and the next day’s “global exterminators.”
Obama’s top priority should be the destruction of ISIS, and that is a mission that a serious president would have accomplished by now. He’s hamstrung by timidity and a desire to get the U.S. out of the Middle East. While that second objective is undoubtedly shared by most Americans, this war is coming to us if we don’t bring it to them. Once ISIS is toast, we can start looking for ways to extract ourselves, militarily, from the region.
Until then, we need to go and we need to go hard. And that requires a president who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.