The Campaign Spot

National Journal: ‘The Once-Soaring Avatar of Change Crashing Earthward’

From the last Morning Jolt until June 30 . . . 

300 More U.S. Troops in Iraq. So . . . Are We At War With ISIS?

I’m not saying this move from President Obama is the wrong one

Obama said he would send up to 300 additional U.S. Special Operations troops to better assess the situation on the ground, where forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have moved ever nearer to Baghdad, and to determine “how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces going forward.”

But what do we do if some of those 300 guys get attacked? If ISIS ambushes some of our guys in a Black Hawk Down Mogadishu-style scenario . . . doesn’t that drag us into this war even further? I’m all for killing ISIS, but are we sure we want to pursue this path? Is the president sure?

We all know that our Special Operations guys are the best of the best, but they can’t win the war for the Iraqi government.

I suppose if there’s a chance you’ll run across Persians, 300 guys is a good number to have.

James Oliphant of National Journal acknowledges what so many in Washington have tried to deny for about six years now: the world doesn’t work the way Barack Obama thought it did.

[Sending 250 troops to Iraq to help secure the embassy] is a tacit acknowledgment that many of the assumptions that Obama and his foreign policy team made about the world have proven to be incorrect:   

• That without the leverage of U.S. military power in the country, Iraqi leaders would pursue political change that wouldn’t leave Sunnis alienated and antagonized and that its security forces could counter internal threats

• That Afghanistan would be stable enough for the U.S. to end that war and depart with confidence the government can keep the nation on a stable path;

• That the U.S. could pursue a “reset” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia — but then watched his troops take Crimea and threaten the rest of Ukraine;

• That the civil war in Syria could somehow be contained within its borders — and could reach a resolution without American intervention.

More than anything, these events and others have served as a rebuke to Team Obama’s worldview that a new generation of leadership could move on from both the Clinton-era and Bush-era policies. Both of those administrations were more hawkish and aggressive about the exercise of American power, whether it was to intercede in regional conflicts in the Balkans or take down Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

Disdainful of much of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, Obama and his close-knit circle of advisers, on the other hand, talked about engaging Iran diplomatically, using sanctions to punish bad actors, “pivoting” to Asia, and neutralizing the threat of terrorism more bloodlessly through the use of drones. They viewed American power in terms of limits. This was a president, after all, who opposed the U.S. “surge” that arguably stabilized Iraq to the point where Obama could pull the troops out.

Yet here was Obama on Thursday using the language of presidents past such as John Kennedy and George W. Bush, talking of sending “advisers” into a global hot spot and warning of the need to deny “safe haven” to terrorist groups. “Right now, this is the moment when the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance,” he said — something that sounded So 10 Years Ago.

That’s why Obama’s remarks had to have left such a bitter taste. Iraq was a box that his administration had checked. And already, the unrest there is casting fresh doubt on his decision to leave Afghanistan just a few years removed from calling for his own “surge” there. Americans are giving his handling of foreign policy the lowest marks of his presidency. With Syria on fire, Egypt and Libya in turmoil, and Russia meddling in Ukraine, the world has reached up and pulled the once-soaring avatar of change crashing earthward.

Icarus, we told you so.

The odds of President Obama’s drastically changing his foreign-policy worldview are slim . . . but even if he did change his approach to the likes of Russia, Iran, Assad in Syria and the rest . . . would the Democratic party’s base revolt against those changes?

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