There has been speculation about what role the United States will play on the world’s stage as threats abound of various severities and natures almost everywhere one looks and still we hear from United States President Obama that he awaits final strategy and complete plans laid out before him from the Pentagon before he can act. This excuse from President Obama for not committing to some plan of action sounds unrealistic, especially as it is well known even personally after having served in the United States Army, the Pentagon has plans, War Scenarios, for near any contingency which might arise. This makes President Obama’s excuse of not having any plans before him sound quite lame. Even had the Pentagon not had an exact battle plan in place when ISIS first reared their ugly heads and started chopping heads, especially since some belonged to the United States, you can bet the Pentagon went to their files and had cobbled together six ways come Sunday for dealing with ISIS which probably had added contingencies for removing Bashir al-Assad from power and potentially addressing the Iranian nuclear issue as well. The one thing is, they were not short of was plans. The only thing necessary would be for the President to choose one and they would be implementing within forty-eight hours. Each set of plans would have in the full layout exactly which units were trained for that exact mission and which of those units was at full strength and had a ready status. They would have decided whether or not to use the ready actions units of which at least two brigades of Army would be on immediate deployment status and I can assume the Marines, Navy and Air Force have similar plans for immediate response to any call up.
We can trust the Pentagon has plans and that all the President need do is pick up that phone he claims he could use to call for action if Congress did not pass his legislation in a timely manner and instead call the Pentagon and request their actions and plans be presented. Then he could pick up that pen with which he threatened Congress to use to write Executive Orders and use it to sign off on a plan of action and then write an Executive Memo to the leaders in Congress informing them of the impending actions and the Pentagon would take care of the rest. There is one contingency for which the Pentagon likely has plans but would be unable to implement them until the President ordered them to follow and support somebody else’s initiation of actions. That is President Obama’s famous plan of leading from behind, better known as following which often is the action of those too cowardly to commit to actions and stick their neck out, something which would be risky against ISIS but the President can go ahead and stick his neck out, the military would be out in front and would do or die even knowing that in the end the President would claim the glory, after all he took out Osama bin Laden haven’t you heard. Leading from behind is not an option on this crisis but President Obama is not one to make definitive decisions which might have him owning his actions. President Obama would rather simply follow and take only that action was dictated by somebody else, the United Nations, the European Union, NATO led by another member, actually President Obama would follow anybody, well, anybody but Israel. Were Israel to engage ISIS, it would not be a complete surprise if President Obama gave weapons to ISIS through some obscure middleman leader of another nation who might be supportive of ISIS though doing so would be risky. But until somebody else takes the lead we can expect more excuses over action from the White House.
One wonders if President Obama has even requested the Pentagon produce their plans for dealing with ISIS and said plans actually called for the United States to sit this round out. We can figure that the United States is loath to send troops back into Iraq after being pulled out by President Obama in a manner that military planners had informed the President was a premature action which would cause more problems than it could solve. The one problem leaving a residual force would not have addressed was President Obama winning reelection on his promise to bring our boys home come something (keeping it family friendly) or high water. The Pentagon may have been requested to provide plans which would include supporting UN or EU or NATO action taken to facilitate leading from behind at which time the Pentagon action would most likely be exactly what we are seeing, doing nothing waiting for somebody else to take the initiative so they could follow thus leading from behind again allowing President Obama to risk nothing which actually making a choice and lead would mean. But this begs a question; what happens if the United States is about to return to her historic role of isolationism where the United States trades with her friends and with her enemies but on a lesser scale and dares not interfere in worldly matters allowing them to work themselves out without United States interventions. United States entering an isolationist perspective would only allow her deployment of troops to be limited and almost always to support trade more than worrying about such trivialities as world balance and defeating evil, that’s better left to the knights of Europe who have always done this before. Of course this before was before the United States encouraged Europe to stop their militarism and that the United States would spread her umbrella and cover them so they could turn to less harmful pursuits such as taking on debt and squabbling amongst each other, just this time no world wars starting in Europe, that was the deal the United States imposed on Europe. But now it appears the United States may be folding up that umbrella and claiming not to see the storm clouds rising out of the Middle East, a denial which is difficult to swallow.
The going theory is that the United States will return to the role of the world’s police and enforce the good behavior between the nations extending force projection where needed. That is not the historic tendency of the United States after any major conflicts; her historic stance has been a laissez-faire attitude of simple sitting back keeping her hands politely to herself, which is the norm from the United States. The average American knows little about world affairs and cares even less. The average American was defined by President Clinton in his initial campaign for the Presidency with his slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.” The stupid in this case was George Herbert Walker Bush (the elder and first Pres Bush) and the elections proved it as President Bush did not gain reelection largely due to his having broken his promise of, “Read my lips; no new taxes,” and then was forced to raise taxes by a Democrat Congress in order to get his budget passed with the military spending not slashed by the Congress. The election of President Clinton over reelecting President Bush was all about domestic policies over foreign policies.
You start to talk about foreign policy with the average American and their eyes gloss over and they drift into some zombie like state all catatonic and in shock after the first two or three sentences. Talk about immigration, taxes, domestic hot-button issues, government spending of which all is unnecessary except those they are or will receive, and the economy then you will engage in a sometimes heated debate. Talk about money and they will listen, talk about something happening in the Mille East or Asia and they will repeat what the media stated, that is bad, that is good and those people sure have as rough time, but then they will turn it back to how the government needs to take care of things at home first. The average American has all the sympathy you could ever ask for and they will donate more to charities than any other peoples on earth but when it comes to sending their young men off to fight in what they mostly see as somebody else’s war, then they need a ton of convincing and President Obama surfs waves, seldom makes waves when it comes to world politics. The President came from a past as a community organizer, read rabble rouser causing trouble to force government actions usually spending more money of which they get the lion’s share, and knows little outside of Chicago, let alone outside of the United States. He treats foreign policy as if it was a plague and to his outlook, as well as many Americans outlooks, simply does not go past the horizon and possibly not past the water’s edge.
We can bet that should the Democrat candidate become the next President, they too will do little as they can in foreign policy. We need remember that the Democrat candidate will not likely be Hillary Clinton but more likely somebody not even announced as of yet. Ms. Clinton’s campaign van has the wheels flying off and the engine is about to quit. The van is driving down the road to oblivion. But what if it is the Republican candidate, you inquire. There we need to find out who will take the lead and which ones do not survive the first three or four actual primary votes. We can make some specific and general observations. Rand Paul is an isolationist libertarian who believes if the United States hurts nobody then nobody would target the United States. Of all the governors and ex-governors running, only Jeb Bush might be a President inclined to use military force and actually have an active foreign policy. Others have claimed that they will repair the United States relations with Israel as well as Egypt and Saudi Arabia largely undoing some of the changes made under President Obama. Still, such actions do not necessarily mean a return into Iraq to defeat ISIS unless it becomes a dire threat to the stability of the Middle East. Only Senator Marco Rubio has direct experience with foreign policies as he in on the Senate Intelligence Committee which gives him access beyond the average Senator under the need to know doctrines. Almost any Republican candidate becoming President would easily take four months to a year to become fully briefed on every hot-spot that the Pentagon had plans and counter plans and different options under each plan and time granted each. Such amounts of information is why the President has a Secretary of Defense whose staff is divided so they can divide their work and attend to each contingencies. Still, the final decisions and person who must form the overall foreign police and who has to call in the troops for action when deemed to be necessary lies with the President and the President alone. That is one of the reason it is said that it is lonely at the top. We still have no real available input that any of the Republican candidates would press for an interventionist approach to foreign policies.
Likely the most pressing foreign policy might already have their hands tied should President Obama make any Iran nuclear deal somehow into a treaty without gaining Congressional affirmation. Such a decade long deal would actually prevent the next administration from taking any actions without smoking gun style proof that Iran had broken the agreement but as the agreement includes steps all the way through twelve years with little margin for change in the terms or even the terminology during that time period with the Iranians presumably free to complete their desired goal of deliverable nuclear warheads and the ICBMs on which to place them after ten years according to President Obama’s own admission which would leave them at a minimum two years to produce as many weapons systems as they are able starting with an unknown amount of LEU (low enrichment Uranium) with which to work and all of that Uranium a simple two day’s processing to be made weapons grade HEU (highly enriched Uranium over 90% purity) and then they would be capable of molding the cores and producing actual weapons. All of this is a guess of what the eventual agreement will appear to say and Iranian compliance to the terms and inspection protocols as well as their answering numerous questions about previous work performed largely by the military which Iran insists is an unprecedented and unnecessary invasion of their privileges and privacies. So, when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program the next President may be acting with his hands tied and possibly looking at a negative response from a nuclear armed Iran claiming their dominion over Iraq and dismissing the need for United States interference in their area of control which they will claim includes Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and who knows where else by January 21, 2017 when the next President takes office. After Iran there will be other situations such as Russia and their low-grade war with the Ukraine and its possibilities, China and their expansion Islands being built and potentially taking territorial control semi-legally over the entire South China Sea giving them control over one of the most active shipping lanes in the world. Speaking of choke points for shipping, Iran already has menacing control over the Straits of Hormuz where almost one third of the world’s oil is shipped by tankers and may through their proxies in Yemen, Houthis can also threaten to control the Bab-el-Mandeb which would cut off the southern exit of the Red Sea making the Suez Canal unusable and the Israeli southern port to the orient and Africa blockaded, a casus belli which could lead to a state of declared war by Iran on Israel and Egypt as both would have their shipping access to the world impeded illegally as Iran would have no other excuse other than they could close all shipping. These are just the top three and none of these includes the ISIS threat which may grow to the point where Iran and ISIS meet on equal footing with ISIS having gained an Air Force even if of a limited nature, and tactics which are prone to working, at least working well against the Iraqi army. ISIS has had far less success against the Kurdish Militias such as the Peshmerga (literally “one who confronts death”) and the People’s Protection Units (known as the YPG). These have held the northeast parts of Syria having an astonishing turning point in the city of Kobanê as well as the northern third or so of Iraq where the Kurdish forces saved thousands of Yazidi and whose Yazidi Militias have joined ranks with the Kurdish Militias. We could continue to the other continents and their probabilities for causing distress but that would leave Antarctica as probably the only safe haven if you desired no strife, or at least not yet.
Beyond the Cusp