A spokesman denied on Monday that Mr. Obama was blaming intelligence agencies in his interview on “60 Minutes” on CBS News. “That is not what the president’s intent was,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “What the president was trying to make clear” was “how difficult it is to predict the will of security forces that are based in another country to fight.” [New York Times]
ANYONE WHO watched the 60 Minutes interview on Sunday with President Obama knew the incoming would be fierce from the intelligence community. I’m trying to figure out why the President went on the air to make statements that ignored the public record from Capitol Hill that included hearings. It wasn’t shocking to me to hear him sound like a hawk, because I’ve contended since 2007 that anyone in the position of commander in chief would eventually sound like every other establishment politician who’s held the office.
We’re in the final stage in what I’d call the education of Command in Chief Barack Obama. A man reluctant to authorize a large U.S. military footprint, but whose realist penchant has finally been put down by the brutal force and savage lethality of ISIL.
It’s important to note that the Administration is signing a status of forces agreement with Afghanistan, which means our presence in that country will continue after this year. It’s something Obama wanted to have with Iraq’s PM Maliki, who wouldn’t sign on, leading to ISIL’s expansion and regional strength, which was aided by the world community’s indifference to Syria’s civil war and Assad’s war crimes.
Still, the intelligence community’s response has been fierce, but it’s also brought top Administration officials out on the record to admit they missed ISIL’s goals. From the New York Times:
Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, suggested that the intelligence community had underestimated the Islamic State’s transformation “from an insurgency to an organization that was now also focused on holding ground territory.
More via the New York Times:
President Obama fueled the debate in an interview broadcast over the weekend when he said that intelligence agencies had underestimated the peril posed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Mr. Obama accurately quoted James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, acknowledging that he and his analysts did not foresee the stunning success of Islamic State forces or the catastrophic collapse of the Iraqi Army.
But by pointing to the agencies without mentioning any misjudgments of his own, Mr. Obama left intelligence officials bristling about being made into scapegoats and critics complaining that he was trying to avoid responsibility.
“This was not an intelligence community failure, but a failure by policy makers to confront the threat,” said Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Barack Obama’s philosophical reluctance to utilize military power, which goes beyond Maliki refusing a status of forces agreement that would have left U.S. troops inside Iraq, is at the heart of ISIL’s rise and expansion, as the Times explains today.
By spring, Iraqi forces had reached a stalemate against Islamic State forces in the west, and Mr. Maliki reversed course and asked the Obama administration to intervene directly.
In a May 11 meeting with Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III and American diplomats, Mr. Maliki asked that Iraq be provided the ability to operate drones; if the United States was unwilling to do that, then he indicated he was prepared for the United States to carry out strikes itself. He later made the same point to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and sent a written request.
At the time, Mr. Obama was not open to such a move. He gave a speech at West Point eschewing what he deemed the overuse of American force to solve world problems. But he promised more aid to moderate Syrian rebels. The White House sent a proposal for a $500 million program to train and equip the rebels back to the Pentagon several times, but the president eventually announced it.
By then, though, it was too late.
Whoever Barack Obama’s supporters thought he was when they elected him in 2008 has long been proven to be a naive estimation.
What it means to be an establishment representative of the Democratic Party is still not fully appreciated by some, especially in the progressive activist community. For a party that has fought since the Vietnam war to invigorate their prowess on national security, which was done after George W. Bush blundered into Iraq, there is little appreciation for what President Obama has had to learn the hard way.
The statement the President made on 60 Minutes is his final acceptance of what it means to be the American president.
“America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world, and when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow, they call us. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes us America.”
– President Barack Obama
If you’ve read Vali Nasr’s book on the foreign policy during the time Richard Holbrooke was in the Obama administration you’ll know what an epic shift the President has made.