With the war against ISIS still producing inconsistent results, many are starting to question what kind of strategy the Department of Defense produced when recommending the airstrikes-only method. Now, according to a Freedom of Information Act request, it turns out that the White House didn’t bother to consult military leaders at all.
Obama took quite a bit of grief back in August when he admitted that he did not yet have a strategy for confronting the Islamic State’s advances. His press secretary, Josh Earnest, attempted to soften the criticism by claiming that Obama merely meant that he was waiting for the Pentagon to make its final recommendations. Unless those recommendations were delivered with the greatest of secrecies, however, Earnest seems to have been caught in a lie.
Dr. Larry Kawa made a FOIA request of the DOD, looking for any communication documents – electronic or otherwise – that would have addressed an ISIS strategy before the end of August. No records came up. This means that – barring some kind of coverup (which wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for this White House) – Obama made no effort to secure Pentagon recommendations before going into Iraq and Syria with warplanes.
Meanwhile, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has made it clear that he considers the battle against ISIS not only poorly-planned, but “illegal” as well. In an op-ed published on The Daily Beast, Paul reached out to conservatives, urging them to condemn Obama’s decision not to seek congressional authorization. “This war is now illegal,” Paul wrote. “It must be declared and made valid, or it must be ended.”
But it doesn’t appear that the president is in any rush to go back to Congress for permission. Last week, he authorized an additional deployment of 1,500 troops to Iraq, though he continues to insist that we will not use American ground forces to combat the threat. He appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation to defend his decision to send the extra troops:
The airstrikes have been very effective in degrading ISIL’s capabilities and slowing the advance that they were making. Now what we need is ground troops, Iraqi ground troops, that can start pushing them back.
Obama insisted that the additional troops would be used to train up Iraqi forces only.
The administration seemed poised to announce a major victory on Saturday when a major airstrike reportedly injured or killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, three days later, the Pentagon was still unable to confirm reports that al-Baghdadi was even present in the targeted convoy.
The battle against the Islamic State will continue to be a controversial one, but I have to side with Senator Paul. If Obama takes the decision to pursue military action before Congress, we can legitimize this war and encourage public debate as to the proper strategy. Seeing as how Obama apparently considers himself a wartime strategist, however, we’re unlikely to see anything of the kind.