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Obama speech? The usual. “A performative act”

Found on Facebook (Clare Spark), I think this nicely describes Obama’s speech last night:

I am not the first to point out that Obama is a postmodern president. Tonight he proved that label by his “not-so-fast” speech on foreign policy vis a vis ISIS. It was what the pomos call ” a performative act”–the last word in magical thinking.

Indeed.  Platitudes, chest thumping, equivocation – and absolutely nothing new. He’s given a speech … the act is complete. The “ususal”.  Talk equals action.

As we’ve become familiar with the “non-apology apology” in today’s life, we have now been introduced to the “non-strategy strategy”.  What he talked about wasn’t a strategy, it was pure justification for doing … not much (even though he made it clear he doesn’t need Congress’s approval to do … not much).  Apparently he thinks that a few airstrikes and few advisors will stimulate “allies” to do much more than that and take the bit and run with it.  Yeah, that’s always worked so well in the past.  Leading from behind again.

Also unknown is how one is going to take an obviously dispirited and seemingly unwilling (incompetent) Iraqi army and turn it around any time soon, but if there is a plan in there, that seems to be it, sort of.  Oh, that and a “National Guard” (new name for the “awakening’s” militias)?  Say what? But what I mostly got from it was he, like many other mistaken arm-chair generals, believes that he can accomplish “degrading” ISIS by air.  First, any significant degradation would require a sustained air campaign on the level of our Gulf War “shock and awe” campaign.  Not going to happen.  Secondly, finding and killing ISIS C4 nodes, like we did with Saddam, is an extraordinarily difficult task in comparison.  While we may randomly accomplish knocking out some of those nodes, it will be mostly luck without good hard timely intelligence (and acted upon immediately) about an enemy which remains mostly mobile.

And how about him deciding ISIS isn’t “Islam” or “Islamic”?  Since when does he get to decide?  Certainly some parts of greater Islam are against ISIS, but then Sunnis have no use for Shiites either do they?  Does that make one or the other not “Islam”.  Who gets to decide? Such declarations do Obama’s poor credibility even more damage and feeds the conspiracy theorists.  But, that said, one has to wonder why it was so important for him to include that in a national policy speech.   It is a total non-sequitur in my opinion.  But for whatever reason, he chose to include it.

I think James Joyner has a good take on the speech.  His first reaction:

The first thing I’d note is how much it sounded like any number of foreign policy speeches given by his predecessor.  He declared again and again that, “As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people” and proudly enumerated all the ways that “we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country.”

Our Peace Prize president sounding like Bush … got to love the irony.  Of course what Obama didn’t expound upon is how his withdrawal of troops from Iraq helped enable the ISIS expansion.  Reality (i.e. an objective military assessment of the status of the Iraqi army and its actual abilities) rarely, if every, conforms to an arbitrary political deadlines.  I think it is clear to everyone the pullout at that time was a very bad idea.  It takes time to build an effective fighting force.  What is now left in Iraq is a shattered and dispirited force.  Because of that, we’re put in the position to again try to salvage a situation there.  With greater forethought and less ideology, we would have kept US forces still there to ensure the Iraqi military was actually ready to confront a threat like ISIS instead of pretending it was so to keep a political promise.

Joyner’s second thought:

The second observation is that it’s still not clear exactly what Obama’s strategy is. His stated political objective is to  “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” but he offered no plan that could plausibly do more than the former.

Well, except for, you know, “air strikes”.  Hand wave, promise, done.  Polls suck?  Hitting ISIS popular?  Wag the dog.  It’s all about politics and elections, folks.  Not the security of the United States.  If someone had told him that his poll numbers would rise by not playing golf … well, there are limits you know.  If it was truly about the security of the United States, this administration would be working to secure our borders, not ignoring the immigration laws.

Joyner concludes:

Frankly, this is simply the logical continuation of Obama’s existing ISIL non-strategy and, indeed, his general counter-terrorism strategy of blowing up the bad guys and hoping they get tired of it eventually.  We could call it the Global War on Terror but, alas, that name’s been taken. That’s rather unsatisfying but it’s not at all obvious what more the United States can or should do to degrade ISIL. The threat to the homeland is too tangential at present to warrant the proverbial boots on the ground.  So, it’s Whack-a-Mole with no end in sight.

And the moles will continue to be whacked as we hear glowing progress reports from the Eastasian front.

Because? Well, that’s how we roll now.  Back to the future.


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63 Responses to Obama speech? The usual. “A performative act”

  • To Obama, the giving of “The Speach” was, in fact, the strategy.

    • A 1986 law requires the president to present Congress with an annual national security strategy document. Presidents have regularly failed to submit the statement annually, but Obama has waited the longest to update his initial doctrine delivered in May 2010.

      • They’re required to have a budget too, but. eh.

        Laws – hah – “pour les petites gens”

  • Already Germany and Britain aren’t bombing.
    And already Turkey says no one will be using Turkish bases for the air campaign (and probably the ground campaign, whatever THAT is).
    Sounds like a whole lot of “we call bullshirt Barack” within less than 24 hours.
    Well, the good news is nothing blew up HERE in the US today. Must be because Barack is doing such a fierce job protecting us.

    • So far….

      • Hopefully I give them too much credit. But at this point would it do the terrorists the most favor to blow stuff up here under Barack or under someone with a spine. Assuming the ‘blowing up of stuff’ is mean to train your enemy into being a do nothing.

        It would be like Hitler having Neville Chamberlain assassinated.

  • His opening gambit of “this has nothing to do with Islam…” negated any logical reason to continue listening, but figured it’d be interesting to hear him out. Didn’t know our automobile companies are so doing spectacularly well. And, and…ebola!

    Had a conversation this morning with someone comparing the Westboro Baptist Church nuts to ISIL, as though moral relativism explains it all. Not sure how many necks the Westboro folks have chopped, but we can assume none – you know if they did it’d lead the network newscasts.

    We have a naive narcissist in charge of the greatest nation the world has known. He is surprised and oh-so-disappointed the world fails to live up to his expectations. This happens at our great peril. Astonished – and dismayed – to see that a significant (though minority) percentage of our fellow citizens still think he’s doing a bang-up job.

    • ‘This is not about Islam’ is to distinguish his motives from George Bush’s motives. By implication Bush was at heart being a racist and that is where Obama is doing the same things is inherently good while Bush having done them is still evil.

  • I think it will take time to create a coalition and the ground rules, because there are so many moving parts. Arms to the Kurds have to go through Baghdad, for example, and then train them. We have to evaluate the Iraqi army units again, and sort them out.

    So even a competent president would not be able to have an instant strategy because you may not know what tools are truly available yet.

    That said, Obama’s team has not been very competent, and any plan will have a lot of moving parts. Which is why it will be much more prone to failure.

    They keep bringing up the First Bush’s great coalition, but really, how hard is it to enlist countries actually threatened by Iraq to send a token division that does nothing. I supposed they guarded the flanks and rear areas.

    Meanwhile, Bush 2 had some pretty good, effective coalitions, too, but those aren’t mentioned as examples, even though they are far more appropriate.

    The final campaign will be an Awakening + Kurds + best of Iraqi Army + western special forces and planes.

    Maybe throw in some Gulf allies and Jordan.

    I personally think IS will not be as tough as they appear to be once they face enemies that have air power. the locals can melt away, but the foreigners will have to flee to Syria or home. Might be better to let them stay in the IS.

    • “So even a competent president would not be able to have an instant strategy because you may not know what tools are truly available yet.”
      Seriously man? Instant? ISIS just sprang from the earth where the Caliph sowed dragoons teeth on Monday?
      That is the very demonstration of this man’s INCOMPETENCE and the incompetence of the people he surrounds himself with for council.
      Let’s take a quick review of Barack’s ‘instant’.
      It starts before ISIS appeared –
      Al Queda is ‘decimated’,
      Americans have never been safer,
      Red lines in Syria!!!!!
      We’re bombing Assad in five!
      The world created those red lines!!!!!
      We’re NOT bombing at all because Putin saved us
      We aren’t providing the Rebels in Syria with weapons!
      We’re providing weapons to the Syrian rebels!

      Then ISIS appears
      ISIS is the JV team, they’re not a threat
      We’re not a war with ISIS
      We don’t have a plan for dealing with ISIS/ISIL
      ISIS isn’t Islam (in the same way that I AM Catholic but I am NOT the Pope)
      We’re providing weapons to the Syrian rebels
      We have a coalition to air campaign ISIS to death
      Well, except for the British
      Well, except for the Germans
      I don’t expect instant results either, but I do expect him to be competent enough to wait until he HAS a coalition before he announces that he has a coalition!
      You know, like you or I would probably do.

      • One of the things that I think has driven some good military types to turn in their papers is the idea that “we have no strategy”.

        One of the things bright, well-trained, and insightful people do in the military is develop LOTS of planning for various contingencies that everybody would like never to see.

        Maybe Barracula has no idea…or doesn’t want to get a clue…but we DID, I BET, have a strategy.

        • “One of the things bright, well-trained, and insightful people do in the military is develop LOTS of planning for various contingencies that everybody would like never to see.”
          No, he probably figures that’s why there are many good military golf courses.
          I mean it’s what he does all day, so when the ‘army guys’ aren’t shooting those gun thingies that he’s an expert with, they’re probably shooting a round or two at Andrews right?
          planning for stuff, that would be like, um, work or something.

        • I’m betting we did not have a strategy for if 200,000 Iraqi troops fled Mosul.

          We would have if we’d have had intel guys in Iraq, but we also pulled those guys out in 2011.

          Truly, Obama must believe that American troops were the cause of all the problems. LOL.

      • I’m saying given the current situation, its going to be complicated.

        If we’d left intel people and advisors and troops in Iraq, we’d have known enough to prevent Mosul and maybe even Fallujah fdrom falling, assuming no ego got in the way. (Which it did in real life.)

        Believe me, I’m a firm believer that Obama messed up big time.

        • We don’t seem to do humint any more.
          If you can’t see it from a drone, or a satellite or eavesdrop it from signals, it appears we don’t know it.

          • To be fair, the Iraqis who you would think would be the best with humint didn’t see it coming…well they asked for help in 2013, but probably didn’t plan for their troops to flee.

    • Obama can’t lead a coalition because all the potential members have seen how he treats US allies. Only a month or so ago Iraq totally gave up on a long awaited delivery of US F-16’s, which they had purchased earlier, with their PM saying that the Obama Administration continued to throw up an endless list of stumbling blocks to the deal until it was glaringly apparent that the aircraft would never be delivered, and this was when Iraq was most desperate. Iraq had to turn to Putin for fighter jets and helicopters, and Putin very promptly had the aircraft in Iraqi hands. The takeaway is that if you are in dire need of American help, Obama will slap you with the back of his hand and laugh. When tens of thousands of lives are on the line, that burning truth is never forgotten or forgiven, and as even comic book writers know, people might claim they’re your best friend, but you don’t really know until a fight breaks out, at which point the truth is revealed. Obama is nobody’s friend.

      All the potential allies also think Obama is a foreign policy and military idiot, along with being a sympathizer with the Muslim Brotherhood, the very terrorist group that Assad’s father fought and which led the rebellion in Syria. Obama seems stubbornly determined to let the world burn to prove some kind of point, and betrays his allies at every turn. After Benghazi, to support his administration’s lies about a video tape, his Secretary of State publicly called Libya’s leader a liar for claiming that there was no protest that night. The one constant in his foreign policy is to leave no back unstabbed.

      Finally, Obama stays stubbornly wedded to delusional misperceptions, which is the absolutely worst trait you could have in a military action. And how do you ask someone to lay down their lives for a cause when their leader doesn’t even believe in it? Obama is the weakest link.

      • Hey! He can still order the 5th Panzer Armee to break out of the Ruhr pocket and drive to relieve Berlin and maybe buy enough time to convince Churchill to ally with him against the Russians!

      • If the Obama Era has shown more thatn anything else is that “government by experts” is probably the worst form of government …

        The Germans sought more time and consultation with other EU member states, frustrating [National Security Advisor Susan] Rice to the point that she lost her cool and reportedly launched into a profanity-filled lecture that featured a rare diplomatic appearance of the word “motherfucker.” Germany’s national security advisor, Christoph Heusgen, was so angered that he told an American confidante it was the worst meeting of his professional life.

        Just for a moment, I thought that might be Ray Rice instead of Susan Rice.

      • This where the entire media set up of “he’s just playing the long game of coalition-building” will badly hurt him.

        He’s really not been served so well by lap dog media. And he’s far too used to it.

        • That must have been their plan for 5-7 days of media breathing space – announce they’re building a coalition that will take years to build…I expect 2017 will have the new president actually doing this.

    • So how is that “create a coalition” going …
      On the sidelines of a NATO summit last week, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told defence and foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark that they, along with the United States, formed the “core” of an alliance to tackle the Sunni militant group.

      [French President François] Hollande agreed to take part in an international coalition if Baghdad and the United Nations approved its actions.
      “Let me be clear, Britain will not be taking part in any airstrikes in Syria. I can be very clear about that.”
      Germany plans to send about 40 paratroopers to Iraq to provide weapons training to Kurdish fighters battling an Islamic extremist insurgency.
      Turkey will refuse to allow a US-led coalition to attack jihadists in neighbouring Iraq and Syria from its air bases
      US combat aircraft will soon start flying out of a base in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq as part of a “more aggressive” air campaign against Islamic State jihadists, the Pentagon said Thursday. About 125 of the additional forces will include air crews and maintenance workers for aircraft operating out of Arbil, he said. Unlike the US military’s war in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, the American troops now in the country are devoted to providing security for American diplomats or assisting Iraqi forces, officials said. No soldier will be involved in combat missions, Kirby said.

      I guess it depends what your definition of “soldier” is.

      Reporter: Is the US at War with ISIS?
      John F. Kerry: I think that’s the wrong terminology. What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation. It’s going to go on for some period of time.

      What was that term used in “Heartbreak Ridge” ? … a clusterfuck

      • “What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation.”
        I wonder, in light of what he considered our illegal actions to have been in Vietnam/Cambodia/Thailand, how many of the things he sees as counter-terrorism operations today will be essentially the same actions he had to wrestle his conscious over back then.
        Who’s medals will he throw over the fence this time.


    John F’ing Kerry tells us today we are NOT at war with ISIS.

    Anybody who knows Pres. ScamWOW knew that already.

    • Right, we’re uh, in a protracted police bombing action.

      • You will get whip-lash from these guys. It’s like watching a Wimbleton match with balls fired from howitzers.

        • Again, he can’t even coordinate with his own Sec of State to get the story straight – and people think he’s going to coordinate a coalition effort to end ISIS?

  • I think we should, collectively, put together a pool. The object is to see if anyone can project the exact membership of the “Coalition” Obama says he is going to form to face off against ISIS (ISIL? Whatever.) Now if you go down the list of potentials you can already see problems: Qatar is funding ISIS so they’re out. Turkey has already announced they will not let the US use their airbases. England and France have already said they won’t join. Libya might if there were only a government or even a state there. Egypt? Like they are high on Obama’s Christmas list. Iran? Not bloody likely unless they see it in their own best interest. Syria? Well John Kerry did call Assad the key to lasting peace in the region and he would surely help if only to eliminate another opponent in his Civil War (Red Lines anyone?). Saudi Arabia? Any bets there? Iraq? Sure, but only with US boots on the ground even if they are the ones to benefit the most from ISIS’s defeat. Any other takers? Anybody from Europe? No one from Europe is going to join up with restless Muslim populations in their own country. Anybody else out there want to weigh in ’cause I can’t come up with much of a coalition, willing or otherwise.

  • If he doesn’t get UN approval he’s a unilateral warmonger who should be tried at the Hague

    • Since Russia mumbled the words Syria, Bombing and Illegal all together in a more or less coherent sentence, I don’t think he’s going to get that UN approval whatsis you’re demanding man.

      • Ok. Then he’s a criminal warmonger waging a preemptive and unilateral war of choice.

        Why yes, I am going to make the left eat a big sh*t sandwich if they want to support this war

  • Obama plans to establish a Sunni armed force, the National Guard, to help the Shia armed force, the Iraqi Army. I am sure they will work together like hand in glove. What could go wrong?

  • Preemptive note to Erb- if you support this but haven’t signed up to participate you’re a chicken hawk.

    Why yes, I have saved all the arguments to throw back in the lefts face for just such an occasion.

    • Yeah we’re about to be enlightened in the pragmatic bombing of parts of Syria.
      What could go wrong in unilaterally bombing targets where the two opposing sides look about identical in a sovereign country that didn’t ask us to do so?
      I mean really. The good news takeaway is at least they won’t be considered friendly fire incidents when ISIS trots out the de rigeuer ‘America bombed a war orphanage at prayer time” photos.

  • This is the first Obama speech that I watched in a couple of years .. mostly because it was mercifully over before I could shut it off.
    That said .. it was pathetic. Whether you’re anti-war or not, it was a waste of time.
    Frankly, it outlined a plan that I would have thought would be the natural reaction to a insanity outbreak in the Middle East.
    In other words, it was a week or two late and a dollar short. It did nothing to change people’s minds that he “had no strategy’ or strategery.

    Meanwhile the world reacts to the “smartest man in the room” .. you know “almost a god” …

    Fars News (Iran) – Comments made by Barack Obama are clear. The word ‘containing’ means to identify risks and disable some of its objectives while maintaining this terrorist organization’s role (as a method designed) to frighten certain countries in this region and to keep this risk as a scarecrow in appropriate places to make political gains, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

    Yeah. they think it’s a “nothing-burger’ .. sort of like the teacher that whacks the bully in the school yard for fighting but ignores his petty extortion.

  • OT — Why hasn’t Obama done something about Ray Rice … he is the “smartest man in the room” and surely knew (with the aid of the NSA) everything from the beginning and yet he did nothing ?

    • Well, you can’t expect a president to do everything, as Erp would remind us.

      I am impressed that Barracula has not stepped forward to remind us that if he had a brother, he would look like Rice…though he would not lift weights like a girlie-man, as Barracula has on video-tape. I AM dead sure we’d hear something of the sort if Obama faced another election and the opportunity arose to insert race AND himself into some American event.

    • That isn’t the sort of thing Obama intervenes in. Take the South side of Chicago, for example, not swarming with Justice Department Community Relations agents making sure there aren’t any race related crimes going on every weekend. Has to be a “white” involved somewhere to catch his godlike attention – white hispanic, white asian( we’ll get there), white cop, white football player, whiteever.

  • Talk equals action.

    I would put it slightly different. When he talks you are supposed to act. If he is the leader then it is your job to follow. But as anyone who knows anything about leadership, that is not the way it goes.

    • “Men of the coalition of states, this morning you will cross this ice filled river…the uh, uh, Delaware, in a difficult and dangerous undertaking.
      Once across we will push forward to Trenton and degrade the ability of the Hessian mercenaries encamped there.
      I will be leading you from the tap room of the McKonkey Ferry tavern.”

    • But how can we follow if he is leading from behind?

  • Obama is an innovator. He has taken Performance Art to the international stage with his Performance Diplomacy.

    • No, no, silly Tim…

      Pres. ScamWOW does not do…

      1. political theater

      2. photo ops

      3. windows…(too much transparency)

  • Given: There’s a difference between a war and a counterterrorism operation, you know

    Then: “War on Terror” is an oxymoron.

    • “There’s a difference between a war and a counterterrorism operation”
      Somehow blowing people up from various altitudes with million dollar war machines using dumb iron bombs, laser glide bombs or AGM’s seems all together kinda “warish” to me.
      Airstrikes vs counter terrorism.
      I guess we CAN expand the idea of airstrikes blowing up bits of someone’s country being a counter-terrorist action, words and concepts have to be so flexible nowadays.
      That would of course mean rolling a battleship or naval squadron up next to someone’s country and blowing some gaping craters in some part of one of their cities might also be ‘counter terrorism’ if we applied older technology, but I think it demonstrates what an older less enlightened and civilized way of thinking would have called ‘act of war’.
      That we LET them (and by this, I mean Presidents – Republican and Democrat alike) say and do these things, even on our behalf, is part of the problem because then they get all flexible in how they use it and whether or not they need our (through our representatives) say so to do it.
      For example, we’re about to unleash many kinds of hell on a bunch of deserving a**holes in a foreign country and presumably and hopefully A LOT of them are about to go to paradise with explosions to open them heaven’s gate.
      but….it’s NOT a war.

      • Well, it certainly IS war-ish and belligerent.

        It ISN’T a “war” in any effective sense of the term, IMNHO. A WAR by the U.S. is a combined arms operation that kills people, breaks their things, and takes control of territory. Just who does what is open to “arrangements”. A WAR involves a lot of people who do a lot of essential stuff besides JUST the actual combat, including intelligence, planning, counter-intelligence, and a LOT of logistics and other support. It also involves people who perform diplomatic stuff, and still others who in modern terms fight with ones and zeros.

        But it isn’t a palliative, and it isn’t PRIMARILY political. With the Obami, EVERYTHING is almost completely political.

        • No, I agree, an air strike isn’t a war.
          It’s just one of those features you tend to see ONLY in a war.
          Well, it USED to be ONLY in a war. We’re more modern now. If we don’t have boots wandering in the vicinity around it’s not a war or something.
          This is a new century, I need to give up my old ways of thinking.
          It certainly is an act of war however.
          Do we have any insurance claims adjusters available for a final decision?

    • And wars are long – I wonder what their idea of a “long time” is.

      A season of Honey-booboo?

      • Well, this is really a problem for any democracy, as a lot of really smart (smartER) people have noted.

        Which argues for fighting a really nasty, ruthless war that gets you where you need to be.

        THEN you need to teach people that an OCCUPATION is not the same thing, and it can be a long, expensive slog. We STILL have troops in Germany and Japan.

  • Channeling another Democratic President and strategic ditherer, Obama is not going to send American boys to fight a war that should be fought by Middle Eastern boys. We will, however support them with air power and advisors. Then perhaps just a few personnel to protect our other personnel and air power. In a purely defensive posture, of course. We must realize, however, that extensive reconnaissance is a prerequisite for a successful defense, in order to preemptively disrupt opposition attempts to harm our advisors and support people. This is not offensive action, mind you, but purely defensive in nature. Remember, “The best defense is a good offense”.

  • This thread is mysteriously absent with defenders.

    • George Soros running late on the Talking Point Memos…

      • But, seriously, how hard is it to chant, “I’m so glad we have this dreamy man who does everything pitch-perfectly”?

        I mean, new lies are HARD…

        Right, Erp…???

        • It’s that kind of thing that at times would make one think Erpie might just be a ‘I’m leaving on the space ship hiding in the comet’s tail’ candidate of the first water.


    It’s not a war-war. Not like that BooooOOOOOOoooosh war. Which was wrong…!!! And fer oil and stuff…

    No. This is a “war” like where we drone somebody every now and again. And they are TOTS not Islamic. Dudes…!!!

    • And when gas was $3.50 a gallon for 2 months in 2008, George W was in the pocket of Haliburton raking in the dough. But 5 years at $3.20 under Baracky, well, that’s success as America becomes petrrum independent under the President ‘s brilliant and pragmatic stewardship!