Nothing is more unwise for politicians than honesty, and President Obama was caught in a pretty significant moment of candor with his admission that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for the ISIS war.
The comment sparked immediate condemnation from hawks pushing him to escalate the ISIS war even more precipitously, with claims that he isn’t taking the situation seriously enough.
Yet the lack of a strategy isn’t some oversight, like the Pentagon simply forgot to come up with a plan for victory in this huge new war. Rather, it reflects the reality of the situation, that no such strategy for victory even exists.
President Obama’s reticence to escalate the war to the outrageous extent that some want shows at least a modicum of prudence on his part. It would’ve been nice, however, if he’d given such careful thought before launching an unwinnable war in the first place.
Obama’s admission suggests the administration has finally figured out how problematic the war against ISIS is, and is treading water instead of making matters worse.
Unfortunately, if there’s one thing a politician is even less apt to do than tell the truth, it’s to own up to a mistake publicly, and that means the logical next step of extricating himself from the ISIS war is probably not being considered as an option. Instead, President Obama is likely to continue to fight the war, escalating here and there for political effect, and hoping that somewhere along the line some sort of strategy will fall into his lap.
Even more problematic is President Obama’s promise to try to assemble a coalition for the ISIS war, which seems to be doubling down on starting a bad war by dragging a bunch of other nations into it.
Again, this seems to be a sign of desperation related to the lack of any strategy for victory, with the administration hoping, unreasonably, that some other ally brought into the conflict might find the magic formula to transform this from another losing war into a victory.