Obama Strategically Waits for the Middle East to Catch Up to Civilization

modern medieval

Despite already having the ability — as he has been more than willing to mention — to wage war without asking for Congressional approval, President Obama nonetheless is trying to get a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) passed on The Hill, something that is proving controversial to both sides of the aisle.

From a three-year limit to a check on launching “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling Obama’s proposal either too restrictive or too broad — but few are calling it just right.

Those on the right wonder if the three-year time frame — which will bleed over into the term of the next president — doesn’t tie the hands of the executive office (bearing in mind Obama has made great use of that same executive privilege he would limit after he leaves office). It also turns our engagement in the region into a very dispassionate drone war, assuming we still have an interest in the region at all. Those on the left actually — oddly — argue the exact opposite: that the new AUMF gives the president too much power to say how and who we fight.

But with Egypt answering ISIS’ desire to “conquer Rome”, something they believe can be accomplished by beheading 21 coptic Christians (signed with blood to the nations of the cross. Maybe the crusades mention wasn’t far off. These guys still seem to be fighting in one if their rhetoric can be believed), and the US looking set to abandon the region altogether, it’s worth asking how non-interventionist types (many of them libertarians) feel about the new war request.

It’s probably a good bet that libertarians are naturally opposed to anything that holds the expectation of, and the allowance for, war in a region they’d prefer the US vacate. But let’s examine that desire for a minute because there’s a very good chance that complete withdrawal from the region is also exactly what our President has in mind — but very possibly for different reasons than war-weary libertarians. And frankly, there’s a decent chance that freedom-loving libertarians may find themselves uncomfortable with the President’s plan, assuming he actually has one; something that is never totally clear.

As much as there has been a desire to not reengage in a land war in the middle east — and one criticism of the new AUMF is that it is, in fact, a ‘charter of negative liberties’ (which is to say that it outlines what cannot be done rather than what should be done, something our own President seems to have had a problem with in the past) — there is reason to suspect that the agenda of the current administration is to make the issue moot by surrendering and abandoning the region, possibly to the point that a US presence is very barely a reality.

“So, we’re surrendering around the world, we’re surrendering our embassy, and now we’re asking U.S. Marines to surrender their dignity, give up oaths that they made, creeds that they live by, and surrender their rifle,” Hegseth said.

Hegseth wondered who thought it was right to have Marines hand over their weapons to Yemeni officials before evacuating the country.

“Someone botched the plan,” he said.

Hegseth said this is about the signals and optics presented to the world.

“It is maddening how naive this administration is,” he said.

Obama has been employing his patience strategically, which is to say, he has been doing specifically and exactly nothing at all. Probably taking advantage of the non-interventionist thread winding its way through the US electorate.

But all that waiting around and letting Egypt take care of Libya while laying a very flawed new war authorization on Congress’ doorstep (and if they can’t fix it, they will be the ones to blame of course) accomplishes a couple of disturbing things:

1. It empowers Iran and gives them the ability negotiate in a way that would make Don Corleone green with envy. Although Iran is denying it, they have reportedly said that if we help them achieve their nuclear ambitions, they will take care of this pesky ISIS business (whom they have very likely been funding either directly or indirectly for a long time).

2. It makes the discussion of funding the Department of Homeland Security more a part of the discussion because where will all that former defense spending be rerouted? It’s a decent guess.

The larger point is that Obama, community organizer that he is, will be doing what he always planned but only recently has been completely open about: pulling us out of the Middle East (and apparently clearing a path for Iran to attempt to control the region which opens up a whole host of questions involving Syria, the Saudis, Russia, you name it) to focus on his domestic agenda, brought to the fore by the desire for mass amnesty.

So there it is. While our allies in the middle east know they are existentially threatened, we are quietly cashing in our chips to focus on a totally avoidable problem here at home. Which would be fine — albeit pretty shifty and disloyal — except there’s little to suggest that Iran will ultimately play nice with anyone. Despots tend not to play fair you know. And then there’s that nagging feeling we all have that maybe ISIS does have a larger plan that involves crossing the big ocean. After all, maybe they’re not really driven by power or poverty as some like to suggest. No, it’s something a little closer to zealotry:

There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam.

So it turns out that Obama was right to bring up the Crusades. These guys are still fighting them. And if that’s the case, well, downplaying the threat is probably really, really, really stupid.

But at least there are still men who stand on the wall. Even when their shift is over. We may not have long to wait to recognize the debt we owe them when it would appear that our current administration is naive enough to trust that the hotbed of conflict, religious extremism, death worship, and subjugation of civil liberties known as the middle east can move into the 21st century without bloodshed and destruction. Or that it has ever had any intention of doing so.

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