Every four years Americans elect a President. Brutal campaigns pitch candidates against each other with the aim of trying to portray why one is a better candidate than the other to become the President of the United States. Whoever is finally elected swears on inauguration day to faithfully defend the constitution of the United States.
In the preamble of that document it states, ‘ We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’
However, seldom is the connection made during the campaign that the person elected is not just the President, but also the Commander-in-Chief of the United States military. If the person elected does not meet the latter requirement, the perils of electing a Commander-in-Chief in name only (CICINO), will undermine and threaten the ability to secure freedom and prosperity normally expected from a President.
Providing for the common defense as required in the Constitution through strong national security policies, is vital and inter-related with policies that promote national prosperity. Such a connection is even more vital for the United States as being the only super power and largest economy in the world. Many voters like to hear a candidate speak about withdrawing from global military commitments, preventing war and focusing on domestic agenda. However, in the real world global threats don’t go away because a president hope they will, evil intentions of advisories do not subside by pandering to them, and not recognizing and stemming national security threats early, only emboldens them to metastasize.
When elected, President Obama went on an apology tour to the Middle East and notably gave a speech in Cairo admonishing previous U.S policies. This fueled the notion that major issues in the world were due to America’s foreign policy. In doing so, even as Commander –in Chief, he neglected his duty to honor the sacrifice of thousands of Americans by outlining the many specific examples where these sacrifices freed millions of Muslims, and forged alliances to prevent domination of extremism which is a mortal treat to those societies and ours.
If President Obama had emphasized this, it would have allowed him to be able to explain American exceptionalism. That is, as a nation founded on the idea that human rights are derived from their creator rather than from man, the United States military involvement overseas as a superpower, has not been to conquer and occupy, but to combat evil, bring peace liberty and to facilitate economic freedom. Never in history has a superpower especially when it is the only one, exemplified its role for preservation of liberty and not conquest.
From his many speeches, it was indicative from early that the Obama doctrine believed that America’s power and influence in the world was the root for many problems. As such, he believes that a diminished America while giving concessions to adversaries at the expense of allies would ease world tensions and bring about peace.
If a president does not grasp the true role of America on the world stage or more so, knows what it should be and does not believe in executing that role, America and the entire world will suffer by America electing a CICINO.
The series of events that has followed during the Obama presidency only reaffirms this reality: The Russian ‘reset’ implemented by President Obama and then secretary of State Hillary Clinton led to abandoning commitments for a missile defense with eastern European ally Poland, a flawed Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty START with Russia which lowered and a restricted modernizing U.S nuclear deterrent programs while facilitating the expansion of Russian programs. Failure to lead on the Syria crisis by helping moderate anti- Assad regime fighters early before they were overrun by Iranian backed extremists. Setting fake red lines as Russia dominated the scene, and who in turn was emboldened to pursue totalitarian steps by annexing parts of Ukraine. In addition, the insistence to relieve sanctions on Iran while it continued to sponsor terror that has directly killed American troops and while it still pursues global mayhem which serves against the interests of the United States. Even though Iran is still making efforts to keep their nuclear programs alive, President Obama has threatened to veto bipartisan sanctions in congress to punish the Iranian regime.
It is appalling that even after the Iranian Ayatollah recently said that ‘ global jihad will not end until the U.S is destroyed’, and also spoke at a resent gathering with a banner in the background that said ‘America cannot do damn thing’, the Obama State department has implied seeking help in Iraq from the Iranians.
One of the first indications that America may be electing a CICINO is when presidential candidates base his or her foreign policies on political expediency, and then follow through on that path when elected. The stage is first set for the perils of electing a CICINO when the short-term political career of a candidate takes precedence over long-term national security of the nation.
When then senator Obama ran for president he touted his position against the Iraq war and his opposition to the 2007 military surge ordered by President Bush. The surge, even though it was greatly politically unpopular at the time, ultimately turned a losing war into a winnable one, while really decimating Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Hillary Clinton who also ran in 2008, and is expected to run again in 2016, admitted later in a conversation with former Defense Secretary Bob Gates and President Obama that she also opposed the surge only because of political reasons, as she too was competing in the 2008 election against Mr. Obama. That’s the first clue that Mrs. Clinton could be the leading contender for the next CICINO.
It is seldom noted that Mrs. Clinton and her husband former President Bill Clinton among with other democrats, had also supported the Iraq war. Resolutions to take military action against Saddam Hussein if he failed to cooperate with inspections were actually passed under Pres. Clinton. However, the same political winds that changed the stances of these democrats also steered from this conversation during the relentless attacks on President Bush in the media. Meanwhile another 2008 candidate, Sen. John McCain supported the surge by saying, “ I would rather lose an election than lose a war”, which he ultimately did.
The perils of or electing a CICINO is further guaranteed when the president elected fails to embrace the concept that no matter what his or her position was on an ongoing military conflict before the election, when elected as commander-in-chief the obligation and responsibility is to make sure that those conflicts end in victory. It is also an obligation to lead and achieve strategic long-term advantages for American national security interests.
It was to the dismay of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates as he described in his memoir ‘Duty’, that in a meeting with Mr. Obama in March of 2011 about Afghanistan he observed, “As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,”….. “For him, it’s all about getting out.” This illustrates the mindset of a CICINO and perils of not prioritizing long-term victory
In Iraq, the gains and relative stability achieved by the U.S military and its allies that president Obama inherited in 2009, gave him the opportunity to build the strategic advantage of a even more stable Iraq. This would have deterred extremists from gaining ground, as buffer to a militant Iran and being an example of free democracy in the Middle East. No matter what the events surrounding the Iraq were, the main intention was to prevent it form becoming a state sponsor of terror or a staging ground for attacks on the United States and its allies. That may soon become a reality due to the advances of the radical group ISIS to establish an Islamic state absent American leadership in the region. More so, it is fertile ground for the influence of Iran and Russia to undermine US and Western interests.
President Obama ran on ending the Iraq war and withdrawing American troops by 2012 before the next U.S general election. Even though he often touts that he fulfilled his campaign promise to withdraw American forces, he and his loyalists in the media never admit that decision was actually made for him in summer of 08 before he was elected President. On January 2009, his obligation as commander-in-chief was to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraqi government, which would provide immunity to a residual force of American forces after a large-scale U.S withdrawal. However, having a residual force of American forces would have violated President Obama’s campaign pledge of withdrawing all troops by 2012.
As Iraq erupts into another crisis as it is being over run by ISIS, the prevailing narrative by president Obama and liberals has shifted from the campaign rhetoric that he fulfilled his campaign pledge of ending the Iraq war. Instead the new narrative is that he tried to secure a status of forces agreement and it was the Iraqis fault that it was rejected. However if this was true, there were other options if President Obama really wanted to have a residual force of U.S military in Iraq. For example, he could have put them on the diplomatic rolls of the U.S embassy, which would have automatically given them immunity. In addition, it would not have been hard to predict what has happened now with ISIS and to convince the Iraq government that it would be in their interest to have a U.S military presence there.
A major reason for the success of the 07 surge was that Bush administration and generals like Gen. David Petraeus were able to quell sectarian violence through diplomacy. Great efforts and commitments were made to get Sunnis and Shiites to work together and join forces with the U.S to put Al Qaeda on a real path towards decimation. Despite Mr. Obama’s constant rant about the importance of diplomacy before careless action, being a CICINO has made him inept at that too.
During the Obama managed hastily withdrawal, little effort was made to maintain leverage to make sure that the apparatus of the new Iraqi government would involve respecting sectarian rights and sharing of political power in the new government. The consequences of this are now playing out as the Shiite dominated Al Maliki’s government has undermined the Sunnis, who populate a large part of the country. As soon as U.S forces left Al Maliki arrested the Sunni vice president and set the stage of renewed sectarian violence. The efforts of ISIS have greatly fueled resentments between Sunnis and Shiites especially now as ISIS has been executing moderate Sunni and many Shiites who fought with American forces.
The common perception among many Sunnis is that Americans abandoned them to the brutality of the Al Maliki regime and some in turn have taken up arms with ISIS. Kurdish Iraqis who also fought with U.S forces are now facing ISIS alone on one border and another with pro- Assad Syrians on the other. Any efforts to rekindle the valuable sectarian diplomacy earned by U.S forces before will be likely futile. Carelessly losing the hard earned commitments from friends and squandering U.S credibility with allies is a direct result of electing a CICINO. See: The 'Sons of Iraq,' Abandoned but their American Allies, by Philip 'PJ' Dermer.
Another main reason that Al Qaeda and Islamic extremism is on the rise and quickly gaining ground, is that President Obama as CICINO has been reluctant to acknowledge who the real enemies are and to call it what it really is. A war on terror incited by Islamic extremists who want a worldwide Caliphate governed by Sharia Law.
One of his other first steps as President was to re-label the War on Terror as ‘Over seas Contingency Operations’ and terrorists’ acts as ‘man made disasters’. This he naively thought would appease radical Muslims into not carrying out attacks. The inability to emphatically admit who the enemy is and understand what drives their motives, makes it difficult to defeat them, a major peril of electing a CICINO. This was displayed after the terrorist attack on a U.S diplomatic compound in Benghazi Libya on 9/11/2012 that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. Despite early evidence that it was a terrorist attack the White House amplified the narrative that it was incited by an ‘anti-Muslim video’.
President Obama the next day speaking about the attack lamented about the video’s role in the attack and only mentioned acts of terror in passing and in general terms. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Dover Air Force Base during the ceremony when the bodies arrived said to a family member of one of the deceased “ We will get the person who did this video”, while having full knowledge by then that it was a terrorist attack. Pressed on her stance about the video at a congressional hearing she famously shouted, “What difference does it make?” The difference displayed there was between the integrity to admit the truth as a leader and a political cover up to what really happened. Just a week before the attack, the President was boasting at the Democrat Convention that Al Qaeda was on the run. The difference is further illustrated by their actions between a CICINO and a credible Commander-in-Chief.
President Obama also campaigned on closing the Guantanamo terrorist prison facility in Cuba as he thought it was a major terrorist recruiting tool, oblivious to what it really was. Guantanamo is proper holding facility for enemies of war, who were actually recruited by radical Islam to wage jihad against the West and non-Muslims. Only a CICINO would not acknowledge that.
After World War II leaders like Sir Winston Churchill warned a war weary world that an ‘iron curtain’ had descended in Eastern Europe which would mark the beginning of a new and long conflict between Communism and Western democracies, called the Cold War. As described in my previous article: A Leadership Deficit at a Time to Rally the West, in the 21st century we have a new global threat ushered in after 9/11/2001, which is radical Islam against the rest of the world. In addition it is compounded by the re-emergence of totalitarian regimes like Russia and China who seek to undermine free nations. Only true leaders will admit that this period in history will see long and even more dangerous confrontations especially if radicals like ISIS establish a terror state and gets access to nuclear weapons. Only true leaders will be able to deal with them.
Such a battle will not just end because President Obama unilaterally thinks they should. While he may wait out the presidential term clock of not having a major global confrontation on his watch, by being a CICINO he is facilitating the stage for whoever succeeds him.
America in electing a president Obama in 2008 and again in 2012 has unwittingly elected the trinity of perils by electing a CICINO. A person who doesn’t believe in what America stands for or it’s role in the world, a person who appeases or emboldens those who hate our way of life, and one who whose failure to lead the West leaves us to conflicts with the forged alliances of totalitarians and extremists in the 21st century. The fate of the world depends on America electing a credible Commander-in Chief in 2016.