Stercula: Obama isn’t to blame for ISIS


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The terrorist organization known as ISIS has been a growing threat that seemingly materialized from thin air in the summer of 2014. But the group has been around since 1999. It has consistently been overshadowed in the American media by Al Qaeda’s actions and was always a secondary issue. With recent events such as the torture and beheading of Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff, Briton David Haines, the overtaking of an Iraqi military base, and violence and aggression against Syrian villages, ISIS has taken up the mantle as the new threat in the Middle East.

Of course, if the ISIS has been around in one form or another since 1999, how did we — or anyone — allow it to propagate to the level we’re dealing with now? Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner and other of his Republican cohorts think it is because President Obama neglected to get more involved in Iraq and Syria during the time of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Boehner’s criticism is that the Obama administration should have sent troops to neutralize the ISIS threat while it was still manageable. Ignoring the fact that it takes more than just the will of the president to send troops into another established state (i.e. congressional approval), doing so would likely have been an international disaster.

Ultimately, Obama overestimated the ability of the Iraqi military. But investing that trust likely wasn’t the wrong move to make. If Obama didn’t trust the militaries of the region and instead sent in ground forces, the tumult and rippling effects of such actions would be far more unpredictable than the outcomes of trusting local militaries.

Now, we’re seeing a repeat of the situation. In an interview on Sunday, Speaker Boehner told ABC’s “This Week” he would support American troops on the ground to combat ISIS if no one else stepped up. He also voiced his opinion that Obama’s plan to deal with the terrorist organization will fail, saying it will take more than air strikes to destroy it. Obama has since said, “We are assisting Iraq in a very real battle that’s taking place on their soil, with their troops.” He said, “This is not America against ISIS. This is America leading the international community to assist a country with which we have a security partnership.”

There lies the heart of the issue. This is far more complex than an “us versus them” mentality. Boehner using a simple blame game against Obama is nothing more than publicity and party service. America is not the overlord of the world. While we do have a stake in foreign affairs and do have a tendency to take the lead on many international crises, we are not supposed to implement our will on other countries without any form of restraint. This is more complex than pointing a finger at a man who has been the Republicans’ scapegoat for the last six years. Trying to put the actions of ISIS on Obama is detrimental to progress, a cohesive Congress, and is ultimately entirely self-serving.

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