Our president fills the airwaves with words and promises. Most of us have learned to just tune them out. He has a reputation as a good speaker but only if someone else writes the words and his technical staff puts them on a teleprompter. It would be more accurate to say he is very good at reading speeches. Words are simply a means to achieve some murky end.

The president’s words in a war environment are very different. We do not dare tune them out. People’s lives and freedoms are at stake.

This president is the least equipped to be a commander-in-chief than any president in my lifetime, which goes back to FDR’s first term. President Obama carries with him some very strange baggage. I think he believes American troops in foreign lands are and were there as occupiers. He has even referred to our troops in Iraq during the actual war as an army of occupiers. His anti-colonial distrust of American power is deeply ingrained, but not well hidden. No troops were left in Iraq because he wanted his legacy to be the president who lived up to his pre-election rhetoric to end wars, not start them. Any American forces left behind in Iraq would be interfering with the sovereignty of Iraq and be occupiers, not protectors of the peace.

As a result, we have ISIS. I gave the president credit for putting together a coalition of Islamic countries and for authorizing the air war. The no-boots-on-the-ground chant bothered me but I thought he would take advice from the Pentagon and intelligence agencies to guide the air war and when the time was right to put some troops on the ground to direct the air war and stiffen the Peshmerga and Sunni tribes to resist ISIS  advances. The airstrikes did work to save Kirkuk and the huge nearby dam complex. Now ISIS commanders have adapted and the air war failed to reach the level of hundreds of strikes per day against fixed targets and targets of opportunity. Even now, outside the Kurdish city of Kobani, which ISIS is poised to capture  and massacre thousands of non-believers in ISIS’s brand of Islam, the airstrikes are far to few and ineffective.

To reach Kobani with the troops and fire power necessary to push the Peshmerga out of part of their homeland, ISIS had to establish and maintain long lines of logistical support. These kinds of targets are vulnerable to air interdiction. ISIS logistical convoys of tanks and trucks have to move though miles of desolate, sparsely populated areas. There is no cover and very little need to worry about collateral damage. Yet the might of the American air power is not being used.

Civilian command over the military is a very important Constitutional precept. But that doesn’t mean political hacks in the White House should manage the war. Militarily, they are worse than incompetent, because in arrogance they believe they are right. How many books by former Cabinet officers in the Obama administration do we have to read or hear on TV before everyone realizes there is a huge difference between civilian control and civilian-hands-on-management by politicians whose primary purpose is to make the president look good? I thought we had learned our lesson in the Vietnam War when the White House acted as a command center and target selection facility outside the Pentagon. Then, as now, no high-ranking generals or admirals resigned rather than kowtow to politicians with no or very limited military credentials. It would be more honorable if, rather than write books afterward, they openly resisted bad political/military orders and resigned. Their oath is to defend America, not their careers or the political legacy of any president.

Written by the author of “Insights: Transforming America — Is This What We Fought For?” available now as an ebook, in paperback or hardcover on or Follow the author on Twitter @factsfictions80. If you think this message is important, please share it.

1 Comment

Filed under Barry Kelly, Intelligence & Politics, ISIS, Kurds, Sunni, Terrorism


  1. John Nugent

    Very well stated.

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