Why ‘No Strategy?’

History Won’t Do Our Work For Us

Posted: September 3, 2014

Tiven that President Obama has known of ISIS’ capacity for mayhem for more than a year, it was somewhat alarming to learn the administration has “no [definitive] strategy” for dealing with the Islamist scourge.

To be fair, we understand that coherent strategies are not developed overnight. But what concerns us more, perhaps, than even the absence of a strategy is the mentality that produced it, not to mention Mr. Obama’s near insouciance in delivering this news.

In other words, today’s world is full of nasty individuals wreaking unspeakable havoc — not only ISIS, but Hamas, Boko Haram, and Vladimir Putin — and yet we get the feeling the president senses no urgency and is but moderately alarmed. And doesn’t seem to care who knows it. What kind of message does this send to allies as well as enemies?

You see, the “no strategy” comment was but half the story of Thursday’s press conference. Equally jarring was Mr. Obama’s admission that once a strategy is developed, its “priority” will be “to make sure” ISIS’ gains in Iraq are merely “rolled back” and that the government in Baghdad “has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself.”

Such inaction masked as a measured response has dire portents, as it suggests a reversion to the only clarifying element of what passes for the administration’s foreign policy — Mr. Obama’s misguided belief that merely existing on “the right side of history” will produce intended results. That is, “history” will do the messy work while we, laden with good intentions, cheer it on from the sidelines.

But history, as scholar Victor Davis Hanson reminds us, is not, and never has been, an avenging force. Likewise, he says, “A Pollyannaish belief in historical predetermination” is no “substitute for action.”

History is what we make of it, often by imposing our will. No naifs need apply.

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