Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dithering and Spinning is not a Course of Action

When I first saw Kristina Wong's latest at TheHill, I thought it was just a case of the editor picking a clunky title, US military drafting 'new narrative' for ISIS war.

It turns out that no, they are serious.
The U.S. military is seeking to craft a “new narrative” for the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in part to push back on the growing perception that President Obama does not have a strategy.

Military officials on the Operation Inherent Resolve task force have recently formed a working group to formulate the narrative, defense officials told The Hill. Separately, the Joint Staff has drafted its own messaging document.

The steps are preliminary and are part of a larger effort to better communicate the United States's military strategy amid heavy criticism from Republican presidential candidates who say Obama is losing the battle against the terrorist group.
"To say there's no strategy is just flat out wrong," said Army Col. Christopher Garver, public affairs officer for the Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve.

"If you want to have a debate about it, that's good, let's talk about it. But there is a strategy," he added.

The new working group will look at "how best to articulate what it is we're trying to do ... and do it in a concise, easy to understand way," Garver said.

It is not clear who is overseeing or directing the effort, which appears to be internally driven within the military.
What do they say in domestic politics, "If you are explaining, you are losing."

Of course, we know where this is coming from - a complete lack of effective leadership at the POLMIL level from the Commander in Chief. He simply is not a leader in this segment of his responsibilities.

As we have discussed many times here about leadership, if you have a failure at the top, it is a critical requirement that lower echelons, while being loyal, do what they can to fill the gap. That is the only way they can mitigate damage to the mission as they understand it, and also to fill their responsibility to their subordinates.

When this happens, more often than not it is a clunky arrangement. That is what I believe is going on here.

No way to run a railroad.

As if to underline my thoughts above, Paul Saunders over at TheNationalInterest weighs in;
When President Barack Obama acknowledged in September 2014 that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), he stunned his supporters and detractors alike. Obama was similarly candid nine months later, when he announced in a June 2015 statement, “we don’t yet have a complete strategy.” But why not?

Three reasons appear paramount. The first is the president’s defensive approach to foreign policy. On too many issues, President Obama seems primarily motivated by what he wants to avoid rather than what he wants to achieve. Consider Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Iran, where Obama has sought to avoid military operations in recent years. Libya is the exception that proves the rule, in that the American role in deposing Muammar el-Qaddafi seems to have validated the president’s instincts about the perils of what he terms “military adventures.”

Secondly, Obama too often resembles a pedantic law professor: he is clearly quite skilled at pointing out the flaws in his subordinates’ proposals. The problem is this: a professor’s job ends at that point; a president’s starts. Yet this president’s avoidant foreign policy seems to prevent him from going further. Finally, Obama does not intuitively understand the exercise of power—not just how and when to use it, but its foundations, its psychology and its consequences. The result of these three factors is a “none-of-the-above” policy assembled from the shards of discarded options.
That is where we are. Elections have consequences, and these are ours. Claim 'em and own 'em American, you voted for it twice.

In to the breach will be lower echelon leaders who will try to provide some kind of holding action in hope that the American people will elect a leader in '16 as opposed to a campaigner. 

Leadership in any matter of international seriousness is not Obama's skill set. A smart guy and a very talented politician - but leader? No, not in this way - and it won't get better.

Embrace the clunk.

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