Vision, Strategy, Tactics

By Rich Galen | September 11, 2014 | 6:22am EDT


Prior to President Barack Obama's speech on ISIS/ISIL/IS, here are my thoughts:

Mr. Obama got himself into the position of having to make a major speech by losing focus during a press conference about three weeks ago. While trying to say that the cable news professional commentariat were getting way ahead of where he was prepared to take the country in the fight against ISIS, he inartfully said that he had "no strategy" at that point to chase them into Syria.

That followed, by a good eight months, the President's pronouncement that ISIS was, as put it: "the equivalent of 'a jayvee team.'"

ISIS is, as puts it "a Sunni jihadist group in the Middle East. In its self-proclaimed status as a caliphate."


Parsing that, jihadist is "an ideology for unlimited war, as stated in the words of Osama bin Laden and his close associates, against "America and the West" by "any Muslim anywhere who is able to do it."

A Caliphate according to is, "in theory, more than just a country that happens to be officially Muslim; it is supposed to encompass every Muslim on earth. The last time that sort of caliphate existed was many centuries ago."

Difference between Sunni/Shia (or Shiite) Muslims. According to the BBC "The differences lie in the fields of doctrine, ritual, law, theology and religious organization.

Sunni Muslims regard themselves as the orthodox and traditionalist branch of Islam and make up as much as 90 percent of all Muslims in the world. Shiites are about 10 percent of all Muslims and there is a distinctive messianic element to the faith.

"Shia Muslims are in the majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan and, according to some estimates, Yemen. There are large Shia communities in Afghanistan, India, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE."


Thus boxed in and, with his job approval numbers stuck in the low 40s and having just disappointed a large segment of his base by punting on his promised Immigration Policy by Executive Order, the President needs to do something and the something begins with this speech.

I will be looking for three things:

-- The Vision for this operation - WHY we need to do it and when will we know we've been successful?

-- The Strategy for this operation - WHAT do we need to do?

-- The Tactics for this operation - HOW will we accomplish it?

NOTE: This is adapted from the teachings of Newt Gingrich.

The Speech

A few months after Senator Obama became President Obama a memo was issued that stated the phrase "Global War on Terror" was no longer operationable and would henceforth be referred to as "Overseas Contingency Operations."

I am not making this up. The relevant Washington Post article in on today's Secret Decoder Ring.

Last night he used the root word "terror" (including terrorist(s), terrorize, terrorism, etc.) no fewer than 20 times in his 13 minute speech.

I thought the President was pretty clear on the Vision for this operation: "In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists - Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff."

He was very careful to point out a number of times that we had to protect "American citizens, personnel and facilities" as well as ethnic and religions minorities.

As I understand it, the President - any President - has broad powers as chief executive of the government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces to do exactly those things.

President Obama was not as clear on his Strategy. Twice he spoke broadly, but cryptically, of a "broad coalition" that would bring to bear the power and forces necessary to, in his words, "degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy."

Saying, in effect, "my strategy is to have a strategy" is not much of a strategy. It's not even as specific as "Don't do stupid stuff."

As to the Tactics all we heard were ambiguous declarations of using indigenous personnel having been trained by U.S. non-combatant forces to utilize equipment assumedly provided by the "broad coalition" to "degrade and defeat ISIL"

He used the last three or four minutes of his speech to dip in to campaign-style remarks. He used the phrase "It is America " five times, but a speech in a hallway at the White House provides neither the emotional nor acoustical reverberation it needed.


President Obama (and his staff) get a gentleman's C for this effort. They rushed into it to try to stem the constant stream of complaints (immigration), outrage (golf after the James Foley) and outright ridicule (the tan suit).

Not only will this speech not accomplish whatever the White House was hoping for, but it now puts all those shaky Democrats running for public office - especially the U.S. Senate - in a position to have to answer questions like "Will [would] you vote for the President's plan?" without having any idea what that plan actually entails.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to all of the items italicized above - well worth the look to brush up prior to tomorrow's trip to Starbucks - as well as a nostalgic Mullfoto from Dulles Airport over the weekend.

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