July 8, 2014 | Commentary on Iraq, President Barack Obama

Prez Sticks to His Global Mistakes

Secretary of State John Kerry recently floated a mind-boggling idea: To help turn back ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group that has seized control of more than a third of Iraq, the U.S. could enter a cooperative arrangement with the mullahs of Iran. 

Yes, the administration still clings to the notion that it can advance American interests by cutting a deal with Tehran. No wonder we are losing everywhere on the foreign policy front. 

True, America and Iran have a mutual interest in Iraq, much in the way a robber and a customer have a common interest in a bank. Missing the difference in desired outcomes explains the core problem of the president’s foreign policy. 

The Obama Doctrine places a premium on negotiating with competitors to ameliorate conflict. President Obama’s negotiating efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq are aimed at finding a way out of foreign entanglements; a lot of bad guys are happy to see him succeed. 

For Obama, the deal — rather than quality of the deal — seems to matter most. The deals he has delivered in both Iraq and Afghanistan leave a security vacuum or the potential for future instability that can be readily exploited. When it comes to exit strategy, he has placed a premium on the “exit” rather than the “strategy.” 

Of course, in addition to enlisting the aid of Iran, Secretary Kerry also wants to bomb the insurgents in Iraq.

Despite his Nobel Peace Prize, our president is not reluctant to use force. But he takes a minimalist approach — ordering up the least amount of military power he felt he could get away with. 

There are times for restraint in the use of armed force. There are times when it makes sense to go to the table and negotiate — even with your enemies. 

The problem with the Obama administration is that it lacks the strategic judgment for knowing when these are the best options. 

The military and political strategies that comprise the Obama Doctrine have created space and opportunity for others to exploit the instability in Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration’s insistence on pursuing those same, failed strategies yet again makes it difficult to be optimistic about the future of either country. 

 - James Jay Carafano is vice president of defense and foreign policy studies for the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

Related Issues: Iraq, President Barack Obama

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