Mark Caserta: Obama owns the war on ISIS

18 Sep

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Sep. 18, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

The year was 2007. Americans were weary of the war in Iraq and pressures were mounting to bring our troops home.

The U.S. had stated the intent was to remove “a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, harbored and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses, and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world.” The primary rationalization for the Iraq War was articulated in a joint resolution of Congress, known as the “Iraq Resolution” and had the support of Democrats like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Harry Reid.

But the Bush administration struggled to produce the suspected weapons of mass destruction and the mission became increasingly clouded by the speculation of poor intelligence. Many began to challenge our motivation for remaining in the region. Although the United States had successfully toppled the ruthless regime of Saddam Hussein, the value of the service, once performed, began to decrease. A pivotal point had been reached in the war.

In a January speech to the nation, President Bush took to the podium to announce a major tactical shift where he planned to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq to provide additional security to Baghdad and Al Anbar Province. “The surge,” as it’s become known, operated under the working title “The New Way Forward.”

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But the idea of sending additional troops wasn’t popular with Americans or the president’s naysayers who opportunistically leveraged the decision politically. The president’s approval ratings plummeted over the next few months as slow progress made it appear their assertions about the surge may have been correct.

On July 12, Bush addressed the nation to answer his critics, warning of the consequences of failure in Iraq.

“It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda,” Bush said at the time. “It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.”

He added that abandoning Iraq “would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”

By the end of 2007, the surge was having an impact and Iraq began to stabilize. But the damage had been done politically. Americans were ready for a change.

In the 2008 presidential election Americans voted for Barack Obama, largely on his commitment to end the Iraq War. And as promised, in 2009 he began an 18-month drawdown of our troops, ignoring his military commander’s recommendation to leave 20,000 troops behind.

Today, just as Bush predicted, the void from Obama’s ill-timed exit from Iraq has been filled by the Islamic State forces, the horrific organization the world has come to know as ISIS or ISIL.

America now faces a new enemy. Does President Obama have the fortitude to do what’s necessary to “degrade and destroy” ISIS?

Only time will tell. But based on accurate history, Barack Obama owns this war on The Islamic State.

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Mark Caserta is a conservative blogger, a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

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