National Security Ksenija Pavlovic

For the growing security challenges like ISIS, America needs to show strategic decisiveness. America cannot continue to be a bystander.

Obama’s 2015 national security strategy leaves much to be desired. For the growing security challenges like ISIS, America needs to show strategic decisiveness. America cannot continue to be a bystander, says Ksenija Pavlovic

Is there really a strategy in Obama’s national security policy? Following on the previous national security strategy released during President Obama’s first term, the new strategy announced in 2015 was an opportunity for Obama to further define America’s foreign policy agenda and vision for U.S. global leadership.

The 29-page document released by the White House, however, amounts to an underdeveloped college essay, full of United Nations idealism in reference to the universal values and calls for broader coalitions. While it reads well, the document fails to address the geopolitical reality we continue to face.

Obama’s emphasis on isolation of Russia was wrong

Obama’s national security strategy states that:  “targeted economic sanctions remain an effective tool for imposing costs on those irresponsible actors whose military aggression, illicit proliferation, or unprovoked violence threaten both international rules and norms and the peace they were designed to preserve.”

However, the whole idea that political solutions can be found in economic sanctions is outdated and just a rehearsal of old remedies that mostly hurt the civilian population while still keeping the government in power.

A self-indulgent praise for Obama’s foreign-policy success in getting Europe to impose economic sanctions on Russia, did not really amount to progressive foreign policy, especially in the light of the peace talks that France’s Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel  had at that time with Putin.

Obama’s emphasis on isolation of Russia was wrong. The U.S. foreign policy success did not result from economic sanctions, but from encouraging Europe to stand up to its own defense. U.S. has already done enough and Europe has to start spending more on defense and find its own way to deal with Putin’s illegitimate warfare.

Retaliation against ISIS cannot be an object of debate any longer

Obama suggests that the U.S. efforts to counter the ideology behind violent extremism are “more important than our capacity to remove terrorists from the battlefield.” That is only partially true. The soft counterterrorism measures Obama talks about cannot replace the instrument of military power.  The U.S has the necessary military power to employ a decisive strategy and yet, hesitation is still evident.

Obama stated in an introduction to the national security strategy :  “The United States will always defend our interests and uphold our commitments to allies and partners…..But we have to make hard choices among many competing priorities and we must always resist the overreach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear.”

Obama’s warnings of “overreach” unfortunately delineate his inability to make tough decisions under pressure. The president practically made a public stand that America will continue to be a bystander. What Obama calls a strengthening of an unrivaled alliance system, is in fact him waiting for consensus. He is still leading a debate at times when the tough decisions are long overdue.

President Obama does not understand that retaliation against ISIS cannot be an object of debate any longer.

America cannot continue to be a bystander

Let me tell you this. I always feel bad when I need to criticize Obama. He’s an intelligent, brilliant politician who understands domestic politics well, but unfortunately,  when it comes to global affairs, his understanding was not sufficient to America’s needs.  Under Obama’s presidency, America kept standing on the sidelines.

Susan Rice suggested once that those who criticize Obama for his reflective approach to security crises lack a broad perspective and are too reactive. “We cannot afford to be buffeted by alarmism in a nearly instantaneous news cycle,” Rice said.

To be fair, Obama showed decisiveness when he made the decision to authorize the mission to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. If gone badly, this mission could have cost him his 2012 re-election.

“Strategic patience” could indeed be a wise decision if Obama had a comprehensive geopolitical strategy, but for the growing security challenges like ISIS, America needs to show strategic decisiveness. America cannot continue to be a bystander.