Donald Trump delivered a major speech in Philadelphia on September 7th in which he detailed his proposals for a vastly strengthened military. He wants to reverse the downward trend of the Obama years. Echoing former President Ronald Reagan, Trump said that “Peace through Strength” are the “three crucial words that should be at the center of our foreign policy.”
To fulfill that ambition, Trump intends to increase military spending by tens of billions of dollars, which would allow him to enhance the number of active troops, fighter planes and naval assets. Moreover, as commander-in-chief, he would ask his generals to come up with a plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS and would order a thorough review of the nation’s vulnerabilities to cyberattacks.
"We want to defer, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength," Trump said. That requires “rethinking the failed policies of the past.”
“In a Trump administration,” he added, “our actions in the Middle East will be tempered by realism. The current strategy of toppling regimes, with no plan for what to do the day after, only produces power vacuums that are filled by terrorists.”
Donald Trump is not exaggerating the utter failure of the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. When President Obama began his first term in 2009. Iraq, Syria and Libya were relatively stable. Now they are failed states. The legacy left behind by the Obama administration, as Trump put it with particular focus on Hillary Clinton, “has produced only turmoil and suffering.”
CIA Director John Brennan said in an interview with the CTC Sentinel, published on September 7th, that "I don't know whether or not Syria and Iraq can be put back together again. There's been so much bloodletting, so much destruction, so many continued, seething tensions and sectarian divisions.”
Although not referring to President Obama or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by name, Brennan no doubt had them in mind when he said: “We saw with the Arab Spring, people, including here in the United States, optimistically thinking, ‘Well, if you just move out those authoritarian leaders, democracy is going to flourish, and people will welcome the opportunity to have a fully participatory political system.’ That ain’t the way it turned out.”
In a speech he delivered on May 19, 2011, Obama embraced the changes he saw coming as a result of the Arab Spring and proclaimed that “after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”
As Brennan said, “That ain’t the way it turned out.” The entire region is mired in deadly sectarian conflict, which has opened the door for ISIS and other terrorists to foment further violence and destruction.
When President Obama took office, ISIS’s predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, was largely defeated. In a 2010 interview with then CNN host Larry King, Vice President Joe Biden was already predicting that with “90,000 American troops” coming home soon, Iraq could become one of the Obama administration’s “great achievements.” Biden added: “You're going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government."
At the end of 2011, when Obama removed all remaining U.S. troops from Iraq against military advice, he said, “we're leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”
Once again, to quote Brennan, “That ain’t the way it turned out.” Without a strong residual U.S. military force in place, the remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq were able to reconstitute themselves. They re-emerged from bases they had set up in Syria as the separate jihadist terrorist group, ISIS or the Islamic State. Here is how CIA Director Brennan described ISIS’s incredible growth in his interview with the CTC Sentinel:
“In some respects, they’re similar to a startup in the business world. Their numbers in Iraq were down to 600 to 800 or so after they were pummeled by the U.S. military and others. They had very limited capability. And then all of a sudden, as a result of things that were going on inside of Iraq and Syria, they regained momentum. And they grew exponentially, which then led to the separation between ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra.”
The Obama administration has waffled on Syria. Obama’s failure to follow through on his threat to use military force if Syrian President Assad’s regime were found to have used chemical weapons against its people emboldened not only the regime itself -- it emboldened the regime’s chief allies, Russia and Iran, to become more militarily involved in the conflict. ISIS and other jihadist terrorists also took advantage of what they perceived to be the weakness of a paper tiger U.S. president. Moreover, with the toppling of the Qaddafi regime in Libya and the resulting outflow of arms and jihadists to the fight in Syria, ISIS was able to expand its ranks and weaponry.
Brennan pointed out in his interview how ISIS (which he calls ISIL) has used its headquarters base in Syria to expand its terror network worldwide. They have expanded, he said, including by “moving operatives that have experience on the battlefields of Syria and training and directing them to be part of refugee or migrant flows, or finding ways to get into countries or return to their home countries and carry out attacks.” Brennan added that “their external operations group, which is based mainly in Syria in the Raqqa area, is really trying to generate activity.”
As for Libya itself, which was under relative control until the Obama-Clinton decision to force a regime change without any plan for the day after, Brennan said, “What Libya holds is a fair amount of ungoverned space and a lack of any type of government or rule of law that can be felt throughout the country.”
In short, President Obama’s own CIA Director John Brennan has described the horrendous consequences of Obama’s failed foreign policy in the most volatile region in the world, including the increased potential for more deadly jihadist terrorist attacks here at home. In effect, Brennan made Donald Trump’s case for him.
Even before Trump gave his military policy speech, 88 retired generals and admirals came out with an endorsement of Trump, declaring that “the 2016 election affords the American people an urgently needed opportunity to make a long-overdue course correction in our national security posture and policy.” The letter’s authors warned that “enemies have become emboldened, sensing weakness and irresolution in Washington.”
Obama has belittled the United States on trips abroad and lectured Americans on showing more tolerance even right after lethal ISIS directed or inspired attacks on our soil. And Hillary Clinton wants to show “respect” to our enemies and “empathize with their perspective and point of view."
Donald Trump, by contrast, offered something in his speech that should be music to the ears of all Americans who believe in American exceptionalism. He said, ”Instead of an apology tour, I will proudly promote our system of government and our way of life as the best in the world – just like we did in our campaign against communism during the Cold War.”
We cannot afford to continue along the same path as Obama-Clinton-Kerry have followed during the last eight years, for the sake of the security of our country and the future we leave to our children and our grandchildren.