Streetwise Professor

August 28, 2014

Obama Wore a Tan Suit Because He Much Prefers You Obsess Over Its Color, and Ignore the Fact That It’s Empty

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 5:53 pm

Today Obama shared with the world his deep insights on ISIS and Ukraine.

The gobsmacking revelation: “We don’t have a strategy yet” on ISIS. (Precisely because he calls it ISIL, I will refer to it by ISIS.)

This brings to mind the old Lone Ranger joke, with the punchline: “What do you mean we, paleface?” (Don’t go there.)

I am sure that the Pentagon presented Obama with multiple strategies, and that he found none of them to his liking.

No doubt none of the options were all that palatable. Primarily because his previous decisions have left the United States with a set of choices that range between bad and terrible. But there are certainly several that would be better than nothing, which is what he is choosing to do. I would surmise that part of the reason that Obama is refusing to choose any of them, which would involve getting more deeply involved in Iraq and bombing Syria, is that by choosing them, he would be drawing attention to his own blunders.

So it’s not that “we” don’t have a strategy: it’s that Obama doesn’t. I am sure that people in the DoD are simply beside themselves.

Obama did indicate that whatever his strategy ends up being, it will start with John Kerry going to the Middle East to build a coalition. You know, the John Kerry that is a laughingstock in the region. The John Kerry who is pretty much despised by everyone that matters: I am sure that even the nations he has sucked up to, namely Qatar and Turkey, have zero respect for him. The John Kerry that hasn’t negotiated anything lasting and serious. The John Kerry who routinely travels to Geneva to be humiliated by Lavrov and the Iranians.

Kerry’s one-one-claim to accomplishment as Secretary of State is negotiating a deal among the Afghan presidential candidates for an audit of the country’s disputed election. No sooner did he get on the plane than the principals to the agreement started arguing. The audit has not taken place, and is not likely to take place anytime soon.

But Kerry will put that robust coalition together, have no fear.

On Ukraine, Obama couldn’t utter the “I” word–invasion. He said, in effect, move along, there’s nothing new to see here:

“I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now,” Obama said, noting Russian President Vladimir Putin has ignored opportunities to find a diplomatic end to the dispute.

This is true. Russia has been invading for months, so its reinforcement of the invasion is just a continuation. Obama’s bloodless indifference and inaction are also just a continuation. He is just waving Putin on, and Putin will just step on the accelerator.

For his part, Putin delivered a truculent statement that can be viewed as a victory speech, and as a signal of his intention to expand the conflict. He praised the rebels in Donbas for “intercepting Kiev’s military operation,” and called on them to mercifully let surrounded Ukrainian forces to retreat to avoid a “needless loss of life.” He demanded Ukraine cease military actions, declare a cease fire, and negotiate with the rebels.

The title of the talk was ominous: “An address to the militia of Novorossiya.” You know, of course, that Novorossiya encompasses far more than the Donbas.

Facing no real resistance from Merkel and Obama, Putin is going to push forward.

Back to Obama. Other than the “I don’t need no steenkin’ strategy” line, what drew the most comment was his tan suit.

His sartorial choice is easily explained. He would much rather have people obsessing about the color of his suit, than noticing the fact that it is empty.

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  1. SWP, too much emphasis out there on the color. Suit color was fine. It’s that Obama is a slim guy is swimming in a boxy suit a size or two big for him that was distracting.

    A suit that doesn’t fit. How appropriate. Dress for the job you want… or in this case, the job you don’t want.

    Comment by Strigidae — August 28, 2014 @ 8:42 pm

  2. Dear Professor, greetings from Beirut! While I definitely agree with you that the time has come for the US to strike “ISIS” (aka “Da’ash” here in the Arab world) I think you’re a little hard on Obama. His decisions re: the Middle East at least up until a year or two ago made a lot of sense. Public opinion both here and in the U.S. is really against us getting involved. If you interviewed 1,000 people chosen at random in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, how many do you think would support US involvement? Maybe 50, 100. On the other hand, probably 300, 400 or more would be deeply opposed. After Iraq, there’s no appetite for it. The small amount of people supporting the non-Islamist Syrian opposition excepted of course. Similarly in the U.S. A main reason Obama beat McCain was that the republicans were so eager to take us to Iraq and there was no realistic strategy for dealing with the aftermath. That involvement, which the republicans championed so much in 2002, 2003, 2004, was a disaster that we are still dealing with. So I’m not sure why you say it was Obama’s decisions that led us to where we are no vis a vis the middle east. It was Bush’s, and Rumsfeld’s and Cheney’s. See “FIASCO” by Thomas Ricks for a very good, military-centered discussion of this.

    On the other hand there is a humanitarian crisis and vicious terrorist threat now in play in Syria and Iraq, and yes, Obama has stood by the past three years as if the problem would simply, somehow, resolve itself. The real problem for the U.S. (and Obama will be gone in two years, and a new administration will still be dealing with all this) is that our Middle East “strategy” is hopelessly confused. Fighting ISIS means implicitly siding with Asad. He will be the main beneficiary. Also benefiting is Iran and Hezbollah. These two parties are mortal enemies of Israel. And our other big “ally” (they are anything but), the Saudis, will be apoplectic. Without Saudi, Qatari, and other support from the Sunni states of the Gulf, do you honestly think ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra, etc. would be a threat? The Saudis et al. have created a monster. And don’t forget, our “ally” the Saudis also supplied 15 of the 9/11 attackers. They are not our friends, but they will be undermining any realistic attempt to put Syria back together which is not dominated by the Sunnis. And that for better or worse is what it will really take to combat ISIS and others like them.

    This is why Obama is right to say we don’t have a strategy for combatting ISIS. The US’s tangle of alliances here is hopelessly confused. The vast majority of people in the region want a better life, but the politics of all the states here (with maybe the exception of Lebanon, curiously enough) don’t permit for public participation in civil life. And sorting out the limits of Islam’s control over public life is also a difficult, painful process that many want to see start. Unfortunately they are just at the beginning of this.

    Some random thoughts–

    Comment by Steve — August 29, 2014 @ 8:18 am

  3. Nah – he was just channeling the Big Suit from Talking Heads – after all he stopped making sense to everyone else but himself and his enablers a long time ago.

    to understand How the O makes the insane statements he makes (e.g. we have no strategy yet”, etc.), we need to appreciate his Paradigm.

    1. He is always correct.
    2. Confusion and uncertainty does not really exist – that is because the world is “complicated”, and our responses must be “Sophisticated”.
    3. There is no problem than cannot be solved by taking the “proper” and “correct” policy
    4. Just thinking # 3 above, will get it done.
    5. Any Problems as such are a function of the opposition to him personally, or a profound lack of intelligence and or ignorance.
    6. What he doesn’t know is not important.

    In other words we are stuck with the worst combination of a half trained academic idiot, never exposed to the rigors of the high humanities or sciences, with an outlook, when you strip him of the memorized deconstructivist Classic comics’ Frankfurt school gibberish, as bad as any Little America, Bobbitt like boob that S lewis could come up with.

    Comment by Sotos — August 29, 2014 @ 10:10 am

  4. @Sotos-Very amusing comparison, complete with the album title. Stopped making sense is right. Your diagnosis is spot on, too. One correction: Babbitt not Bobbitt was the Sinclair Lewis character. John Bobbitt was the guy whose wife Lorena took the knife to 😉 So many directions to go with that, all of them dangerous 😛

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 29, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

  5. Bobbit, Babbit, hey I ain’t got no teleprompter! – I guess my Freudian slip was shoeing, as we seem to have had our power cut off. As a Civil Qar Buff, I was glad to notethat you recognized what was described as the third battle of Manassas.

    Comment by Sotos — August 29, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

  6. @Steve-thanks for your reply. Stay safe in Beirut.

    My main criticism of Obama is his abject mishandling of the Iraq situation. This is what let ISIS come back from the brink of destruction in Iraq. That’s why we are where we are.

    I have always been ambivalent about Syria. There was a period in 2011-2012 when Asad was teetering. If Obama had taken the initiative then, Asad might well have fallen. Two issues: 1. As Libya shows, what Asad’s fall would have led to is unknowable, but could very well have been bad. 2. Once that moment passed, Iran and Russia and Hezbollah doubled down in their support for Asad, and then it was pointless to intervene. But then Obama made the “red line” remark, which created another fiasco.

    In other words, Obama’s bad options now are the product of his bad decisions earlier. But he’s compounding the error now.

    Yes, the Saudis have created a monster. So have the Qataris. In terms of choosing potential allies in the region from among KSA, Qatar, and Iran, it’s like choosing between Ebola, anthrax, and smallpox. It’s a mess, and it’s always been a mess, but Obama made the mess infinitely worse by throwing away a hard fought success in Iraq.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 29, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

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