THE BLOG
09/08/2014 04:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Obama, the Consummate Realist, Accepts Reality

2014-09-07-TheProjectfortheNewMiddleEast.jpg

This August, President Barack Obama declared, "As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into another war in Iraq." The President is right to keep this perspective, since there are a handful of capable, vetted opposition forces in Kurdistan, Syria, and Iran ready to take the fight to the enemy. Who is the enemy? Anyone who threatens Western hegemony.

It took years, but Obama arrived at the conclusion isolationism will not do. America's ability to shape events is essential to the global order. Knowledge is power, and we have ceded too much influence and power.

The day before the 13th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Obama will meet with bipartisan leaders of Congress at the White House. This will likely be to reveal a multifaceted, decades-long strategy to top leaders of Congress, after which he will deliver a speech to the American public. In conversations with former military officials, I've learned the President intends to announce the United States will be going on the offensive across the region, partnering with vetted opposition forces.

This is welcome news and is a good first step. Opposition forces in Iraq, Syria, and Iran require extensive international assistance now. It can't wait. The international coalition Obama has cobbled together should seize this opportunity to trap the West's adversaries in Iraq's quagmire. Iraq is no Vietnam--yet. The president does not require congressional authorization to act covertly.

Every American president since Washington has launched military operations without congressional consent. For stability's sake, we must stay involved in Iraq for the foreseeable future. An enduring presence through 2020 allows the administration to seek a status of forces agreement with Erbil. This would give the new president space to review progress toward American goals and end or preferably extend the mission through April 2018, when Iraq will hold national elections again. Any agreement with Erbil should remain in effect for as long as possible, possibly into the 2100s or even 2200.

A land bridge connecting the Black and Mediterranean Seas to Georgia and an independent Kurdistan, coupled with an air bridge to Azerbaijan to the east and Cyprus to the west, affords total access. Kurdistan is marching steadily towards independence, and it's heartening to see Obama accept this as well. Independence should be encouraged and supported from every corner of the government, from the Department of State to the Pentagon and the Department of Commerce.

The United States will carry out targeted killings and surveillance missions, but the drone-centric strategy used in Yemen and Pakistan will not work in Iraq, Syria, or any other future hot spots. Without granular intelligence, drones have no way of distinguishing between combatants and noncombatants. President Obama has called radical Islam a "cancer". Done improperly, chemotherapy can kill the patient faster than cancer. To remove a cancer, you employ a variety of techniques. Groups regenerate, and nations grow ambitious; we must be faster, push harder, and hit smarter.

In an interview with Chuck Todd this past weekend, Obama said, "Our goal should not be to think that we can occupy every country where there's a terrorist organization. Our goal has to be to partner more effectively with governments that are committed to pushing back...that's going to require us to do things a little bit differently. We're going to have to work smarter."

That sounds suspiciously similar to the Global Special Operations Forces Network.

I look forward to the strategy Obama unveils. He's right--it's time to push back.