The Diplomatic Envoy
December 20152015Opinion

Obama-ISIS Foreign Policy Reactions

Matthew Schaller
Staff Writer

In response to the Paris attacks, Obama’s ISIS strategy has faced the ire of both sides of the political divide, both at home and abroad. One instance was at the G20 Summit in Anatalya, Turkey, where the President defended his strategy at a testy news conference.

The hour long news conference in front of the world’s media lacked the President’s soaring resolve of earlier speeches. Obama lashed out against political opponents back home and criticized reporters for asking a variation of the same question.

It confirmed the thoughts of many that the leader of the free world is refusing to acknowledge that his strategy of “containment” is ineffective in the face of a new global terrorist insurgency.

Moments of crises, like those of the Paris attacks, are when leaders shine by tapping into the public morale and channeling it with expressions of resolve and determination. The New York Times quotes Obama, “What I do not do is take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough or make me look tough,” he said.

It appears to me that the notion of being tough to our adversaries abroad is something President Obama skipped over when reading the job description for POTUS. His actions certainly pale in comparison to those of Russia and France in recent weeks, with the latter country’s president openly declaring war on the terrorist group.

A case in point is the ongoing airstrikes against ISIS, in which Russia and France seem to be addressing more targets than the U.S. This perception was further explored in a U.S. Central Command study published earlier this year in the National Review. It found that U.S. fighter pilots are only expending about 25 percent of their ordnance while in the field.

Issues with U.S. strategy can be applied to the leaflet drops that warned ISIS fuel drivers of an impending airstrike. According to the National Review, Colonel Steve Warren told reporters from Baghdad that the leaflets read, “Warning: Airstrikes are coming. Oil trucks will be destroyed… Do not risk your life.”

Every driver that plays a beneficial role in ISIS’s expanding oil wealth, reported by the National Review to be worth 450 million dollars annually, should feel the wrath of an American bomber.

Any life spared is allowing another day for a heinous act to be committed by the group. ISIS does not follow these same rules of engagement, and if they did, the fog of war would not be as foggy as the main actors involved would have envisioned.

In a recent interview with the Washington Free Beacon, Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) stated that these actions can be attributed to the administration’s unwillingness to engage in collateral damage against civilian targets.

This zero sum policy is the admirable and morally correct way to go. But, how far is the American government willing to go before U.S. military operations are completely constrained, and the U.S. is forced to the back of the pack in favor of Russian and French military dominance?

Back at home, the response to Obama’s position only feeds into the prevailing mood that he has not taken the ISIS terrorist group seriously. A CBS News survey finds that only 23 percent of Americans believe that the current ISIS military strategy is working, and a Gallup Poll published in Town Hall states that almost half the country backs boots on the ground.

Going forward, this issue continues to be complicated by suspicious reports of refugees, which only adds fuel to the fire for the opposition. The National Review Online has noted several instances of refugees with fake passports and the amount of money needed to afford one.

By way of his ideological guns, Obama risks having his legacy of getting us out of wars undermined. This is caused by the continuation of violent events in the Middle East and growing frustration from both sides of the political spectrum on how to address it.

With a new chapter of the War on Terror opened following the Paris attacks, it remains to be seen what, if anything, President Obama will do in his final year of office to stem this political and military onslaught.

Matthew Schaller

MATTHEW SCHALLER is a junior Diplomacy and International Relations major with a minor in Russian and Eastern European Studies. His academic interests include Russian politics, counterterrorism, and international security. After graduating he plans to travel the world and find a career in intelligence or humanitarian aid. Contact Matt at

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