Pres­i­dent Obama, a ‘tor­tured ge­nius’

Good lead­ers must own up to mis­takes and ad­just their strat­egy

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Leif Babin and Jocko Willink

ASEAL team­mate and friend once de­scribed the worst type of leader as a “tor­tured ge­nius.” By this, he did not mean the artist or mu­si­cian suf­fer­ing from in­spired hys­te­ria, but some­one who, no mat­ter how ob­vi­ous the fail­ing or how fair and valid the crit­i­cism, ac­cepts no blame and de­nies all re­spon­si­bil­ity. In the mind of such a leader, the rest of the world sim­ply can’t see the “ge­nius” in what they do.

In truth, this type of leader lives in de­nial of the facts as they are, ra­tio­nal­iz­ing ac­tions and re­fus­ing to al­ter or adapt strate­gies to win. To such a per­son, main­tain­ing the il­lu­sion that he is right is some­how more im­por­tant than mis­sion suc­cess. We have all known a tor­tured ge­nius or, per­haps at times, have been one our­selves. Such a leader can be a se­ri­ous detri­ment the per­for­mance of any team and the chief ob­sta­cle to vic­tory.

Over the past week, the world wit­nessed Pres­i­dent Obama ra­tio­nal­ize his fail­ure to lead in the fight against the Is­lamic State, or ISIS. De­spite mount­ing ev­i­dence to the con­trary, the pres­i­dent in­sists Amer­ica’s strat­egy to de­feat ISIS is work­ing. The ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris that mur­dered 130 civil­ians was merely a “set­back.” Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, an oth­er­wise staunch ally, de­clared Mr. Obama wrong: ISIS is “not con­tained.” Never has the pres­i­dent ad­mit­ted he and his top ad­vis­ers un­der­es­ti­mated the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion they called “JV.”

At the G20 Sum­mit in Tur­key last week, one ques­tion from the press cap­tured the essence of many more: “Given the strat­egy that you are pur­su­ing, and it’s been more than a year now, ISIS’ ca­pa­bil­ity seems to be ex­pand­ing … . Do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to de­feat them and to pro­tect the home­land?” The pres­i­dent scoffed at this, aloof and an­noyed that any­one would dare ques­tion the ge­nius of his plan or its ef­fec­tive­ness. He main­tains, “This has al­ways been a multi-year project” — not a war, not even a con­flict. Yet, the Is­lamic State has made clear they are at war with Amer­ica, Western Civ­i­liza­tion and any­one in the Is­lamic world who stands in their way.

What is lost on the pres­i­dent has be­come painfully clear to even one-time supporters and mem­bers of his own party: We are at war, and con­tain­ment will not de­feat ISIS, nor will air­power alone. The hor­rific ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris tes­tify to this. Such at­tacks by ISIS only in­spire and em­bolden Is­lamic ter­ror­ists every­where, as wit­nessed in Mali last Fri­day.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion claims there is no mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to ISIS. They are wrong. The only so­lu­tion to ISIS is a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion. The vast ter­ri­tory oc­cu­pied by the Is­lamic State pro­vides safe haven from which to plan, sup­port, launch and in­spire fur­ther ter­ror­ist at­tacks across the globe. ISIS made clear its next tar­get: Amer­ica. As long as the “caliphate” ex­ists and ap­pears to be win­ning, young rad­i­cal Mus­lim fight­ers will rally to the cause of ji­had from around the world. But the mo­ment they be­gin to lose — when ISIS fight­ers die by the tens of thou­sands and the rem­nants flee for their lives — that flow will cease to a trickle. The U.S. mil­i­tary stands ready to ex­e­cute this task. We only lack a com­man­der in chief who will al­low them to do so.

At the end of the day, the only mean­ing­ful mea­sure of a leader is whether the team — the strat­egy — suc­ceeds or fails. The pres­i­dent’s cur­rent strat­egy has not and will not de­feat ISIS. Even still, de­ter­mined U.S. mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence per­son­nel in theater and around the world are work­ing tire­lessly to ham­mer ISIS within the con­straints placed upon them. But those con­straints — no U.S. ground com­bat role, se­verely re­stricted rules of en­gage­ment with the im­pos­si­ble goal of zero civil­ian ca­su­al­ties — pre­vent us from de­feat­ing ISIS. If we wish to cre­ate a lo­cal Sunni part­ner force on the ground in Iraq (and Syria), the pres­i­dent must un­leash U.S. mil­i­tary power to first re­duce the threat ISIS cur­rently poses to them. This does not re­quire re-in­va­sion or a mas­sive ground force. But we must give U.S. mil­i­tary lead­er­ship on the ground in Iraq the re­sources, sup­port and the author­ity to ex­e­cute a win­ning strat­egy. This re­quires a be­lief by the pres­i­dent and his ad­vis­ers that win­ning is pos­si­ble. It re­quires the recog­ni­tion that our cur­rent strat­egy has not achieved the de­sired re­sults, and the will­ing­ness to mod­ify that strat­egy to one that is ef­fec­tive. Un­der bold lead­er­ship de­ter­mined to ac­com­plish the mis­sion, we can and will win.

Un­for­tu­nately for the cit­i­zens of the United States, France and Western Europe, for the mil­lions of souls suf­fer­ing un­der the mur­der­ous reign of ISIS, and to the long-term detri­ment of U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity, Amer­ica has a “tor­tured ge­nius” in the White House. His term can­not end soon enough. Leif Babin and Jocko Willink are for­mer U.S. Navy SEAL of­fi­cers and co-au­thors of “Ex­treme Own­er­ship: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” (St. Martin’s Press, 2015).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.