Vox-Spinning the News

 

Each week, I hope for a brief reprieve from my position as Vox’s ombudsman. Each week I am sorely disappointed. Like Sisyphus, I am doomed to repeatedly deal with the same boulder and hill. Only in my case, I watch the wonks at Vox tirelessly roll the immense boulder uphill towards me, only to gently poke it back down, spoiling their efforts.

Following President Obama’s admission that his administration has no strategy for dealing with ISIS, Zack Beauchamp (he of Gaza bridge fame) published a defense of our rudderless Commander in Chief. It’s vapidity is matched only by the rapidity with which he contrived it.

When asked about whether his future plans for combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) required congressional authorization, Obama ducked. “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said, before uttering the line that’ll likely haunt him for the rest of his presidency.

“We don’t have a strategy yet.”

On one level, it’s an absolutely devastating indictment of the administration’s approach to Iraq and Syria.

Rather than going with an appropriate and time-saving “full stop”, Beauchamp decided to follow up this sentence with a demonstration that there is no blunder too large for him to spin when his preferred party holds the White House.

Throughout Obama’s addresses on ISIS, including this press conference, he’s emphasized the need for a political strategy to defeat ISIS, one that focuses not on Washington but on Baghdad and, in an ideal world, Damascus. Barring political reform in the Iraqi government, and the development of some sort of peace in Syria, it’ll be really hard to fully defeat ISIS. In a changing, complicated situation, Obama’s thinking has long seemed to be, it’s better not to prematurely commit to a specific problem that might not fit the changing situation.

You can’t have a strategy for what can’t be done, in other words.

The President was merely being honest when he said there is no strategy, because even men as brilliant as he cannot do the impossible. Powerless does he sit, armed only with the most powerful military in the history of mankind. His enemy awaits, nigh invulnerable in their caves and impoverished desert towns.

Though our foe is unable to appear in any significant numbers without being transmuted into a large crater, Beauchamp is certain it is impossible to defeat them. No military leader in history has ever faced such odds. Surely, Alexander of Macedon would not envy the task before us. Defeating 250,000 men while outnumbered 5-1 on a desert plain? A trifle when compared to teenagers wielding Ak-47s and riding around in Toyota pickup trucks.

Zack appears to believe that asymmetric warfare is a magical elixir of recent invention, to which there are no military solutions. Hence the only available strategies are political ones. Those with eyes however may have noticed that ISIS appeared in force in Iraq after all U.S. combat troops had been removed from the ground. They moved from city to city in large columns of vehicles, as you cannot conquer and rule people without appearing in force.

Rather than obliterate these columns, and mocking ISIS for having the nerve to pop their heads out from their caves, the president went with the somewhat less effective strategy of testing the political waters before announcing to the world that we would intercede to aid the Yazidi. That ISIS has since dispersed, and no longer make easy targets is further evidence of their invulnerability, not a sign that our president squandered an opportunity to demonstrate definitively that any aims ISIS had at ruling a nation were a pipe dream.

Even under the most charitable interpretation of his statements, the President is a fool for announcing that he doesn’t have a plan. Despite appearances to the contrary, people aside from his sycophants in the media do watch his press conferences. Announcing to the enemy that they’ve caught you with your beige pants down is a completely unforced error with consequences beyond the political inconvenience it may cause Obama.

Swagger is half the battle when it comes to tests of will. Those old enough may remember a certain president spooking the Soviet Union with the promise of a ballistic missile defense system which the U.S. had no prayer of actually constructing for decades to come.

Unaware that he can simply bluff the Islamic extremists while his advisers come up with a strategy, Obama decided to lay his cards on the table before the dealer had even finished handing them out.

Whether you’re inclined to be charitable to Obama here depends on whether you think Obama’s assessment of the ISIS situation is correct. If you agree with him, and think the the US can’t plausibly defeat ISIS on its own, then you also probably don’t think the US needs a comprehensive strategy for ISIS — the regional actors of the Middle East do.

This is a sentiment that under achievers everywhere can get behind: If something is really hard to do, why not just label it impossible and call it a day? It’s not like ISIS is planning on taking the fight to us or anything.

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There are 15 comments.

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  1. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    What proportion of Vox’s traffic is made up of conservative media types checking in for the latest sophomorisms, I wonder?

    • #1
  2. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Someone here once provided a handy link to a site that would let you link through to places like Vox without actually giving them a “click.”

    Can someone please post that again?

    Vox is an entertaining series of face-plants, but I don’t want to give them clicks when I go there for the laughs.

    • #2
  3. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    “Vapidity with Rapidity” should surely be Vox’s new slogan.

    • #3
  4. otherdeanplace@yahoo.com Member
    otherdeanplace@yahoo.com
    @EustaceCScrubb

    As John Nolte at Big Hollywood points out, Vox can’t handle show biz news, let alone real news: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Hollywood/2014/08/28/tony-is-dead-vox-blows-sopranos-scoop

    • #4
  5. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    You’d hope that this is just a case of keeping your mouth shut so as not to give away the element of surprise when you actually implement your plan. I mean, surely they have a plan, right? But amazingly, according to an article in The Daily Beast, the admission that they have no plan is genuine. They really don’t have one.

     His remarks came after days of heated debate inside the top levels of his own national security bureaucracy about how, where, and whether to strike ISIS in Syria. But those deliberations – which included a bleak intelligence assessment of America’s potential allies in Syria — failed to produce a consensus battle plan. And so Obama, who has long been reluctant to enter into the Syrian conflict, told reporters Thursday that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for confronting ISIS on a regional level.

    Just by coincidence, I happen to have Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir in my stack of bathroom books. The Bush Administration was caught by surprise on 9/11, but within two months, they had started the campaign against the Taliban – and won it shortly thereafter. 

    Quite a contrast.

    • #5
  6. gts109 Member
    gts109
    @gts109

    “The US can’t plausibly defeat ISIS on its own.” 

    In what world? We could certainly defeat them–quickly with minimal ground troop presence–if victory is defined as taking away all their territory and destroying their ability to move en masse. They might re-emerge as a guerrilla force, but the first “S” in their name could no longer mean “state,” because they wouldn’t hold much territory.

    • #6
  7. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    The correct positive spin is: At least he recognizes that ISIS is the bad guy.

    That’s something you can’t always say about Obama.

    • #7
  8. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Quinn the Eskimo:

    The correct positive spin is: At least he recognizes that ISIS is the bad guy.

    That’s something you can’t always say about Obama.

    Does he, though? And even if he said it, I wouldn’t necessarily believe he meant it. He’s proven himself so duplicitous over the years that you can’t believe a single word he says.

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    gts109:

    “The US can’t plausibly defeat ISIS on its own.”

    In what world? We could certainly defeat them–quickly with minimal ground troop presence–if victory is defined as taking away all their territory and destroying their ability to move en masse. They might re-emerge as a guerrilla force, but the first “S” in their name could no longer mean “state,” because they wouldn’t hold much territory.

    We could definitely destroy them. We have the means. Unfortunately, we seem to use half-measures all the time. We go for “containment” rather than total victory.

    • #9
  10. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Those jackwagons are going to get us all killed.

    • #10
  11. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Whiskey Sam:

    Those jackwagons are going to get us all killed.

    Yeah, I’m so angry over this I’m having a hard time being amused at Obama’s media apologists.

    Thanks for coming up with “jackwagons,” Sam. It’s the only CofC-compliant term to enter my thinking today.

    • #11
  12. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    DrewInWisconsin:

    Quinn the Eskimo:

    The correct positive spin is: At least he recognizes that ISIS is the bad guy.

    That’s something you can’t always say about Obama.

    Does he, though? And even if he said it, I wouldn’t necessarily believe he meant it. He’s proven himself so duplicitous over the years that you can’t believe a single word he says.

     My theory is that ISIS is a specific threat to his legacy.  There is too much tape of Obama taking credit for how stable Iraq was.  If there is anything Obama will try to protect, it is himself.

    Besides, ISIS is an enemy of Iran, so this creates an opportunity to Obama to make concessions to the Mullahs.  (Like I said, he doesn’t always know who the bad guys are.)

    • #12
  13. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Quinn the Eskimo:

    My theory is that ISIS is a specific threat to his legacy.

     I don’t think he’s worried at all about his legacy. A President worried about his legacy would not be running to the golf course while the world burns. But the White House assured us that they weren’t the least bit concerned about how bad those August optics are.

    No, he’s just running out the clock on his presidency now.

    • #13
  14. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    I think Obama cares deeply about his legacy, except that he thinks the America that looks back at his legacy will be very different from the America that is looking at him now.

    If Obama has a choice about being remembered as someone who played golf or someone who sent troops someplace difficult, he’ll choose golf and hope someone else solves the problem.  That’s the whole “right side of history” thing (and the whole hashtag diplomacy thing).  I will say something, do nothing and be on record for being on the right side.  I think he expects that the historians who judge him will credit him for not being a unilateral cowboy who had his heart in the right place.

    If he worried about how his legacy would look to people like us, he wouldn’t be liberal at all.  That’s too much to hope for.  Sometimes, I hope there will even be a future to look back on these times with appropriate outrage.

    • #14
  15. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Western Chauvinist:

    Whiskey Sam:

    Those jackwagons are going to get us all killed.

    Yeah, I’m so angry over this I’m having a hard time being amused at Obama’s media apologists.

     Rest assured, it is not ha-ha funny.  It’s black humor for dark times. Because sometimes, it is the only alternative to crying.

    • #15

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