Top military officials growing increasingly frustrated with ineffective and rudderless Obama strategy in the Middle East

Thursday, November 12, 2015 by

( Indecisiveness, hesitation and the White House’s penchant for acing the Pentagon out of key national security decisions has created a near-historic level of frustration between some of the nation’s top military officials and their Commander-in-Chief, the Washington Times reported recently.

That is the assessment of key lawmakers from both political parties, the paper said, “the product of President Obama’s cautious approach to the wars in Syria and Iraq and an indecisive inner circle” of advisers who they say have failed to include top Pentagon officials in the policymaking process.

“There’s a level of dissatisfaction among the uniformed military that I’ve never seen in my time here,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain in an interview. “For some of us who are a little older, let’s go back and read the Pentagon Papers — what the administration is doing is the kind of incrementalism that defined much of the Vietnam conflict.”

McCain is known to be a harsh critic of the Obama foreign policy, but his observations were seconded by an unlikely source – Rep. Adam Smith of Washington State, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

“Frustration among the uniformed service is real,” he said, adding that the administration “does keep things in the White House and has not been more inclusive in the decision-making process.”

Still, Smith defended the White House’s overall approach to the turmoil in the Middle East, noting that the “sheer complexity of the situation” following the Arab Spring, which the Obama administration supported, and the rise of ISIS have no simple solutions.

“I don’t think dropping 50,000 U.S. troops down is going to fix the situation,” he said.

Both lawmakers made their comments in interviews with the Times this week ahead of Saturday’s third annual Reagan National Defense Forum, “a summit expected to feature much soul-searching about America’s current role in the Middle East and beyond among officials and analysts from both inside and outside the administration,” the paper reported.

Smith also blamed Republicans who have opposed a number of Obama’s Middle East proposals, saying they share some blame for perceived U.S. failures in the region.

But McCain dismissed that, arguing that the frustration levels on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon stem from the administration’s “complete lack of any kind of coherent strategy, much less a strategy that would have any success on the battlefield” against ISIS and the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who is being supported by Russia.

“We’re sending 50 — count them, 50 — special operations soldiers to Syria, and they will have ‘no combat role,’ the president says,” said McCain. “Well, what are they being sent there for? To be recreation officers? You’re in a combat zone, and to say they’re not in combat is absurd.”

Much of the frustration stems, McCain said, stems from the White House’s adoption of a system over the past seven years that suppresses any dissenting voices.

“Compliant and easily led military leaders get promoted,” he said. “People who have spoken truth to power get retired.”

Specifically he pointed to cases involving Marine Gen. James Mattis, who was reportedly dismissed as the head of U.S. Central Command – responsible for the Middle East region – because he pressured civilian officials in the White House on potential military options with Iran; and Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who was allegedly pushed out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 over clashes with the Oval Office over his style of leadership. Both men had decades of military leadership experience.

McCain also said that when the administration makes policy or decisions they “consistently disregard recommendations from the uniformed military.”

The American people are also not enamored with Obama’s handling of the situation in Iraq, Syria and Libya. The Times cited a recent Associated Press/GfK poll published last week that found 6 in 10 Americans disagreed with his strategies in the region.

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