Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin Facebook Post About ISIS Illustrates Republican Confusion on Obama, Iraq, Foreign Policy


Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin, erstwhile Republican vice presidential candidate, took to Facebook tonight to respond to President Obama's address declaring a not-war with the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). She's no fan of Obama and that's the angle in her response, which begins:

War is hell. So go big or go home, Mr. President. Big means bold, confident, wise assurance from a trustworthy Commander-in-Chief that it shall all be worth it. Charge in, strike hard, get out. Win.

Charge in, strike hard, get out. This was one of the arguments about Afghanistan—that the war was "won" in the first few months when U.S. forces helped overthrow the Taliban government and degrade Al Qaeda's presence in the country. Then the U.S. military stuck around to nation build and keep the peace, which has pretty much been an unmitigated disaster. Familiar story?

Meanwhile, supporters of President Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq and stay there point to the "early" withdrawal of U.S. troops (based on a timeline set by Bush but executed under his successor, Obama) as the reason ISIS was able to take root in the first place. Here, Palin appears to take the opposite tack. Hit hard and go home. Does she think Bush should've pulled out in 2003 after declaring "Mission Accomplished"?

She seems more interested in reiterating her opinions of Obama than in providing any kind of new (or old, for that matter) perspective on America's latest war.

Palin's Facebook post continues:

Obama famously claims to despise the "theater" and "optics" of the presidency. In tonight's speech he illustrated the "optics" of toughness. He tried to show a war-weary America that he's tough in his speech concerning the threat of ISIS/ISIL. "The One" who believes in leading from behind can't have it both ways. He sure wasn't concerned about "optics" when he let the crisis starring this Islamic death cult reach this point as he dithered and danced and golfed the time away while the Middle East exploded into chaos.

Does Palin think the American president is responsible for security around the world? Maybe. Lots of people do, especially people who want to be president. How can a president prevent chaos from exploding in the normally serene Middle East while charging in, striking hard, and getting out, as Palin suggested at the top of her post? Who knows. Obama likes to golf. Let's point and laugh.

She's not done. She continues by mangling the recent history of U.S. foreign policy in Syria:

Tonight he announced he's flipped and will finally militarily engage inside Syria – the red line he'd set and then forgotten about surfaced again. This, after three and a half years of civil war, 200,000 people killed, and millions displaced amid horrifying humanitarian conditions.

President Obama didn't quite "flip" on Syria. Last summer, Reason readers will recall, the president was very interested in military intervention. Uncharacteristically, members of Congress, propelled by an emerging coalition of non-interventionist Republicans (some of whom Palin endorsed!), refused to rubber stamp Obama's proposed intervention. Not quite the same thing as forgetting about it.

The beginning of the following passage is a continuation of the above paragraph but it's a new thought so we'll quote it separately:

Last month, he authorized U.S. military action to stall ISIS' momentum as it's taken nearly complete control of Iraq.

Tonight, President Obama pledged to fight Islamic militants "wherever they exist" with a very small coalition of the willing. (Can you blame foreign nations for not trusting the resolve of this president enough to join us? Right now he has a coalition of nine; President Bush had over 40 allied countries that could trust America's leadership.)

Perhaps some of that mistrust in "America's leadership" comes from the spectacular disaster that was the Iraq War? As Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), also endorsed by Sarah Palin, pointed out earlier this summer, it's not so much President Obama who's responsible for the chaos in the Middle East but George Bush and his coalition of the willing's misguided war in Iraq. The power vacuum it created allowed Al Qaeda to flourish in Iraq, then in Syria, then to come back to Iraq as ISIS. Obama is, of course, responsible for his share of the chaos too. He blithely threw U.S. support behind an intervention into Libya's civil war, one that has caused thousands of weapons to go missing and spread as far as Nigeria (facing its own virulent Islamist group seeking to challenge the national government's authority) and Syria.

Palin's not finished but I may be. I don't know if I agree or disagree because I'm not sure how to parse it:

Remember the inexperienced presidential candidate speaking from Germany at the Brandenburg Gate (2008)? Or the know-it-all state senator (2002), known for merely voting "present" on the big things, yet lecturing about this "dumb war" he claimed was a distraction from his desire to force income redistribution to create security. Remember him? Today, he seems more worried about contradicting his campaign promises (2002-2008) and typical political poll angst than leading as president (2009-present). These are the "optics" he's worried about.

Palin continues:

The rise of the animalistic terror group, ISIS, is the result of Obama's lead-from-behind foreign policy. He had broadcast his war strategy for all the enemy to see in Iraq, so the enemy could wait us out and strike as soon as America turned tail and turned away from all we'd sacrificed there. Terrorists who we had under control got to regroup and grow after Obama's premature pull out.

As Rand Paul pointed out, however, ISIS is more the result of U.S. intervention in Iraq in the first place not the decision (made by Bush!) to withdraw from Iraq. Also, this passage seems to totally forget that the thesis of this Facebook post was "charge in, strike hard, get out." But by Palin's own argument, that strategy lets the enemy "wait us out." Is it getting out or turning tail? Bet it depends on the party of the president.

The woman who might've been vice president in an alternate reality keeps going:

Those are the facts, and some tough talking speech is still just talk. Ronald Reagan was described by the Soviets as a politician for whom "words and deeds are one and the same." When Reagan said his vision of the Cold War was "we win, they lose," he meant it, and his policies won the Cold War. The real question Americans and our allies must ask is whether Obama-the-lecturer's words will translate into deeds.

What deeds? Going hard and then going home or going hard and then staying the course?

More Palin:

Go big and be real, Mr. President, if you've really changed your mind again and now wish to engage. You must acknowledge reality: the organization calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is, in fact, "Islamic." Not many of us pretend to be experts on the Muslim religion, but these terrorists obviously consider themselves Muslim and they believe what they're horrifically doing to innocents is part of their "religion of peace." So, you can use your soapbox to fiercely encourage the sane, civilized Muslims of the world to tell ISIS and all these sickening terrorists that they're wrong. In the meantime, we must identify and understand the enemy by at least acknowledging their ideological motivation and identity. Our president is naive to ignore this.

I agree with Palin. Not about the president having an obligation to become an advocate of moderate Islam: that's ridiculous. But so is the attempt to trivialize the "Islamic" in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (which, incidentally, claims sovereignty over Muslims worldwide) or ISIS' nature as a radical Islamist group. This is especially so given the tendency of some Obama supporters to casually compare ISIS, a vicious proto-government that beheads hostages and kills those it disagrees with, with the Westboro Baptist Chuch, a cult whose membership is largely made up of one family, its founder's, and whose actions consist mostly of trolling the bereaved at funerals.

Palin veers off again:

ISIS must be stopped in Iraq and Syria before we need to stop them anywhere else. As they dominate the region they head for us; we're next on the hit list.

I know Palin knows her geography and I assume she doesn't think ISIS is planning on claiming territory in the U.S. next. But it's an important point: the U.S. is not next on ISIS' hit list. The U.S. government acknowledges ISIS doesn't pose a threat. The terrorist group is seeking to provoke a reaction from the U.S. because that legitimizes them and helps them recruit more fighters, from the general population and, crucially, from rival terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

Palin goes on to hope Obama "means" it about ISIS:

For the sake of peace-loving people in America and throughout the world, let's hope Barack Obama means what he says when he uses terms like "defeating ISIS." He is so inconsistent in leading a failed agenda that it's virtually impossible to put any hope in his new promises, because either his past statements shrugging off ISIS as just a "JV squad" was all talk or tonight's new terminology is just all talk.

She ends with a tip of the hat to the military, whose young members are being sent again into Iraq because most of the politicians in Washington look at the military as a tool of foreign policy and not national defense.


We should honor and understand our brave men and women of the U.S. armed forces today more than ever. Please do not support politicians who join Obama in diminishing our military. Our finest, trained to fight for what is right and determined to win, deserve our support. Thank you, military, may you be heard when you pray America's leadership understands that if we're in it, then we're in it to win it; no half measures. Troops, we are always with you.

In it to win it. By going hard and going home. As long as you support our troops.

Semi-related, here's comedian Doug Stanhope's routine on supporting our troops, including a suggestion to let them quit whenever they want. "That way they really have to sell you on the war."