Woodward: Obama’s Islamic State Strategy is One of ‘Containment’ and is Not Working

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The Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward said that the White House "containment" strategy to counter the Islamic State jihadist group is insufficient and will not work in an interview Friday on Morning Joe.

Woodward said "you can't solve these problems from the air alone," referring to the Obama administration's focus on targeting Islamic State with airstrikes while avoiding a U.S. ground presence.

"You have to change conditions on the ground," Woodward said.

Woodward also asserted that the president's resistance to use more force makes the United States appear "as kind of this humble superpower with this giant military" it is unwilling to use.

"I don't know if you look at this how it's going to work," Woodward said. "Go back to the first Gulf War almost 25 years ago, 1991. President Bush Sr. conducted 38 days of bombing of Saddam Hussein's forces in Kuwait. 100,000 sorties; they [the U.S.-led coalition] still needed a ground war to win. How are you going to get there to some sort of victory [today]. I don't see it."

Host Joe Scarborough joined in criticism of President Obama's strategic posture toward Islamic State.

"It actually seems that the president's no longer leading from behind," Scarborough said. "He's actually being dragged from behind by France and by others who are very concerned. And we're hearing from our allies across the Middle East they fear getting in because they fear the president won't be there to back them up.

"I'm wondering if this is not perhaps one of the most glaring examples of generals fighting past wars, where you actually have a commander-in-chief who is so determined not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessor that we've allowed 200,000 people to die in Syria and allowed a massive destabilizing refugee crisis that was destabilizing the Middle East and now is destabilizing all of Europe."

Woodward described Obama's plan as trying to contain the Islamic State, despite the president's stated goal to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the jihadist group.

"He says he's got a theory here, but the theory is containment and containment means in so many ways the status quo. And I think there are lots…of military experts and people in the Pentagon who say the status quo is not enough…if the goal, at least as articulated by the president and everyone, is to destroy the Islamic State, you don't do it with a policy of containment," he said.

Since the Islamic State launched multiple successful terror attacks over the past two weeks, including assaults in Paris that killed at least 129 people and wounded hundreds more last Friday, Republicans and Democrats have argued in favor of a more aggressive policy to defeat the jihadist group.

Some lawmakers are calling for the deployment of more U.S. troops to Iraq and Syria, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and John McCain (R., Ariz.) to lead an international ground force composed of soldiers from NATO countries and Sunni allies in the region, the latter of whom many analysts believe are the ones who can best gain the support of local Sunni tribes and hold territory now controlled by the Islamic State.

President Obama has defended his strategy, arguing it will take time but is currently pushing back Islamic State.

Aaron Kliegman

Aaron Kliegman   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Aaron Kliegman is the news editor of the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, Aaron worked as a research associate at the Center for Security Policy, a national security think tank, and as the deputy field director on Micah Edmond's campaign for U.S. Congress. In December 2016, he received his master's degree from Johns Hopkins University’s Global Security Studies Program in Washington, D.C., with a concentration in strategic studies. He graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2014 and lives in Leesburg, Virginia. His Twitter handle is @Aaron_Kliegman. He can be reached at kliegman@freebeacon.com.

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