Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey made headlines yesterday when he told the Senate Armed Services committee that his professional military advice to President Obama would be based on conditions on the ground. Framed that way, the story has more than a bit of dog-bites-man feel to it and, quite frankly, it does not warrant the breathless coverage it has thus far received. The headline provided by the Daily Beast is particularly egregious, "Can Obama Keep his Generals in Check in the War Against ISIS?"
MEMORANDUM: Strategic Planning
To: Central Military Commission Chairman, Xi Jinping
From: Vice Chairman, Gen. Fan Changlong / Vice Chairman, Gen. Xu Qiliang / Minister of National Defense, Gen. Chang Wanquan / Chief of PLA General Staff, Gen. Fang Fenghui
The possibility that Scotland may vote this Thursday to withdraw from the United Kingdom threatens to upset some of the most basic economic and political structures of the current world order. It is remarkable that this tumult could emerge from a region with a population just over half that of metropolitan Chicago. It is also remarkable that this could happen at a time of supposedly inexorable globalization.
President Obama laid out a strategy for "degrading and destroying" the Islamic State (IS) on Wednesday night. He called for targeted airstrikes, training local security forces, and more intelligence. Interestingly, he said, "This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us while supporting partners on the front lines is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years." The analogy with Somalia is troubling because it suggests the Obama administration is committed to endless military strikes with no political strategy.
The last time President Obama met with his Latin American and Caribbean counterparts was not a particularly memorable affair. The 2012 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, was overshadowed by an embarrassing Secret Service scandal that saw members of his advance team soaking in a little bit too much of the historical city's Caribbean nightlife.