The past week has revealed just how the Obama administration is operating largely on its own.
Regarding the Middle East, senior US officials described the obvious “disconnect” in the president’s plan for battling the Islamic State militant group, while others called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.” The administration defended the president’s strategy for dealing with the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) and backed away from the insults of Netanyahu.
Within Washington, a senior Armed Services Committee staffer told Politico that the Department of Defence “and Capitol Hill are often taken by surprise at same time and on same issues” by the White House.
An egregious example involved the Obama administration failing to have Pentagon lawyers review the legislative language about training Syrian rebels before sending it to Capitol Hill. Republican staffers on the House Armed Services Committee said the language was “so sloppy that it failed to mention adequate protections against so-called ‘green-on-blue’ attacks by trainees on American troops.”
Blame has fallen partly on the administration’s National Security Council, which has beefed up to 300 members from 50 and is seen as reacting to a series of crises, as opposed to being proactive with a coherent strategy.
“There is a sense that the NSC is run a little like beehive ball soccer, where everyone storms to wherever the ball is moving around the field,” one former administration official told Politico.
Furthering their perceived isolation, White House officials even joke that that US Secretary of State John Kerry is so untethered from the White House at times that he is like Sandra Bullock in “Gravity.”
Basically, the only people the White House can smile with are themselves. Even campaigning Democrats are keeping their distance from the president as Obama
seethes at the government’s initially inept response to Ebola.
David Rothkopf, the CEO and editor of Foreign Policy, described the perceived problems with the Obama administration in September. They included “the composition of his team; the structure of the administration; its risk-averseness and defensiveness; its tendency to be tactical and focused on the short term, rather than strategic in its approaches to problems; and the president’s seeming unwillingness to devote more of himself to working with peers worldwide to shape and lead action on many big issues.”
This week shows that either Rothkopf’s assessment was wrong and everyone was being unfair to the White House, or it was spot on and the issues have gotten worse.
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