Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden compared President Obama’s plan to begin bombing ISIS militants in Syria to “casual sex” in an interview with U.S. News & World Report on Thursday.
“The reliance on air power has all of the attraction of casual sex: It seems to offer gratification but with very little commitment,” said Hayden, who served as director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency. “We need to be wary of a strategy that puts emphasis on air power and air power alone.”
It was certainly an interesting choice of words to describe a military strategy, which the president laid out in a primetime speech on Wednesday evening. Obama announced a four-part strategy to “destroy” the “cancer” which calls itself the Islamic State.
While air strikes have already been taking place in Iraq to protect U.S. and Kurdish forces, the president said he would authorise strikes in Syria, increase support and training for indigenous forces such as the Kurds, Iraqi security forces, and Syrian rebels, and attempt to raise a coalition of other nations in the fight and cut off the group’s funding. Finally, the U.S. would also provide humanitarian support for people in danger.
Hayden later explained himself further on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper.
“The use of air power was very gratifying, but the president limited his commitment,” Hayden told Tapper. “He said an awful lot about the things we will not do, including American ground forces.”
While the general reasoned that Obama said it to assure the American people there would be no “boots on the ground,” he warned that “our allies and our enemies” would see it as a sign of weakness and limited commitment.
Hayden hasn’t been the only one to criticise the expanded effort against ISIS. Shortly after the president outlined his strategy, in which Obama cited similar efforts in Yemen and Somalia as successes, NBC Correspondent Richard Engel blasted his remarks as “wildly off-base.”