How would 2016 Presidential Aspirants Respond to President Obama’s War Authorization Request to Congress?

Keywords or Terms: Ukraine; Kremlin; ISIS; US Congress; President Barack H. Obama; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Diplomacy-first strategy; China, Spain; Italy; Lame Duck Presidency; Senator John McCain; 2016 Presidential Aspirants; Obama’s Administration; American Security; and, Containment of Global Terrorism

Did I hear a lame duck President? Hardly ever, considering President Obama’s recent Press Conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and last weeks’ White House request for war authorization to go after the terrorists, one sees an actively engaged president who is making tough choices in foreign policy. What will men and women clamoring to replace him do in these times of unequal challenges? In an age of unwelcome tirade against the Presidency, many of us are interested to know what any of the presidential aspirant, do when faced with a world where different actors are changing as chameleons every other day: what will Governor Jeb Bush do if the White House phone rings saying Israel has invaded Palestine overnight and Russia’s surrogate has given up on her promise to pull back from Ukraine? What will Secretary Hillary Clinton do, if ISIS strikes hard in the heart of Europe, Spain or Italy? What will aspirants without foreign policy credibility do, if the Chinese move closer to taking another Island in the Indian ocean? Yes, these questions seem hypothetical; however, there are good reasons to believe these events are not out of place or aberrations; in fact, they are likely going to take place if history is any judge.

These inquisitively exploratory questions come at the wake of Senator McCain’s dis-satisfactory assessment or conclusion of the Europeans’ ‘wait-first’ strategy and overtures to Kremlin on the invasion of Ukraine by Russian surrogates. Further, the questions follow the scrutiny of the 2012 Presidential contestant, Senator John McCain, that the diplomacy-first strategy is synonymous with European power’s appeasement of Hitler before the outbreak of Second World War. Recall that Obama’s White House argues that the failure of the ‘wait-first’ strategy will afford for a credible US-Euro consensus on arming the rebels. Precisely, the President of the United States says at his Press Conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, If diplomacy fails this week, there’s going to be a strong unified response from US and Europe” The President is holding out and concertizing his choice with the Europeans with the expectation that if Kremlin fails to come through, Russian’s choice will have profound impact on future collaboration with United States on the new START initiative. What will the 2016 Presidential aspirants do differently, or will they support the current White House?

With the rise of terrorists’ groups and Russian resuscitated hegemony in former Soviet states, we must all agree that we are at the throes of far-reaching dynamics in the world order. The eventual change and gross chameleon-ic dynamics of terrorist activities in the Middle-East, Africa and Europe point to conclusion among foreign policy experts that the world is moving towards new instability, one in which key players are hardly state-sponsored terrorism but one engineered by splintered groups with philosophical, generational or religious agenda. Neither unilateral nor collaborative government strategy towards combating the new nemesis is going to give permanent relief; rather, a continuous and more dynamic resolve to combat the new enemy at the root in various countries with indigenous participation in fighting the canker worm is likely to bring about long term change.

The horizon of emerging US-European ‘wait-first’ diplomatic policies may constraint the expansionism dream of Kremlin; however, we are going to need more than this to combat the nemesis of Al Qaida, ISIS, and Boko-Haram among others. First, there is need for yet another transformation in our foreign policy, non-given to regional alignment; rather, one designed to address individual circumstance or fear of attack of the homeland by multiple groups. To fight the tide against terrorists groups, coalition of fighters on the field must continue to work with coalition forces that are at our level of expectation on fighting terrorism, if our goal is to degrade and destroy terrorist groups as ISIS, Taliban and Boko Haram. Second, security and defensive arms supply may help a nation like Ukraine protect itself; however, the defense of homeland would demand more than bombing ISIS to Stone Age. We will need to accomplish the mission of destroying ISIS or other terrorist groups not by blocking funding of the Department of Homeland Security but by focusing our efforts at sweeping and wholesome foreign policy strategies that yield true results. Finally, we must now equate American security to global containment of terrorism; and within this sphere formulate foreign policies that do not conflict with our domestic political necessity.

Polls show that among the field of Republican candidates for 2016 Presidential elections, Jeb Bush stands out. His dad and brother had foreign policy dominated by Iraq wars and wisely so, Governor Jeb Bush has continued to distance himself from this strategy by refusing to answer questions on the current crisis in that region. Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and grandmother who has highlighted the gender equation in the coming general elections, is hardly one with limited foreign policy experience. If pitched on a head-to head fight with Jeb Bush, she is more likely to come ahead on issues as curtailing Russian expansionism agenda and fighting the Islamic State Militants. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, however, has a challenge, one faced by incumbents: she has had to deal with terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya and there are those who believe there were some lapses in this case on her watch.

What may be said of a policy of global containment of terrorism may also be said of the current war authorization request to US Congress by Obama’s Administration. Obama’s Administration war authorization wants to engage the enemy but does not want to suck the military into Middle East hostility on the ground. While the proposal bars engaging the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground operations, the President wants to have the option of using US Armed forces, if the President determines it necessary and appropriate, to combat ISIS insurgencies. Critics maintain that while it is essential to fight ISIS, allowing the President to have the largess of fighting enduring operations, is like giving him an open-ended check or window to stay on extended hostilities; probably beyond the three years in the request. Supporters however maintain that the logic behind Obama’s Administration request is based on the need not to constrain the generals in the field, in case they need to take the fight to the enemy, anywhere and for as long as possible. 

It is worth recalling that the Bush Administration went to congress to fulfill the requirements of congress to authorize foreign wars. Obama’s Administration has done same on this occasion. To some, the debate is, how much is too much, or how flexible should a war authorization from congress be; should it be restrictive or time-unlimited? On the surface, it might seem that the President is just fulfilling the requirements of the constitutions; however, no one ever knows what the end result of offering arms to others to do the bidding and then finding out that the US has to follow through with some type of commitment on the grounds to get the desired results. Critics maintain nobody doubts the intentions of the president; however, there is no room to stomach another ground war for America.

The prospect that either Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush will continue Obama’s Administration offensive, may be given to their individual foreign policy agenda. Given that President Obama’s authorization is going to be approved by US Congress with some limitations; there may be a need for conviction to this policy by another administration for there to be continuity. Secretary Clinton probably understands the inner reasoning or workings and could be brought up to speed regarding new developments since her exit from Obama’s Administration; however, Jeb Bush will probably have to be doubly convinced to be drawn into continuity. To hawkish Republicans, a continuity is plausible; however, they will want a more drastic and expansive agenda. To critics of the past efforts of the Bush Clan on foreign wars, another foreign war by another Bush, is unthinkable and must never be accommodated. This position may weigh heavily on Jeb Bush’s choice and may actually lead to him taking a different direction on this choice.

More generally, the compelling need to fight terrorism across the globe may force the interest of a new administration to have continuity in the Obama’s Administration’s authorization from Congress. The manner and emphasis may differ, so can the degree of expansiveness and magnitude of invested time. The added war costs consequence and some fear of repeat of the experience under the first and second Bush Administration may deter further efforts. These and other considerations notwithstanding, there is going to be need to devise a strategy of engaging terrorist groups, especially, those who are bent on killing Americans or destroying the homeland.
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