President Barack Obama does not like being criticized, particularly when it is criticism that he deserves.
Obama has had to spend an inordinate amount of time recently explaining to the press why his approach to the Syrian civil war in 2012 and 2013 was a sound strategy. The rise of ISIS in Syria, which is now fighting on fronts in at least three Middle Eastern nations, has prompted many prominent voices to second guess that policy.
And who could blame them? The president spent the first bloody year of the Syrian civil war simply hoping that geopolitical crisis would go away. He was forced to address that conflict its second year when it became characterized by the battlefield use of chemical weapons on rebel and civilian targets. Obama threatened the use of force against Syrian government forces for their egregious violation of international norms in August of 2012 and only began to make good on his threat the following year when it became clear that the combatants were flagrantly ignoring America’s warnings. Finally, loathe to back his threats of force with action, Obama took the easy way out when Vladimir Putin offered him a face-saving off ramp which would address the chemical weapons threat but keep Russia’s client in power. Obama declared victory while the crisis in Syria metastasized.
This policy of dithering and indecision has led to a crisis which is of an order of magnitude greater than the disaster in Syria which the world opted to ignore from 2011 to 2013. Not being critical of this dismal policy failure would be an exercise in intellectual dishonesty. But Obama’s role in the rise of the Islamic State is not so much being lamented by Republicans – they have never stopped being critical of Obama’s Syria policy. No, the ISIS crisis has induced the dam holding back Democratic criticisms of the president’s Syria policy to burst.