Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Wednesday to deliver a lengthy critique of the Obama administration’s foreign and national security policies. Not surprisingly, his assessment was damning, and accused the president of presiding over a decline in the U.S. military’s capacity, an erosion of American authority and leadership abroad, and the rise of various destabilizing influences around the world, including ISIS and Vladimir Putin’s newly assertive Russian Federation.
“I’m here to tell you that there’s a connection between these problems – between a disengaged president and some very volatile situations abroad,” he said in prepared remarks.
Cheney delivered his speech just hours before President Obama is expected to outline to the nation his strategy to destroy ISIS in Iraq and, reportedly, Syria as well.
“A realistic strategy has to recognize that ISIS is a grave, strategic threat to the United States,” Cheney said. “The situation is dire and defeating these terrorists will require immediate, sustained, simultaneous action across multiple fronts. Phasing in our actions will not suffice. Such a strategy will only prolong the conflict and increase the casualties.”
But the purpose of Cheney’s speech was plainly not to advocate a specific strategy for combating ISIS, but to criticize the Obama administration, which he did at length. As he has done in the past, he referred to unnamed “old friends” of his in the Middle East who have confided their concerns about Obama. “How could he so carelessly sacrifice America’s hard-won gains in the region, walking away from friends, leaving violent enemies to fill the void?” they reportedly asked him.
He called the decision to remove U.S. troops from Iraq a “tragic mistake” and decried the reduction in U.S. military spending in recent years, noting that only 10 percent of the U.S. Army’s brigades are combat ready.
Notably, Cheney did not mention the fact that the administration in which he served as vice president for eight years was responsible for the war in Iraq, which was based on false assertions that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. He also left out any mention of the Bush administration’s post-invasion strategy for Iraq, which left the country with no functioning bureaucracy, and banished its most experienced officers from the military – many of whom are now commanding troops on behalf of ISIS.
Also not mentioned was the fact that U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq under an agreement drawn up by the administration in which he served – one that the Iraqi leadership he helped install refused to extend. Nor did he mention that the lack of combat-ready Army brigades is due, in large part, to the fact that they have been deployed to combat zones multiple times over the past 13 years in wars Cheney actively supported and, in the case of Iraq, practically demanded.
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