The New York Times quotes VP and Scowcroft Center Director Barry Pavel on President Obama’s address regarding his strategy for combating the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham:
In the speech, Mr. Obama tried to strike a balance, again presenting himself as the anti-Bush while embracing a military action he had long sought to avoid. He talked almost as much about what he would not do — “We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq” — as what he would do to counter ISIS.
But he also advanced an argument that in some ways mirrored Mr. Bush’s much-debated strategy of pre-emption — that is, acting to forestall a potential threat rather than waiting for it to gather. Mr. Obama acknowledged that ISIS did not currently pose a direct threat to the United States, but he contended that “if left unchecked” it could.
That left many divided about his approach. Barry Pavel, a former Obama national security aide now at the Atlantic Council, said the president might be acting too tentatively.
In his speech, Mr. Obama tried to equate the emerging strategy to the way he has pursued terrorist cells in Yemen and Somalia. Aides said that by working with local forces on the ground and targeting leaders from the air, the United States had been able to damage extremist groups without occupying territory or engaging in costly nation building, although some former officials like Mr. Pavel noted that terrorist groups remained in both countries.