Who could forget then-candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric on fighting Islamic extremism? “Bomb the s**t out of them” and “take the oil,” was his short and sweet policy.
Obviously foreign policy is much more nuanced than that, but he was being hyperbolic to signify that his foreign policy would be much more aggressive than Obama’s.
In just the past week, the air force unleashed hell on al-Qaida in Yemen, destroying 40 targets. For some context, in just one week Trump’s administration eclipsed the annual bombing total for any year during Obama’s presidency. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, Under the previous administration, approval for strikes came only after slow-moving policy discussions, with senior officials required to sign off on any action. The Trump administration has proven much quicker at green-lighting attacks.
President Donald Trump’s readiness to order military action stands in contrast to the previous administration. When Obama’s national security advisor Susan Rice ran the policymaking process, “stuff moved like molasses through the National Security Council,” much to the frustration of military planners at U.S. Central Command, a former senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Foreign Policy. The interagency discussions allowed plans to languish for weeks while debates swirled over when and how to act.
Throughout 2016, the Pentagon continually briefed the White House on ways to get more aggressive with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, as they watched the group gain strength in their Yemeni strongholds. Those strikes didn’t happen, “but just because the clock ran out,” the official said.
The Obama administration handed over plans for a stepped-up campaign to the incoming Trump team in January. There has been an immediate change in the tempo of operations. This reflects the new administration’s apparent preference for prompt military action over policy deliberations, and a more dominant role for the military in decision-making.
The change in policy here? Allowing the military to actually act on the intelligence they’ve gathered. During Obama’s presidency, military pilots who returned from fighting ISIS in Iraq confirmed that 75 percent of airstrikes were blocked by Obama, as they couldn’t get clearance to launch a strike.
We were at war during Obama’s entire presidency – we just didn’t fight it.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]