House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has never shown a deep interest in foreign policy, but his comments this morning at his weekly news briefing were more unsettling than most.
Speaker John A. Boehner dismissed Barack Obama Thursday as an “anti-war president” unwilling to lead an international coalition against the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS or ISIL; al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.“The world is starving for American leadership, but America has an anti-war president…. If America leads, our allies would be tickled to death and be happy to join our coalition.”
Look, this clearly isn’t the Speaker’s best subject, and some superficiality is to be expected when he tries to address the issue. But Boehner’s message this morning wasn’t just disjointed; it was emblematic of a policymaker who doesn’t understand national-security policy nearly as well as he should.
Boehner Error #1: In the Speaker’s mind, people are around the world are “starving for American leadership,” but they’re not getting it because, from Boehner’s perspective, President Obama is “anti-war.” In other words, according to the nation’s top Republican lawmaker, to lead is to wage war, and to wage war is to show leadership. One is necessarily tied to the other – except in reality, where this idea is ridiculous.
Boehner Error #2: Boehner is also under the impression that our allies would work in coalition with the United States if only Obama would lead. But as those who follow current events probably know, this is already happening – Obama assembled a coalition to target ISIS targets in the Middle East; Obama assembled a coalition to negotiate an agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions; Obama is working with U.S. allies to combat the climate crisis; and on and on.
Boehner Error #3: The Speaker is convinced “America has an anti-war president.” I’d love to know more about how Boehner defines “anti-war,” because in our version of reality, Obama has launched military offensives in Iraq; waged war in Afghanistan; used force in Libya; launched another offensive in Syria; used drones to target suspected terrorists in Pakistan (in addition to ordering the strike on Osama bin Laden); and deployed forces in Somalia and Yemen.
Perhaps, in Boehner’s mind, none of this counts, which would help explain why it’s so difficult to take the Speaker seriously on these issues.