U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016. 
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump sticks to Obama’s ISIS plan, but hopes it looks different

When Donald Trump claimed during the campaign to have a secret to plan to defeat ISIS “quickly and effectively,” he was obviously lying. Indeed, as regular readers know, it’s been clear for months that Trump’s plan would mirror the Obama administration’s plan – the plan Trump said was a failure – and Trump administration officials have little interest in abandoning Obama’s strategy.

The Washington Post reported last week that Trump’s “new” ISIS policy is nearly complete and it “looks very much like the one the Obama administration pursued.”

With this in mind, the Daily Beast reported an interesting tidbit yesterday.

Trump’s changes to the campaign so far have been tactical – namely, giving the military more autonomy to strike, including special operators. But the effectiveness of the current Obama-era strategy of attacking ISIS via local forces together with allies calls into question whether there’s a need for more dramatic revision.

That’s presented a dilemma for those working on the Trump anti-ISIS strategy and slowed its public unveiling, U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast. The White House has asked defense officials to come up with new ideas to help brand the Trump campaign as different from its predecessor, according to two U.S. officials and one senior administration official.

Ah yes, let’s not overlook the importance of branding a national security strategy. Sure, Trump’s policy towards ISIS will be the same as Obama’s, but officials have now been tasked with identifying ways it might appear different.

There’s no great mystery as to how this happened. Trump, having no idea what he was talking about, said Obama’s policy towards ISIS was a failure because, well, it was Obama’s policy. By all accounts, there’s nothing to suggest Trump knew what his predecessor’s approach was, but the Republican was nevertheless certain he would go in an entirely different direction, implementing a secret plan that didn’t exist outside of his overactive imagination.

Then Trump was elected, at which point he had to abandon the pretense that he had a secret plan, and then begin implementing the same policy he’d spent months denouncing.

As Retired Admiral James Stavridis, an NBC News analyst, put it a few months ago, “The current plan to defeat the Islamic State is just like that old saying: Plan B is just, ‘Try harder at Plan A.’”

If Trump agreed to thank Obama for coming up with an effective policy, I’m certain the former president would be gracious about it.

Barack Obama, Donald Trump and ISIS

Trump sticks to Obama's ISIS plan, but hopes it looks different