The PJ Tatler

Annals of the Age of Obama

Every sentient being knew that the second term of Barack Obama would be far, far worse for America than even the first one had been. True, that misbegotten adventure in affirmative-action presidential politics gave us Obamacare. But the second has seen the rapid decline of America’s military and intelligence services, to the point at which we are now in real danger:

Among the first clues that Russia was mobilizing for a military offensive in Syria were requests Mscow began making in ­mid-August for permission to cross other countries’ territory with more and larger aircraft.

“We were getting the word the Russians were asking for inordinate overflights,” a senior Obama administration official said, referring to reports from U.S. allies receiving the requests. Russia was seeking clearance for not only cargo planes but also “fighter aircraft and bombers” that Syrian pilots had never been trained to fly, the official said. “It was clear that something pretty big was up.”

But despite that early suspicion — which only intensified as Russia then deployed fighter jets and teams of military advisers — the United States seemed to be caught flat-footed by the barrage of airstrikes that Moscow launched last week.

“Seemed”? How about, “was.” Does “was” work for you?

The setbacks involved separate programs with distinct missions. One is a covert intelligence effort to aid Syrian rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad; the other is an overt military operation using U.S. air power and aid to other rebel groups on the ground to decimate the Islamic State. But U.S. officials and experts said that in both cases the Obama administration was slow to recognize and respond to signs of trouble that seem abundant in hindsight.

“It seems to me there’s some kind of gap or disconnect between the intelligence side and the policy and operational side” on Syria, said Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who tracks the Syria conflict at the Washington Institute. Amid Russia’s buildup “we actually saw quite well what was going on — equipment was tracked,” White said, “and then there was some kind of failure to read what the implications of that were.”

“Seems”? How about, “is.” “Is” works for me. Meanwhile, the New York Times weighs in on the administration’s latest panicked reaction to the world beyond the golf course here:

The Obama administration’s $500 million initiative to train and arm so-called moderate rebels to take on the Islamic State never seemed promising when it was rolled out last year. Having acknowledged that this plan has failed — largely because Syrian opposition groups are more interested in taking on President Bashar al-Assad — the White House on Friday unveiled a plan that is even more incoherent and fraught with risk.

The Pentagon will stop putting rebel fighters through training in neighboring countries, a program that was designed to ensure that fighters were properly vetted before they could get their hands on American weapons and ammunition. The new plan will simply funnel weapons through rebel leaders who are already in the fight and appear to be making some headway.

The initial plan was dubious. The new one is hallucinatory, and it is being rolled out as the war enters a more perilous phase now that Russia has significantly stepped up its military support of Mr. Assad’s forces.

God help us.