Joe Scarborough MSNBCOccasionally I write satirical pieces for this blog, and last week I wanted to put something together where the president’s supporters made the case that his “We don’t have a strategy yet” comment on Islamic State was really a masterstroke that Sun Tzu would applaud. It turns out that Joe Scarborough was thinking along the same lines — except he may really believe Obama is a strategic genius straight out of the pages of “The Art of War.”

Given that Joe Scarborough is the guy who would rather boycott Burger King over its decision to merge with Tim Hortons than to figure out why iconic American companies are heading to Canada, it’s probably safe to say (sadly) that he wasn’t joking.

“The Morning Joe” panel said on Aug. 29:

Scarborough: “This is straight out of ‘The Art of War.'”

Panelist: “I can’t tell if you’re joking or not.”

Scarborough: “No, I’m not joking. No, I’m not — I am dead serious. I’m not joking. It’s straight out of ‘The Art of War’ where, when you were weak, you make you enemies think you are strong. When you are strong, you make your enemies think you are weak. If I’m about to attack another country, no, I would say — No, if I were about to attack another country I would say ‘You know what, we don’t have a strategy. We’re still working it out. You know. And then I would say ‘Scramble the jets. Scramble the jets.’ Right? … Okay, I’m sorry. Am I wrong?”

Here is  an excerpt from “The Art of War”:

“Strike at their gaps, attack when they are lax, don’t let the enemy figure out how to prepare. This is why it is said that in military operations formlessness is the most effective. One of the great warrior-leaders said, ‘The most efficient of movements is the one that is unexpected; the best of plans is the one that is unknown,” (Meng Shi).

“To divulge means to leak out. The military has no constant form, just as water has no constant shape — adapt as you face the enemy, without letting them know beforehand what you are going to do. Therefore, assessment of the enemy is in the mind, observation of the situation is in the eyes,” (Cao Cao).

“When your strategy is deep and far-reaching, then what you gain by your calculations is much, so you can win before you even fight. When your strategic thinking is shallow and nearsighted, then what you gain by your calculations is little, so you lose before you do battle. Much strategy prevails over little strategy, so those with no strategy cannot but be defeated,” (Zhang Yu).

What is more likely: That the U.S. military has plenty of strategies for defeating Islamic State, which Mr. Obama simply hasn’t decided on because he’s struck with political paralysis, or that the U.S. military doe not have a strategy? My bet is that Mr. Obama’s advisers have given him countless plans, which have all been rejected because actual leadership requires making decisions that are politically unpopular. It’s much easier to “lead from behind” and depend on others to come up with a strategy than it is to take charge and make decisions that you know will cost good men and women their lives.

Perhaps the “conservative” Mr. Scarborough should read The Washington Post. The paper wrote on Aug. 29:

His senior advisers uniformly have warned of the unprecedented threat to America and Americans represented by Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq. But Mr. Obama didn’t seem to agree. “Now, ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region,” he said. “My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL made in Iraq are rolled back.” Contrast that ambition with this vow from Secretary of State John F. Kerry: “And make no mistake: We will continue to confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred. The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil.”

The discrepancies raise the question of whether Mr. Obama controls his own administration, but that’s not the most disturbing element. His advisers are only stating the obvious: Russia has invaded Ukraine. The Islamic State and the Americans it is training are a danger to the United States. When Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says the threat they pose is “in some ways . . . more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general,” it’s not because he is a warmonger or an alarmist. He’s describing the world as he sees it. When Mr. Obama refuses to acknowledge the reality, allies naturally wonder whether he will also refuse to respond to it.

That is not the hallmark behavior of a man who has read Sun Tzu. It is the tell-tale sign of a man who stepped into the batter’s box before he ever took a fastball. As strikeout after strikeout piles up, he continues to blame everyone except himself for his inability lead the team to victory.

The problem for the president is that the Islamic State group isn’t a mere rival of the Chicago White Sox — it’s a terrorist organization. When the president strikes out on matters of national security, innocent Americans die.

If Joe Scarborough was joking about the president’s “We don’t have a strategy” remark, then he should stop because Islamic State isn’t a laughing matter. If he was serious and he really believes the president knows exactly what he’s doing, then the MSNBC host should explain how Libya’s fall to Islamic radicals, Iraq’s implosion, the annexation of Crimea to Russia and the the invasion of eastern Ukraine (the president still calls it an “incursion”) all fit into Mr. Obama’s master plan.

Read “The Art of War” again, Mr. Scarborough. You’re having a lot trouble putting things into their proper context.

About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

23 comments

  1. Douglas, you nailed it again. I nearly fell over when I read Scarborough’s Rose-colored glasses comparison of Obama’s recent lame comments to the genius of Sun Tzu’s combat strategies. Will we never be rid of this Kindergartner ‘n Chief and the mindless masses who follow him? Good job on this, unfortunately, non-satirical article.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Diana. When I saw that clip over at Hotair I just started laughing because it was so bizarre. Even news outlets that have generally bent over backwards to defend the president over the years have looked at this situation, gulped, and essentially said “This is … not good.”

      Yes, there are plenty of strategies at Mr. Obama’s disposal, but the fact remains is that one should have been decided upon long ago. Reasonable people can argue about the timeline (Months? Years?), but at the end of the day the president is dangerously behind the power curve.

  2. If Obama spelled “potato” with an “e,” Scarborough would say that Merriam-Webster and Oxford have been spelling it wrong for years.

    When Obama mentioned “ports on the Gulf Coast, places like Charleston, S.C., Savannah, GA, and Jacksonville, FL,” the AP added a parenthetical “and in” between “Gulf Coast” and the list of cities, to cover the gaffe.

    The media have invested so heavily in Obama that they have to cling to their mantra that he is “the smartest guy on the planet” no matter what. It’s too late for them to admit that the emperor is naked.

    BTW, Eric Roberts tweeted yesterday that George W. Bush is to blame for the Foley murder.

    1. BTW, Eric Roberts tweeted yesterday that George W. Bush is to blame for the Foley murder.

      Heh. I saw that. These people are completely unhinged. I really am looking forward to seeing how many years after Bush is out of office that they will continue to blame him for [insert foreign policy SNAFU here]. 2025? 2040? 2050?

    2. Knowing how these idiots operate, they’ll probably still be blaming Bush long after he’s dead.

      And Eric Roberts really hasn’t done much of anything movie-wise in a while, so probably he just wants attention.

    1. Sad news. I debated doing a post on that tonight, but I’m a little behind on a few other things. I might hold off a few days to see what other news comes out. This Islamic State terror group just keeps snowballing bigger and bigger. The fact that the president seems completely dazed and confused as to how to handle these guys has to be pumping these guys up, I’m sad to say. This is bad.

  3. I don’t usually laugh out loud while I’m reading a piece of political commentary (Mark Steyn has a good track record of making that happen), but Noah Rothman did the job with this one:

    “There is nothing intellectually sound about displaying “caution” in the face of such brazen affronts to American dignity, even if that were what we are witnessing from the president. But that is not what we are witnessing. What we are seeing is abject fear. Obama’s actions are an admission to all who possess even a rudimentary capacity for intellectual honesty that he has no idea what to do. There are no easy answers for those looking to address the crisis in the Middle East, so the president has chosen none of the above.”

    Boom. Indeed. You can’t vote “present” when American heads are being chopped off for all the world to see. I guess you can, but you look like a complete moron for doing so.

    1. Carl, I hate to say it but I fear that is what others really think of our leadership. I wish all presidents well because they are leading our country but then again is our president really leading?
      His position on world issues seems to be failing.

  4. Obama’s stance is out of the art of a warrior. We believe Obama is simply too intelligent for most American’s to relate to. including the political commentators..many of whom are aggressive but not highly intelligent. Howard Einhorn M.D.

    1. But of course. The vast majority of people are too stupid to get President Obama’s genius. That’s why all of his great ideas must be mandated.

      I see you didn’t answer this question, good doctor:

      How does Libya’s fall to Islamic radicals, Iraq’s implosion, the annexation of Crimea to Russia and the the invasion of eastern Ukraine (the president still calls it an “incursion”) all fit into Mr. Obama’s master plan.

      Did you really just sign off on your post with “M.D.” Did that really happen?

      Speaking of people who simultaneously demonstrate aggressiveness and stupidity, what did you think of Joe Biden saying that the U.S. will follow Islamic State to “the gates of hell” while his boss said he’d be totally fine rendering the terrorist group a “manageable problem”?

    2. How much do you want to bet that his M.D. was actually ordered out of the back of a 1970s Marvel comic? You could order all sorts of stuff from those ads, including degrees, if memory serves.

      “We believe Obama is simply too intelligent for most American’s to relate to.”

      Only a out-of-touch with reality Obamanaut would type such a thing. I’ve seen his supporters express similar views. I recall seeing a letter to the editor once where some lady claimed that Obama was “heads above the common man.” I kid you not.

  5. If we are signing off with degrees I need to put MM,MBM, ABDM.
    Does that mean people should listen to me more than Howard?
    Note: I understand our president, I just don’t agree with him on many things.

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