One thing you might have noticed if you watched White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest trying to explain to reporters why embedding US spec ops with the YPG in Syria doesn’t amount to putting US boots on the ground, is that despite the fact that there are any number of more important questions the media should be asking about the new “plan” (see our full account here), Americans are far more concerned about the apparent contradiction between Obama’s “new” strategy and statements he’s made with regard to US forces in Syria in the past.
Indeed, nearly every question Earnest fielded revolved around whether The White House is set to recant on the administration’s pledge not to put American “combat” forces in Syria.
Make no mistake, these questions probably seem absurd to anyone in US intelligence and/or military circles. Obviously, there have been boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq for years and indeed, the public seems to have forgotten that just five months ago, US commandos executed a raid in Syria that purportedly killed Islamic State’s “gas minister” (and yes, that’s just as absurd as it sounds).
Additionally, Washington has made no secret of the now defunct “train and equip” program for Syrian rebels – clearly, the American public hadn’t thought very hard about who was doing the on-the-ground “training.”
Finally, there’s no telling how many CIA operatives and black ops have been running around in Syria assissisting Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s proxy armies from the very beginning.
Still, the Obama administration has gone out of its way in the past to dismiss the idea of American boots on the ground in Syria and because we’re happy to see that the mainstream media has at least partially woken up to this ridiculous charade, we present 16 instances of Obama swearing there will be no boots on the ground, courtesy of USA Today:
* * *
Remarks before meeting with Baltic State leaders, Aug. 30, 2013
“In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign. But we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria, but others around the world, understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban and norm. So again, I repeat, we’re not considering any open-ended commitment. We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach.”
Remarks in the Rose Garden, Aug. 31, 2013
“After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.”
Statement before meeting with congressional leaders, Sept. 3, 2013
“So the key point that I want to emphasize to the American people: The military plan that has been developed by our Joint Chiefs — and that I believe is appropriate — is proportional. It is limited. It does not involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan.
News conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Sept. 4, 2013
“I think America recognizes that, as difficult as it is to take any military action — even one as limited as we’re talking about, even one without boots on the ground — that’s a sober decision.”
News conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013
“The question for the American people is, is that responsibility that we’ll be willing to bear? And I believe that when you have a limited, proportional strike like this — not Iraq, not putting boots on the ground; not some long, drawn-out affair; not without any risks, but with manageable risks — that we should be willing to bear that responsibility.”
Weekly radio address, Sept. 7, 2013
“What we’re not talking about is an open-ended intervention. This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan. There would be no American boots on the ground. Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope, designed to deter the Syrian Government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so.”
Interview with the PBS Newshour, Sept. 9, 2013
“Tomorrow I’ll speak to the American people. I’ll explain this is not Iraq; this is not Afghanistan; this is not even Libya. We’re not talking about — not boots on the ground. We’re not talking about sustained airstrikes. We’re talking about a very specific set of strikes to degrade his chemical weapons capabilities in terms of delivery.”
Interview with CBS Evening News, Sept. 9, 2013
“What I’m going to try to propose is that we have a very specific objective, a very narrow military option, and one that will not lead into some large-scale invasion of Syria or involvement or boots on the ground; nothing like that. This isn’t like Iraq. It’s not like Afghanistan. It’s not even like Libya. Then hopefully people will recognize why I think this is so important.”
Address to the Nation, Sept. 10, 2013
“Many of you have asked, won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are ‘still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.’ A veteran put it more bluntly: ‘This nation is sick and tired of war.’ My answer is simple: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad’s capabilities.”
Interview on Bloomberg View, Feb, 27, 2014
“We are doing everything we can to see how we can do that and how we can resource it. But I’ve looked at a whole lot of game plans, a whole lot of war plans, a whole bunch of scenarios, and nobody has been able to persuade me that us taking large-scale military action even absent boots on the ground, would actually solve the problem.”
News conference in Newport, Wales, Sept. 5, 2014
“With respect to the situation on the ground in Syria, we will not be placing U.S. ground troops to try to control the areas that are part of the conflict inside of Syria. I don’t think that’s necessary for us to accomplish our goal. We are going to have to find effective partners on the ground to push back against ISIL.”
Interview with Meet the Press, Sept. 7, 2014
“(You) cannot, over the long term or even the medium term, deal with this problem by having the United States serially occupy various countries all around the Middle East. We don’t have the resources. It puts enormous strains on our military. And at some point, we leave. And then things blow up again. So we’ve got to have a more sustainable strategy, which means the boots on the ground have to be Iraqi. And and in Syria, the boots on the ground have to be Syrian. … I will reserve the right to always protect the American people and go after folks who are trying to hurt us wherever they are. But in terms of controlling territory, we’re going to have to develop a moderate Sunni opposition that can control territory and that we can work with. The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground, I think would be a profound mistake. And I want to be very clear and very explicit about that.”
Address to the Nation on Syria, Sept. 10, 2014
“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.”
News conference in Brisbane, Australia, Nov. 16, 2014
“Yes, there are always circumstances in which the United States might need to deploy U.S. ground troops. If we discovered that ISIL had gotten possession of a nuclear weapon, and we had to run an operation to get it out of their hands, then, yes, you can anticipate that not only would Chairman Dempsey recommend me sending U.S. ground troops to get that weapon out of their hands, but I would order it. So the question just ends up being, what are those circumstances? I’m not going speculate on those. Right now we’re moving forward in conjunction with outstanding allies like Australia in training Iraqi security forces to do their job on the ground.”
Remarks at the White House, Feb. 11, 2015
“The resolution we’ve submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war, like Afghanistan or Iraq. … As I’ve said before, I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That’s not in our national security interest, and it’s not necessary for us to defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL, and that’s what they’re doing.”
Remarks at the Pentagon, July 6, 2015
“There are no current plans to do so. That’s not something that we currently discussed. I’ve always said that I’m going to do what’s necessary to protect the homeland. One of the principles that we all agree on, though, and I pressed folks pretty hard because in these conversations with my military advisers I want to make sure I’m getting blunt and unadulterated, uncensored advice. But in every one of the conversations that we’ve had, the strong consensus is that in order for us to succeed long-term in this fight against ISIL, we have to develop local security forces that can sustain progress. It is not enough for us to simply send in American troops to temporarily set back organizations like ISIL, but to then, as soon as we leave, see that void filled once again with extremists.”
* * *
Summing it all up in one hilarious picture of Ash Carter listening to Obama tell reporters at The Pentagon that their will be no boots on the ground in Syria…