He spent eight years bending the ear of George W. Bush. On Wednesday, former vice president Dick Cheney sought to advise another US leader, this time over how to contend with violent jihadists.
In a Washington speech, Cheney, an architect of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, criticized a “disengaged” President Barack Obama for his defensive posture in the face of extremist threats, including those posed by the Islamic State (IS).
“While the president was claiming the tide of war was receding and core Al-Qaeda had been decimated, the threat was actually increasing,” Cheney said at the American Enterprise Institute think tank where he received a standing ovation.
“From Iraq, Syria and Yemen, over to Pakistan, all the way down to Somalia and west to Nigeria –- in various places under various names — a whole new wave of jihadists was on the rise.”
Cheney has served four Republican presidents, and while conservatives applaud his hawkish national security positions, he is despised by many Democrats for his role in invading Iraq.
Speaking hours before Obama unveils his IS strategy, Cheney said the administration needed to take a stronger tack.
“We must move globally to get back on offense in the war on terror,” he warned.
“Our president must understand we are at war and that we must do what it takes, for as long as it takes, to win,” Cheney said, decrying the “decline of American military power” due to “irrational” budget cuts.
His advice to Obama on tackling IS?
“Immediately hit them in their sanctuaries, staging areas, command centers, and lines of communication wherever we find them.”
That includes Syria, where the US administration has hesitated to get directly involved in that country’s raging civil war.
And he stressed the importance of contributing US military trainers and special forces to the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces waging battle against IS.
The 73-year-old Republican was invited to address AEI on the eve of the anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Cheney was Bush’s deputy at the time, and he was a prime backer of the Iraq war — which Obama eventually ended in December 2011 by removing the last American troops.
The Bush administration came under fire for its muscular post-9/11 policies, including opening the Guantanamo military prison, harsh interrogation practices like “waterboarding” which Obama equated with torture, and the creation of secret programs like sprawling phone and electronic surveillance.
Cheney routinely speaks out against the Obama administration, and on Tuesday he was invited to address the Republican caucus of the House of Representatives.