Pres­i­dent Obama’s over­seas of­fen­sive

He goes af­ter his crit­ics at home as pur­vey­ors of panic and fear

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

When a pres­i­dent goes abroad to de­fend his strat­egy for de­feat­ing an enemy — and the right word here is “enemy,” not “ri­val” or “ad­ver­sary” — it’s a con­ces­sion that whether he says it ex­plic­itly or not, his strat­egy has failed. Even mem­bers of his own party have at last put par­ti­san loy­alty aside and openly chal­lenged the pres­i­dent’s failed “lead­er­ship from be­hind.”

Worse, the pres­i­dent gives ev­ery in­di­ca­tion that he will con­tinue his present “strat­egy.” The strat­egy, such as it may be, is counter-in­sur­gency, which pre­scribes low-level en­gage­ment of the forces of the Is­lamic State, or ISIS or ISIL, on the as­sump­tion that ISIS ter­ror­ism is a lo­cal blow-up lim­ited to the Mid­dle East.

From abroad, he re­peat­edly urges Amer­i­cans not to panic in the face of the bru­tal Paris mas­sacres of a week ear­lier, and the sub­se­quent dis­cov­ery of other such plots in Bel­gium and France. If he had been here he would have seen there is no panic, nor any signs of panic. What he de­scribes as panic is le­git­i­mate con­cern, rightly ex­pressed. He does rightly cau­tion that the aim of ISIS is to desta­bi­lize Europe and Amer­ica with fear and terror.

Mr. Obama as­sured the world that his re­sponse to ISIS would con­tinue mea­sured and sub­tle. He pointed with a cer­tain mea­sure of pride to his bomb­ing of oil trucks. He re­peated ear­lier as­sur­ances to the enemy that he had alerted op­er­a­tors of the truck fleet that the bombers would be com­ing.

Mr. Obama said the ru­mors were wrong that he had sent word to his in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers to send him only good news. But what the pres­i­dent and his ad­vis­ers won’t face up to is that what­ever ISIS was even a few months ago, it no longer is. It has blos­somed into a full-fledged min­istate, re­plete not only with a rul­ing bu­reau­cracy, a par­tially pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary, with cadre from the old Sad­dam Hus­sein regime, with highly pro­fes­sional pro­pa­ganda. Fur­ther­more, with the help of black mar­ket oper­a­tions through Tur­key, ISIS has con­sid­er­able rev­enues from oil fields un­der its con­trol.

Most threat­en­ing is that ISIS has demon­strated an abil­ity to de­liver ter­ror­ist acts in one of the world’s most so­phis­ti­cated cities and gain fol­low­ers and “sol­diers” from Mus­lim coun­tries in Africa and Asia as well as the Mid­dle East. This grow­ing pres­tige, with an ap­peal to the young, will pose an enor­mous bur­den on Western se­cu­rity forces when they re­turn to their na­tive coun­tries.

Mr. Obama’s ref­er­ence to the bomb­ing of the oil trucks begs the ques­tion of why this lim­ited op­er­a­tion had not been car­ried out in the year when the ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der­took its half­hearted con­flict with ISIS. In fact, with only about five bomb­ing strikes a day — com­pared to 1,200 daily raids dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom — the pres­i­dent’s aerial war de­fines ane­mic.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has set­tled for a long, te­dious and in­con­clu­sive con­flict with ISIS, and time is on the side of ISIS. With a sanc­tu­ary for its mil­i­tary, a re­mark­ably com­pe­tent In­ter­net pro­pa­ganda of­fen­sive and a lot of money, the ter­ror­ists will only broaden their ap­peal to those who as­pire to evil through­out world­wide Is­lam. Pres­i­dent Obama won’t eas­ily ad­mit the er­ror of his judg­ment and adopt a real strat­egy, but he must, or else the fu­ture looks dark and grim.

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