Our timid philoso­pher-pres­i­dent misses the real threat ‘W

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

hat ex­actly would us­ing this la­bel ac­com­plish? What ex­actly would it change?” That was Pres­i­dent Obama this week, sound­ing more like a timid philoso­pher than an im­pres­sive com­man­der-in-chief as he tried to ex­plain his re­fusal to blame in­ci­dents such as Or­lando on “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism.” Our pres­i­dent seems to spend more time these days try­ing to de­ter­mine what terminology rather than how to deal with the ac­tual threat of Is­lamic rad­i­cal­iza­tion in our midst.

Is it home­grown ex­trem­ism or home­grown ter­ror­ism? Both? Mr. Obama is overly cau­tious in not declar­ing war on the rad­i­cal el­e­ment of a re­li­gion, yet ap­pears weak by fail­ing to state clearly what his next steps will be in deal­ing with the threat posed by Is­lamic State at home and abroad.

Fol­low­ing the Bos­ton Marathon, Fort Hood, and San Bernardino tragedies, the pres­i­dent’s agenda of gun con­trol, min­i­mal ground forces, and re­strained airstrikes de­rive di­rectly from the Demo­cratic Party play­book, fall­ing far short of the ag­gres­sive, of­fen­sive and bold tac­tics needed to de­feat Is­lamic State.

Mr. Obama de­scribed the San Bernardino shoot­ing as work­place vi­o­lence and blamed in­suf­fi­cient gun re­stric­tions for the tragedy — in a state that has some of the strictest gun laws in the na­tion. The Paris and Brus­sels at­tacks car­ried out by Is­lamic State in re­cent months should serve as a re­minder to the pres­i­dent that the ter­ror­ists smug­gled in semi-au­to­matic weapons and used bombs hid­den in bag­gage that killed hun­dreds of in­no­cent lives, and tough gun laws proved use­less.

Mr. Obama has of­fered no new guid­ance on how the FBI and lo­cal law en­force­ment should track home­grown, rad­i­cal­ized ter­ror­ists or im­prove the co­or­di­na­tion be­tween lo­cal law en­force­ment and the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies. FBI bu­reau­cratic pro­to­cols are fail­ing to keep pace with Is­lamic State’s so­phis­ti­cated use of so­cial me­dia to at­tract new re­cruits within our bor­ders.

By re­fus­ing to rec­og­nize the real threat, Mr. Obama has also cre­ated a false sense of se­cu­rity that the Is­lamic State threat has been brought un­der con­trol. Is­lamic State, he has re­peat­edly said, is not an “ex­is­ten­tial threat” to us. Amer­i­cans want to be­lieve their pres­i­dent, but it is his own in­abil­ity to fo­cus on the threat from Is­lamic State at home and abroad that feeds the prob­lem.

The pres­i­dent has fo­cused more time on is­sues such as cli­mate change than on rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror; he should ask those griev­ing fam­i­lies in Or­lando which they be­lieve is the great­est threat.

Even Mr. Obama’s own CIA chief ap­par­ently be­lieves the pres­i­dent un­der­states the Is­lamic State threat we’re fac­ing. CIA Direc­tor John Bren­nan told Congress Thurs­day that Is­lamic State re­mains “for­mi­da­ble” and “re­silient,” and is ac­tively re­cruit­ing new op­er­a­tives to carry out more Or­lando-style at­tacks in the U.S. and the West.

In De­cem­ber 2015, Mr. Obama said that his anti-ter­ror strat­egy is “mov­ing for­ward with a great sense of ur­gency,” but the snail’s-like pace of the fight against Is­lamic State — limited airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, re­ly­ing on an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion and Iraqi se­cu­rity forces, seek­ing more Sunni Arab al­lies — has barely made a dent in de­feat­ing Is­lamic State. The ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tends that IS­LAMIC STATE has lost 40 per­cent of its ter­ri­tory in Iraq and Syria, yet ne­glects to men­tion that the ji­hadists have con­tin­ued to ex­pand into ar­eas in Libya, Ye­men, and Afghanistan, coun­tries with un­sta­ble gov­ern­ments run by weak lead­ers.

A Pen­tagon re­port re­leased in De­cem­ber re­vealed that Is­lamic State is ac­tu­ally grow­ing stronger in Afghanistan, where “the group’s re­cruit­ment of ex­pe­ri­enced fighters and com­man­ders could in­crease its ca­pa­bil­ity to do so over at least the next year.” The ten­ta­cles of Is­lamic State are far-reach­ing, and the re­strained and tepid in­ter­na­tional re­sponse that Mr. Obama has pur­sued will not elim­i­nate this ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Af­ter mul­ti­ple speeches and press con­fer­ences in the wake of these tragedies as­so­ci­ated with ter­ror­ists at home and abroad, Mr. Obama con­tin­ues to down­play and mis­un­der­stand the threat we face, and has failed to con­vince the Amer­i­can peo­ple that his ad­min­is­tra­tion has the sit­u­a­tion un­der con­trol.

Mr. Obama’s words do not match up with his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sults, and a se­ri­ous reeval­u­a­tion of his coun­tert­er­ror­ism strat­egy is des­per­ately needed be­fore the next at­tack on our home­land oc­curs. Mercedes Sch­lapp is a FOX News con­trib­u­tor, co-founder of Cove Strate­gies, and for­mer White House direc­tor of spe­cialty me­dia un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

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