The Corner

Tolerating the Risk of Attacks Like Nice Is Obama’s Policy

I don’t want my incandescent anger at Obama’s ISIS policy to get in the way of a simple observation: Obama thinks that more people die in bathtubs than in terrorist attacks, and accordingly, it would be disproportionate to make more than a minimal effort to eliminate the ISIS safe havens in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. He thinks today’s elevated risk of mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. is more acceptable than the risks of really going to war against ISIS, and he thinks that going to war against ISIS won’t stop the terrorist attacks anyway. 

That’s wrong at multiple levels, but here’s the most important reason it’s wrong. The policy of tolerating the ISIS safe havens – a policy that, forced to follow Obama’s lead, most Western governments have embraced – has helped ISIS create the image of a heroic struggle. That’s why it continues to gain adherents who swear allegiance to it all over the world. That’s why it doesn’t need to plan and direct terrorist attacks from its actual safe haven. Its safe haven allows it the social media presence to instigate spontaneous attacks everywhere. 

Iraq’s third largest city, Mosul, with a population of nearly 700,000, fell to ISIS more than two years ago, and we haven’t lifted a finger. Why? Because Obama didn’t care about Iraq when he got to office, didn’t care about the risks of pulling all our troops out in 2011, didn’t care that he might be throwing away all that was gained through the sacrifices of our soldiers in five years of war, and didn’t care when ISIS started taking over western in Iraq in 2014. Recall that it was in response to the fall of Fallujah to ISIS early 2014 that Obama made his obscene comment that ISIS is just the ”jayvee” team, and that not all the “horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.” 

Tolerating a high risk of attacks like the one in Nice is Obama’s policy. He expects us to learn to live with this. Keep that in mind when you hear official expressions of American solidarity with the French. We stand with France only to the extent of our collective sans souci, because more people die in bathtubs. 


Mario Loyola — Mr. Loyola is a research associate professor and the director of the Environmental Finance and Risk Management Program at Florida International University and a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. From 2017 to 2019 he was the associate director for regulatory reform at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.


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