The Corner

National Security & Defense

Obama’s Dangerous Phony War

The President’s address tonight contained almost nothing new. He didn’t repeat the promise to ”degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS,” perhaps because he realizes that people are catching on to what it really promises, which is almost nothing. He sounded tough, but it remains abundantly clear that his strategy has no urgency. His promise to eliminate ISIS safe havens by providing equipment to groups of yet-to-be-identified (much less trained) fighters is a transparent promise to tolerate the massive ISIS safe haven in Syria in Iraq indefinitely.

Tolerating such safe-havens indefinitely is incredibly dangerous for many reasons. Here are two.

First, the president notes that sophisticated attacks like 9/11 are now less likely than smaller-scale attacks not necessarily orchestrated by ISIS itself. But safe havens are precisely what allow terrorist groups to launch 9/11 style attacks, as we learned on 9/11. That lesson was reinforced in Paris just weeks ago. 

Second, and more important, everyone agrees that in order to defeat Islamist extremism you must deprive it of ideological support. Well, nobody is pledging allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). That’s because we killed Zarqawi in 2006 and annihilated AQI in 2007. The simplest way to deprive a terrorist organization of ideological support is to defeat it. And defeating ISIS is precisely what Obama’s no-pain-no-gain lack of urgency is not doing

Obama always accuses critics of seeking to give ISIS (or the Iranian hard-liners, or take your pick) what it wants most. Well, there is nothing ISIS wants more than for the U.S. and its allies to create the impression that we are (a) resolutely united against ISIS, and (b) unable to defeat it despite our best efforts.

With his combination of empty bombast and ”sitzkrieg” phony war strategy, Obama is the one giving ISIS what it wants. The president’s supporters need to understand how dangerous this is. Every day ISIS is still standing in Syria and Iraq is another day that some young Muslim is going to pledge allegiance to it, and get ready to kill for Allah. 

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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