What a remarkable speech. In an era where a jihadist army controls more territory, commands more fighters, and has demonstrated broader striking power than any jihadist force in modern history, the President of the United States spends just about as much time lecturing Americans about Islamophobia as he does laying out his utterly inadequate strategy for defeating ISIS.
The very idea that our nation needs yet another lecture about discrimination is deeply disrespectful to the American people. After fourteen years of war against Islamic jihadists – at a cost of more than 60,000 American killed or wounded and countless thousands more suffering the lingering effects of difficult deployments — America is so tolerant of Islam that Jews — Jews! — face far more hate crimes than Muslims. When was the last time Jewish-Americans launched a deadly terror attack? The Jewish homeland is among our closest allies, matched only by countries like the United Kingdom. Yet America is less tolerant of Jews than Muslims. Americans have responded to large-scale Islamic terror and tens of thousands of broken bodies with remarkable grace and tolerance. The American people should be applauded, not lectured.
As for his strategy for defeating ISIS, the only meaningful change is the oblique reference to the expanded role of special forces. In plain English, he’s reiterating the same strategy that’s allowed ISIS to hold an immense amount of territory in Iraq and Syria while expanding its influence in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and elsewhere. The only truly meaningful promise was his renewed vow not to engage Americans in ground combat. That means that progress will continue to be painfully slow, that ISIS will continue to have safe havens in city after city, and ISIS will continue to plot its own attacks even as it inspires radicals around the world.
The president’s rhetoric about gun control was pure posturing. While I don’t have an objection to denying guns to actual terror suspects, our own “no-fly” and terror watch lists are both absurdly over-inclusive and dangerously under-inclusive. We have a terror watch list approximately 700,000 strong, and while it’s proven to cast a wide enough net that it entangles innocent Americans of all walks of life, it apparently didn’t include the vast majority of the individuals who’ve launched successful domestic terror attacks since 9/11. Let’s first design a credible watch list, then we can discuss how to keep dangerous people from buying guns — without abandoning due process.
Finally, is anyone actually reassured by language declaring that “history” has chosen our side? History didn’t defeat Hitler. History didn’t cause the Soviet Union to collapse. History teaches lessons. It does not take sides. And one lesson it teaches is that rhetoric is no substitute for true courage and resolve. When it comes to America’s war against jihadists, our president lacks both.