Seven months ago, Barack Obama dismissed ISIS as the junior varsity of al-Qaeda. During the intervening time, the terrorist army has declared a caliphate in Syria and western Iraq, committed ethno-religious cleansing in Mosul and the Nineveh province, wiping out ancient Christian communities, and has an ongoing genocide in progress on Mount Sinjar. The Kurds can barely hold the line on their autonomous enclave, while Baghdad looks ripe to fall — if the ISIS army doesn’t drown them first by blowing up a dam in Mosul.
Ron Fournier boiled this down yesterday on Fox New Sunday to one highly appropriate line:
“This is a president who underestimated ISIL- he called them JV, he underestimated what was going to happen after Libya…, he underestimated Putin, he underestimated several other areas…He’s been the underestimator in chief,” he said.
He cautioned, “We can’t afford for the president to underestimate this threat…I wish I was more confident that the president really understood the threat to our homeland…”
And Fournier wasn’t alone, either. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Andrea Mitchell accused the White House of ignoring the intelligence warnings about ISIS and its strength, especially in relation to the Kurdish Peshmerga. Newsbusters’ Jeffrey Meyer has the transcript, which includes remarks from Chuck Todd that prompted Mitchell’s withering critique:
CHUCK TODD: This was not an administration that was not eager to tell Maliki, you don’t want a strategic forces agreement? But your original question is what did we learn about the doctrine? And I think that I’ve been trying to figure out this man’s doctrine now for six years. He doesn’t have one. He ran basically with a wink and a nod that this was going to be a George H.W. Bush type of foreign policy, stability and diplomacy first. Okay? And yet he has been pulled in different directions. His instinct actually is very George W. Bush like, which is democracy, freedom. You know, he doesn’t want, no winners and losers.
So look at the way he had intervened early in the Arab spring and then he realized boy that was a mistake. I mean, it’s almost like he pushes and pulls between the idea of democracy first versus stability first. And he goes back and forth and he’s messed around with democracy first in Egypt, didn’t work, in Libya, didn’t work. He admits it now. And now he’s trying for stability first. And I think in this case he’s struggling, he doesn’t have a doctrine.
ANDREA MITCHELL: But right now he’s tactically, he’s being held hostage to endless negotiations to get Maliki out. And to decide that you’re not going to do anything until you have a government is to wait forever, and is to permit ISIS to do what it has done. And to say he that didn’t have intelligence. This is not a hard target. This is Irbil. We have people there. The fact is, there was intelligence. And to say that they were shocked by the Peshmerga on Saturday night being routed is a farce. The White House wasn’t listening.
Todd is also correct, and gets closer to the actual issue. Obama doesn’t have a foreign policy outlook, other than to be seen as the anti-W. His foreign policy has been entirely reactive; Obama seems to reject even the idea that America should shape outcomes outside our borders. Dismissing ISIS as the JV made it easier to dodge any responsibility to stop their march through Iraq at the time and insist that the Iraqis could handle the job. Now Obama is ordering a handful of airstrikes, which does little to solve the strategic crisis in the region, as Dianne Feinstein and the Washington Post both warned over the last few days.
It’s that same impulse that has Obama claiming that the withdrawal of American troops was not his fault — despite spending most of the last three years taking sole credit for that withdrawal. Andrew Malcolm reviews the record for Investors Business Daily:
Barack Obama, Oct. 21, 2011: “As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end — for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world. …A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki….We are in full agreement about how to move forward.
“So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year….The tide of war is receding….
“Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq — tens of thousands of them — will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home….We’ll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist that other nations respect Iraq’s sovereignty.
“As I told Prime Minister Maliki, we will continue discussions on how we might help Iraq train and equip its forces….There will be some difficult days ahead for Iraq, and the United States will continue to have an interest in an Iraq that is stable, secure and self-reliant….Here at home, the coming months will be another season of homecomings…..I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.”
Also at IBD, editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez puts an exclamation point on the argument of Obama’s callowness:
Americans (and everyone else) may well wonder just what claims Obama will make in the future, too, only to claim he never made them at all.
If we can’t rely on competence in our own government, we can occasionally be grateful for the incompetence of our enemies. The Belfast Telegraph reports that 22 ISIS terrorists got killed when a suicide-bomber training session turned into a cautionary tale instead [see update — old story]:
An Isis commander at a terrorist training camp north of Baghdad accidentally detonated a belt packed with explosives during a demonstration in front of a group militants on Monday, killing himself and 21 nearby trainees.
The accident was a source of dark humour for locals, with suicide attacks in public spaces having become an almost daily occurrence in Iraq.
A bomber struck a falafel shop near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad last week, and when told of the bungled training demonstration by the New York Times, Raad Hashim, who works at a liquor store near the site of the bombing, burst out laughing.
“This is so funny,” he said. “It shows how stupid they are, those dogs and sons of dogs.”
On a more serious note, he added: “It also gives me pain, as I remember all the innocent people that were killed here.”
“This is God showing justice. This is God sending a message to the bad people and the criminals in the world, to tell them to stop the injustice and to bring peace. Evil will not win in the end. It’s always life that wins over death.[“]
It’s not the first time this has happened, and won’t be the last, but it’s still worth noting when it does. Let’s hope for a lot more wardrobe malfunctions like this in the future.
Update: I thought this story sounded a little too familiar. This actually happened in February, and the Belfast Telegraph has now deleted the story.
Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history. Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here. And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.