Hagel: ISIS beyond “just a terrorist group … imminent threat”

posted at 9:21 am on August 22, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Three years ago, Barack Obama declared the war in Iraq over as American troops pulled out of the country, after having succeeded in suppressing the insurgency of al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007-8. Seven months ago, when it became clear that the war in Iraq wasn’t over simply because the US declared it to be so, Obama scoffed at the idea that the revived insurgency under the new label of ISIS (or ISIL, but the same AQI organization) presented any direct threat to the United States:

And yet thoughts of a pacific equilibrium are far from anyone’s mind in the real, existing Middle East. In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.

“Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any 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.”

It’s amazing how quickly those Sunni fanatic “jayvees” went from a local nuisance to an “imminent threat.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel offered that conclusion yesterday in a whiplash-inducing reversal by the same administration that had claimed to have settled the Iraq question once and for all. Instead of “jayvees” and rejecting concerns over the group as overbroad definitions of terrorism, Hagel announced that ISIS has grown into something beyond “just a terrorist group”:

“This is beyond anything that we’ve seen,” he said during a briefing on Thursday afternoon about the Sunni militant group that has taken over territory in Iraq and Syria and earlier this week beheaded American journalist James Foley.

“ISIL is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen,” Hagel said. “They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded.”

“So we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is that you take a cold, steely, hard look at it…and get ready,” he said. 

In fact, it’s so much of a threat that the Pentagon isn’t talking about stopping its ability to threaten the US, but merely containing it — and even then, probably for only a temporary period, unless we get serious about actually defeating ISIS. Dempsey also points out that the “open borders and immigration” makes the threat more immediate to NATO nations:

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was possible to “contain” ISIS, but “not in perpetuity.”

“This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated,” said Dempsey, who spoke alongside Hagel.

Perhaps we might have been more prepared to deal with this threat if we’d actually assessed it properly in 2011, and again in January. Iowahawk reminded us of this earlier this morning:

And Americans might be more confident that the administration took this “imminent threat” seriously if Obama at least acted as if he took it seriously. Instead, even the New York Times was left scratching its head over Obama’s grim determination to, er, play golf:

He had just hung up the telephone with the devastated parents before heading in front of the cameras. Unusually emotional, President Obama declared himself “heartbroken” by the brutal murder of an American journalist, James Foley, and vowed to “be relentless” against Islamic radicals threatening to kill another American.

But as soon as the cameras went off, Mr. Obama headed to his favorite golf course on Martha’s Vineyard, where he is on vacation, seemingly able to put the savagery out of his mind. He spent the rest of the afternoon on the links even as a firestorm of criticism erupted over what many saw as a callous indifference to the slaughter he had just condemned. …

It was all the more striking given that Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain canceled his vacation after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released the video showing Mr. Foley’s death because the accent of the masked killer suggested he came from Britain. Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News that Mr. Obama would “rather be on the golf course than he would be dealing with the crisis.”

But the criticism went beyond the usual political opponents. Privately, many Democrats shook their heads at what they considered a judgment error. Ezra Klein, editor in chief of the online news site Vox, who is normally sympathetic to Mr. Obama, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that “golfing today is in bad taste.” The Daily News published a front-page photograph of a grinning president in a golf cart next to a picture of Mr. Foley’s distraught mother and father under the headline, “Prez tees off as Foley’s parents grieve.”

“As a general rule, I think that he’s right that you can’t be held hostage to the news cycle — the man deserves a bit of downtime,” said Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic strategist. “But in this particular instance, I think a lot of Democrats flinched a little bit.”

The video, Mr. Manley added, “was just so shocking that the idea that he was going to immediately run to the golf course was just a little too much for folks; it was tone-deaf.”

It’s as if the jayvees have donned Kobe Bryant Ronald Reagan jerseys.

Eli Lake offers a glimmer of optimism, though, that the murder of James Foley has put an end to the law-enforcement approach to counterterrorism at the White House:

Secretary of State John Kerry called ISIS “the face of evil” and vowed that America “will continue to confront [it] wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the military’s response is to “take a cold, steely, hard look at” at ISIS and “get ready” for action.

While the Justice Department on Thursday announced that the FBI would be investigating the murder of Foley, Attorney General Eric Holder also left open the possibility that the United States may not wait for the verdict of a jury and judge. “We will not forget what happened and people will be held accountable one way or the other,” Holder said.

The most notable rhetorical tell came from Obama himself.

In the aftermath of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Obama vowed to bring the attackers to justice. This week Obama struck a different tone, saying: “When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.”

The difference between bringing suspects to justice and seeing that justice is done is roughly the same as the difference between treating terrorism as a crime and as an act of war.

Perhaps. But what happened after that? Obama went back to the golf course, even while Hagel and Dempsey explained that the supposed “jayvees” have grown into a global imminent threat to the West on Obama’s watch. To paraphrase Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds, I’ll believe that this administration takes the threat seriously when they start acting like they take it seriously.

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Is Hagel and Obama still in favor of cutting our defenses?? These guys are idiots and are not living in the real world.

garydt on August 22, 2014 at 12:02 PM

Tough choices abound…. Do we pay for defense (which leftist hate) or do we increase the welfare state (buying dim votes)??

They have proven themselves to choose unwisely.

No Time Clock on August 22, 2014 at 12:17 PM

Akzed on August 22, 2014 at 11:45 AM

You didn’t rub it in at all! When I read your response, I said out loud “Arrrr how did I miss that?”

In the military I learned the effective radius of an excuse is zero meters. So I fessed up.

Pelosi Schmelosi on August 22, 2014 at 11:48 AM

We are in for a bumpy ride, for sure.

dogsoldier on August 22, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Hagel saves Dempsey from “dumbest man in the room” title….

d1carter on August 22, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Anyone know when officially is Obama’s vacation over? I would just prefer he stay in Martha’s Vineyard. Can’t we wake Boner up and see what he says about things? I can’t believe Boener hasn’t said anything yet with all what is going on. I know its recess but still.

garydt on August 22, 2014 at 12:30 PM

garydt on August 22, 2014 at 12:30 PM

I heard tomorrow for him, but his family may linger. They have in the past.

dogsoldier on August 22, 2014 at 12:34 PM

We can blame Obama, however, there is also the issue of congress. If they were all excited about this, being that ISIS has declared itself a Caliphate and therefore gov’t of their occupied areas AND that their leadership has declared war on the US, can’t congress reconvene, make a declaration of war against ISIS and send it to president 19th hole?

deepdiver on August 22, 2014 at 12:37 PM

deepdiver on August 22, 2014 at 12:37 PM

Reid will never move on this unless ValJar and King Putz inform him of their wishes.

dogsoldier on August 22, 2014 at 12:40 PM

deepdiver on August 22, 2014 at 12:37 PM

Reid will never move on this unless ValJar and King Putz inform him of their wishes.

dogsoldier on August 22, 2014 at 12:40 PM

I absolutely agree. I was merely querying as to whether my understanding is accurate and, if it is, to point out that at least the Senate if not the entirety of Congress is as culpable as Obama in failing to act or to address this with the seriousness reflected in Hagel’s statements.

deepdiver on August 22, 2014 at 12:55 PM

deepdiver on August 22, 2014 at 12:55 PM

I may be mistaken, but my understanding is the President must ask congress for authorization or a declaration of war, not the other way around.

dogsoldier on August 22, 2014 at 1:05 PM

They warned us about the WTC bombing and then the threat sent to us just before the WTC collapse and we seem to have deaf intelligence in many of our defensive government offices. We are going to monkey around until they get a hold of a nuke and ask why did we wait so long……if they are able.

mixplix on August 22, 2014 at 1:11 PM

dogsoldier on August 22, 2014 at 1:05 PM

That’s what I didn’t remember.

Probably forgot since we haven’t actually declared war for the last half century of nearly continuous regional wars.

deepdiver on August 22, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Nope, don’t need prezy McGolfer to be involved to declare:
Article I Section 8 US Constitution: The Congress shall have Power To… declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

However, the below consequences of such a declaration (well, beyond the obvious consequences that is) certainly explains why the GOP wouldn’t want to go there and give McGolfer far more power:

But a declaration of war automatically brings into effect a number of statutes that confer special powers on the President and the Executive Branch, especially concerning measures that have domestic effect. A declaration, for instance, activates statutes that empower the President to interdict all trade with the enemy, order manufacturing plants to produce armaments and seize them if they refuse, control transportation systems in order to give the military priority use, and command communications systems to give priority to the military. A declaration triggers the Alien Enemy Act, which gives the President substantial discretionary authority over nationals of an enemy state who are in the United States. It activates special authorities to use electronic surveillance for purposes of gathering foreign intelligence information without a court order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It automatically extends enlistments in the armed forces until the end of the war, can make the Coast Guard part of the Navy, gives the President substantial discretion over the appointment and reappointment of commanders, and allows the military priority use of the natural resources on the public lands and the continental shelf.http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/tid/1800/1812/us_decleration_of_wars.pdf

deepdiver on August 22, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Let’s put our money where our mouth is.


they lie on August 22, 2014 at 1:25 PM

deepdiver on August 22, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Yeah Boehner might be hesitant to give OBlamer that much juice.

You’re probably correct that they don’t need a request, but the last two times congress made the declaration in response to requests from Woodrow Wilson and FDR.

dogsoldier on August 22, 2014 at 1:31 PM

If Barry was serious, he’d strong-arm Toyota into recalling its 4x4s.

corona79 on August 22, 2014 at 1:40 PM

If Barry was serious, he’d strong-arm Toyota into recalling its 4x4s.

corona79 on August 22, 2014 at 1:40 PM

More likely he’s trying to sell them Chevy Volts.

bofh on August 22, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Hagel is a converted moron.

Schadenfreude on August 22, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Hagel, Brennan and obama are not on your side.

Schadenfreude on August 22, 2014 at 2:43 PM

It’s amazing how quickly those Sunni fanatic “jayvees” went from a local nuisance to an “imminent threat.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel offered that conclusion yesterday in a whiplash-inducing reversal by the same administration that had claimed to have settled the Iraq question once and for all. Instead of “jayvees” and rejecting concerns over the group as overbroad definitions of terrorism, Hagel announced that ISIS has grown into something beyond “just a terrorist group” . . .

They are nothing when Obama wants to ignore them, and they are the end of life when Obama wants to confront them.

They aren’t the end of life, and they aren’t nothing. Obama is a liar, Hegel is an apparatchik, and that’s lunch.

Axe on August 22, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Dummies in charge

Schadenfreude on August 22, 2014 at 3:15 PM

Hegel = Hagel.


Sorry. Habit.

Axe on August 22, 2014 at 3:24 PM

God help us if they ever send in the varsity.

Buford Gooch on August 22, 2014 at 4:05 PM

An imminent threat intentionally created by the White House Marxist and his comrades and also helped to intentionally enter the country under the façade of an open southern border.

bgibbs1000 on August 22, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Obama seems to be stuck playing T-ball. If only he learned as quickly as ISIS.

talkingpoints on August 22, 2014 at 6:06 PM

Where is the Arizona maverick now eh? Is he meeting with those courageous rebels again? We armed these people and now they’re attacking others. Quelle surprise. If only we’d gone into Syria last year and let them take over that country…

But hey, I hear there is some good golfing out there on Martha’s Vineyard.

Golfer in chief says: We didn’t build that, uh, uh, somebody else did.

oryguncon on August 22, 2014 at 6:17 PM

[Comment removed at user’s request — Ed]

jbarker4682 on August 23, 2014 at 4:08 PM

The Obama administration is a much worse threat than isis.

Imminent? Nope, way beyond imminent.

Look what you get with an imperial president at the head of a federal government, a monstrosity, the founding fathers never intended.

A most perfect storm.

Oh, what we have wrought!

Sherman1864 on August 23, 2014 at 5:23 PM

It was reported this morning that a ‘Serial Killer’ here in the U.S. was caught recently after killing 4 -5 Americans, one per month, in ‘revenge’ for ‘America killing innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, & Syria’. This Islamic Extremist P0$ declares the US is killing innocents while those he represents (ISIS/ISIL) has and continues to BEHEAD women and CHILDREN by the HUNDREDS for simply not believing the same perverted religious B$ they do. DERANGED, SICK, INTOLERANT ANIMALS like this ARE ALREADY AMONG US – some due to Obama leaving the ‘back door open and unguarded for the murderers to waltz in – and some frighteningly with US Passports. Meanwhile Liberals are trying to strip Americans of their right to bear arms to protect themselves. The ‘wolves’ are among us, and the ‘shepherds’ are pre-occupied with enabling / facilitating the ‘wolves’.

easyt65 on August 25, 2014 at 8:52 AM