Quotes of the day

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL…

Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers. Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages — killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children, and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims — both Sunni and Shia — by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people…

The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.


Less than an hour after Mr. Obama spoke, the United States Central Command announced that American warplanes had conducted 14 airstrikes on ISIS targets in the hours after the video was released. The strikes all took place near the Mosul Dam, central command said in a news release.

“These strikes were under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense force operations, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts,” the release said.

The State Department also forwarded a request to the Pentagon — which the State Department is evaluating —to send around 300 more troops to Iraq for security, a United States official said.


U.S. special operations forces early this summer launched a secret, major rescue operation in Syria to save James Foley and a number of Americans held by the extremist group ISIS, but the mission failed because the hostages weren’t there, senior administration officials told ABC News today.

President Obama authorized the “substantial and complex” rescue operation after the officials said a “broad collection of intelligence” led the U.S. to believe the hostages were being held in a specific location in the embattled Middle Eastern nation.

When “several dozen” U.S. special operation members landed in Syria, however, they were met with gunfire and “while on site, it became apparent the hostages were not there,” one of the officials said. The special operators engaged in a firefight in which ISIS suffered “a good number” casualties, the official said, while the American forces suffered only a single minor injury.


Before Biden began speaking about training, he talked about the murder of James Foley, a journalist who had been captured by the militant Islamic group ISIS. He called James Foley Jim…

He said he and the President have spent a whole lot of time recently in the Situation Room. He said of ISIS: “They’re attempting to wipe out entire elements of the population in Iraq, including Muslims. I’m proud of the President stepping forward.” He talked about the crisis of the Yazidi refugees on Mt. Sinjar, and how ISIS was taking “young girls from that city and selling them, auctioning them off. This is just something out of the sixth century, the fifth century.”…

The AP reporter asked if Foley’s beheading changed the U.S. approach to ISIS. Biden said no, but it shines a spotlight on the horrors going on in that part of the world.



And yet acting under existing authorities in Iraq, the administration’s response to the spread of the ISIS cancer has so far been reactive and piecemeal, constantly ceding the initiative to the ISIS extremists. When explaining U.S. airstrikes that enabled Iraqi and Kurdish forces to recapture the Mosul Dam in his press conference, for instance, Obama said he was acting to protect U.S. personnel in the Baghdad embassy hundreds of miles away. Really? Such tortured explanations of the logic behind the use of U.S. military force may comport with the commander in chief’s constitutional authority to protect American citizens. They sound an uncertain trumpet to allies in the region, however, who are desperate for U.S. leadership…

To have any hope of holding Iraq together, and making good on President Obama’s promise this week to “pursue a long-term strategy to turn the tide against [ISIS],” U.S. military support to the Iraqi Security Forces will have to be significant. Put simply, the administration needs to articulate a strategy for Iraq, and settle on a plan for executing it that is backed at home and understood in Iraq and the region…

A congressional authorization targeting ISIS, however limited in time or geography, would go a long way toward clarifying for the American people this growing threat to their security


What do we do if we agree that this group must not exist in our general space-time continuum? Does this mean we have a foreign policy objective of exterminating ISIS? Breaking its will? Killing off just its leaders? Not really doing anything? Sort of bombing some strategic locations but trying not to get too involved? Mass conversion attempts away from ISIS ideology? What? What’s the specific thing we’re all agreeing to?

President Obama’s utopian fantasy of “the future” “always” being “won by those who build, not destroy” is just obviously and resoundingly false, for better or worse. I mean, define “future.” And define “winning” and “building vs. destroying.” Tamerlane had tremendous success destroying and slaughtering his enemies — for most of a century. And World War II didn’t end by building up Nagasaki. There are good winners and bad winners littered throughout history.

What’s more, this “wrong side of history” nonsense is nothing more than a religious belief in supernatural causality. It implies that history isn’t shaped by men but, instead, by outside inevitable forces that can always be counted on. If this were so, we wouldn’t need to work so hard to raise up good children and fight the evils all around us.


What of ISIS’s weakness? That too was revealed by the video, which was a poor response to the military setbacks ISIS has suffered in the past week as Kurdish peshmerga militia have managed to retake Mosul Dam with the assistance of American firepower (and most likely U.S. Special Operations Forces, although their involvement has not been publicized). Recall the last time that al-Qaeda publicly murdered an American journalist. That would have been my former Wall Street Journal colleague Daniel Pearl, who was killed in early 2002 at a time when, thanks to the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda was on the run. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed killed Pearl for the same reason some ISIS fanatic killed Foley: to convey an impression of strength. But such desperate measures instead telegraph, well, desperation–and far from cowing anyone they are only likely to redouble the resolve of the civilized world to smash this group of genocidal jihadists.

What is needed now is not strongly worded condemnation of Foley’s murder, much less a hashtag campaign. What is needed is a politico-military strategy to annihilate ISIS rather than simply chip around the edges of its burgeoning empire. In the Spectator of London I recently outlined what such a strategy should look like. In brief, it will require a commitment of some 10,000 U.S. advisors and Special Operators, along with enhanced air power, to work with moderate elements in both Iraq and Syria–meaning not only the peshmerga but also the Sunni tribes, elements of the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Free Syrian Army–to stage a major offensive to rout ISIS out of its newly conquered strongholds. The fact that Nouri al-Maliki is leaving power in Baghdad clears away a major obstacle to such a campaign.


The jihadi terrorists now control a large part of northern Iraq, close to the Iranian border, and have declared that territory to be a new state. If they succeed, on a permanent basis, that will result in the dismemberment of Iraq – with not only a caliphate but the Iraqi Kurds no longer ruled from Baghdad. What would be left of Iraq would be a rump Shia state deprived of many of its most valuable oil fields, and struggling to survive as a meaningful political entity…

Churchill was not naive. For the previous 20 years he had been the most vociferous opponent of the Soviet Union and all it stood for. He was well aware that when the alliance with Stalin led to the defeat of Hitler’s Germany the Soviet Union would emerge far more powerful than before and control much of eastern Europe.

But history has not found fault in the judgment that the price was worth paying if Britain was to be freed from Nazi invasion and western Europe from Hitler’s domination. The balance of advantage and disadvantage of working with the Iranians is not nearly as difficult as it was with the Russians. Iran, unlike the Soviet Union, will never be a superpower or a global threat…

On this occasion, my enemy’s enemy is not my friend. But to borrow Margaret Thatcher’s comment on Mikhail Gorbachev, we can, on the issue of jihadi terrorism, do business with them.


Air strikes are undoubtedly necessary for the narrow purposes stipulated by Obama. But they will have a wide range of unintended consequences — some relatively manageable, others less so…

Third, air strikes will almost certainly unite Sunnis against other sects and boost support for ISIS while fueling disdain for the United States. The gist of the social media commentary on the strikes has been this: For years, the United States has tolerated — or perhaps even facilitated — a violent onslaught against Sunni Muslims. The very instant that other groups are threatened, the United States intervenes immediately against the Sunnis. And who benefits from this intervention? The Shia. It is a potent narrative, which the air strikes, however unavoidable, will appear to affirm. Indeed, impolitic language aside, it is hard to dispute the idea that the Shia, particularly Maliki, who has presided over a state that privileges that group while marginalizing Sunnis, will reap the gains of this campaign, at least in the short term…

Finally, in military terms, strikes will rapidly hit the point of diminishing returns for the United States. ISIS consists essentially of light infantry. When the fighters mass, or move via convoy, U.S. firepower can be effective at killing and dispersing them. But there are relatively few fighters to begin with — one of the astounding things about this war — and they don’t possess installations, depots, or other assets that the United States can menace. In this fight, airpower alone can be used effectively. But winning would require a combination of both ground troops and air superiority. And it won’t be the United States that supplies the ground troops. At the moment, though, the plight of Yezidis and Christians and the imminent exposure of Americans to jihadi raiders make that tomorrow’s concern.


The Obama administration’s escalating air war against the Islamic State is running up against a dispiriting new reality: The militants are becoming as good at governing territory as they are at conquering it, making it considerably harder to dislodge them from the broad swaths of Syria and Iraq that they now control.

U.S. intelligence officials say the leaders of the Islamic State are adopting methods first pioneered by Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite militia, and are devoting considerable human and financial resources toward keeping essential services like electricity, water, and sewage functioning in their territory. In some areas, they even operate post offices…

At the same time, the Islamic State has generally allowed the local bureaucrats in charge of hospitals, law enforcement, trash pickup, and other municipal services to stay in their jobs, according to intelligence officials. In some areas, sitting mayors and other top local officeholders are keeping their posts.

Taken together, the moves highlight the fact that the Islamic State, already the best-armed and best-funded terror group in the world, is quickly adapting to the challenges of ruling and governing. That, in turn, dramatically reduces the chances that the extremists will face homegrown opposition in what amounts to the world’s newest territory.


No one has offered a plausible strategy to defeat ISIL that does not include a major U.S. commitment on the ground and the renewal of functional governance on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border. And no one will, because none exists. But that has not prevented a slew of hacks and wonks from suggesting grandiose policy goals without paying serious attention to the costs of implementation and the fragility of the U.S. political consensus for achieving those goals. Although ISIL has some characteristics of a state now, it still has the resilience of an ideologically motivated terrorist organization that will survive and perhaps even thrive in the face of setbacks. We must never again make the mistake that we made in 2008, which was to assume that we have destroyed a jihadist organization because we have pushed it out of former safe-havens and inhibited its ability to hold territory. Bombing ISIL will not destroy it. Giving the Kurds sniper rifles or artillery will not destroy it. A new prime minister in Iraq will not destroy it…

This is where I am supposed to advocate a brilliant strategy to defeat ISIL by Christmas at some surprisingly reasonable cost. But it won’t happen. The cost to defeat ISIL would be very high and would require a multi-year commitment. I wish, very much, that the United States had taken ISIL and its predecessors more seriously after the Surge in 2007—but we did not, and that represents both a political and analytical failure. In a post-Benghazi world, looking toward the 2016 Presidential election, the political consensus to incur the risks and costs of destroying ISIL is tremendously unlikely. And even then, success hinges on dramatic political shifts in both Iraq and Syria that under the best of circumstances will require years. (Despite a new Iraqi Prime Minister, there is no short-term prospect for credible governance across either Iraq or Syria.)…

Advocating the defeat of ISIL over the short-term without acknowledging what will be necessary to achieve that end is a recipe for mission creep.
Mission creep is a recipe for policy failure because the American people will not allow sustained investment in a policy they did not commit to originally.



Via the IJR.


Via the Free Beacon.

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