The contrast between Friday’s press conference in London by British Prime Minister David Cameron and Thursday’s White House remarks by President Obama could not have been starker…
In announcing his government’s decision to raise the UK terrorism threat level to “severe,” the PM announced a series of measures to combat the Islamist threat within Britain itself, including tough new measures against British-born, self-styled “jihadists,” hundreds of whom have traveled to Iraq and Syria in recent months to fight with ISIS.
Cameron addressed the Islamist menace head-on, declaring that “the root cause of this threat to our security is clear: it is a poisonous ideology of Islamic extremism that is condemned by all states.”
In contrast, President Obama’s remarks to the White House press corps Thursday were weak-kneed, meandering and confused, sending mixed messages both to America’s enemies and the American people.
Cameron was more forceful and sounded more decisive. He denounced the “poisonous ideology” of the Islamist extremist group currently occupying parts of Syria and Iraq and said ISIS must not be allowed to expand its reach lest the world face “a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean.”…
What the two leaders had in common, however, was the lack of an articulated plan for dealing with ISIS. Obama’s problem was that he came right out and said it…
Cameron went on at length about the failings of the ISIS ideology. But when it came to specifics about what to do about the jihadist terror group, he spoke in generalities.
“We need a tough, intelligent, patient and comprehensive approach to defeat the terrorist threat at its source,” he said. “Tough in that we need a firm security response, whether that is action to go after the terrorist international cooperation on intelligence, on counter-terrorism or uncompromising measures against terrorists here at home. But it also must be an intelligent political response. We must use all resources we have at our disposal: aid, diplomacy, political influence and our military.”
Labour established, in law, binding Sharia tribunals that Muslims could attend instead of normal British courts. In opposition, my party, the Conservatives, promised to repeal them. In government, nothing was done. The arguments against this are so obvious and clear cut I blush at having to type them out, but here goes: A Muslim woman in a legal dispute with her Muslim husband (since only Muslims may attend the Sharia Muslim Arbitration Tribunal) is clearly at a massive disadvantage under Sharia law. And its very existence is Islamophobic, if we use that term as discriminating against Muslims, rather than the religion—what “good Muslim woman” could refuse to attend a Muslim Arbitration Tribunal? Given that they exist, how could she insist on a secular court?
So the UK state funds Sharia scholars who tell fathers how best to disinherit their daughters, and tells women to return to domestic violence situations and abusive husbands. Again and again, journalists and TV reporters have gone undercover to show the shocking misogyny of Sharia courts. But the government—a Conservative government that swore blind in opposition it would rid us of this evil, will do nothing, fearing the taunt of racism. And so it is Asian British women who are flung to the wolves…
This is the environment that produced James Foley’s murderer. This is the system that is sending hundreds of young British men to fight for ISIS. I pray that by the time my daughter is old enough to vote, we will have found the strength to stand against the sheer evil of Sharia law, and purged it from British civil life. As for this aspect of today’s Britain, and the Conservative party’s acquiescence to it, I am only glad Margaret Thatcher did not live to see it.
U.S. intelligence has picked up increased chatter among Islamist terror networks approaching the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and amid the continuing battle for supremacy between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, current and former U.S. officials told TheBlaze.
“We’ve noticed a significant increase in chatter among Islamic terrorist organizations overseas both on the Internet and phone lines,” said a U.S. government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter. “This is certainly concerning, but as of yet we can’t pinpoint what or if they are planning a particular attack. We did see this kind of increase in chatter before the September 11 attacks. We just hope the public continues to remain vigilant.”
Thursday’s messy news conference capped off a month of difficult public statements from Obama on foreign policy issues. Back on Aug. 7, he made a brief prime-time appearance to announce bombing strikes against ISIL in Iraq, including some aimed at freeing religious minorities besieged on a mountain. It’s not clear in retrospect whether tens of thousands of Yazidi sect members were in fact trapped there or a much smaller number. U.S. official say some didn’t want to leave.
He made five more public statements on ISIL in the ensuing days, including a couple from Martha’s Vineyard, where he was vacationing. The last statement was a harsh condemnation of the Islamic group for its beheading of American journalist James Foley. Obama went directly from that statement to a round of golf, drawing criticism for insensitivity.
The impact and the danger of the no-strategy remark could be exacerbated by earlier Obama comments in which he seemed to dramatically underestimate the ISIL threat…
“It was an odd press conference at the very best, but to have a press conference to say we don’t have a strategy was really shocking given the severity of the threat,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said on CNN.
Rather than the average inartful comment that disappears after a few news cycles, the no-strategy line could help cement charges that Obama lacks the competency to handle multiple crises at once.
A central component of the GOP’s strategy for the midterms is to paint Obama as either overwhelmed by the challenges of his office or simply too detached to care — and make Democrats defend an unpopular second-term president.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” a senior House GOP leadership aide said gleefully of Obama’s mistake. “He basically just articulated the very thing we’ve been saying for a long time now. Thank you, Mr. President.”
President Obama’s critics often claim he doesn’t have a strategy in the greater Middle East. That’s wrong. Like it or loathe it, he does, and he’s beginning to implement it against ISIS…
When it comes to the Middle East, in other words, Obama is neither a dove nor a hawk. He’s a fierce minimalist. George W. Bush defined the War on Terror so broadly that in anti-terrorism’s name he spent vast quantities of blood and treasure fighting people who had no capacity or desire to attack the United States. Hillary Clinton and John McCain may not use the “War on Terror” framework anymore, but they’re still more willing to sell arms, dispatch troops, and drop bombs to achieve goals that aren’t directly connected to preventing another 9/11. By contrast, Obama’s strategy—whether you like it or not—is more clearly defined. Hundreds of thousands can die in Syria; the Taliban can menace and destabilize Afghanistan; Iran can move closer to getting a bomb. No matter. With rare exceptions, Obama only unsheathes his sword against people he thinks might kill American civilians.
Understanding Obama’s fierce minimalism helps explain the evolution of his policy toward Syria and Iraq. For years, hawks pushed him to bomb Assad and arm Syria’s rebels. They also urged him to keep more U.S. troops in Iraq to stabilize the country and maintain American leverage there. Obama refused because these efforts—which would have cost money and incurred risks—weren’t directly aimed at fighting terrorism. But now that ISIS has developed a safe haven in Iraq and Syria, amassed lots of weapons and money, killed an American journalist, recruited Westerners, and threatened terrorism against the United States, Obama’s gone from dove to hawk. He’s launched air strikes in Iraq and may expand them to Syria. As the Center for American Progress’s Brian Katulis has noted, the Obama administration is also trying to strengthen regional actors who may be able to weaken ISIS. But the administration is doing all this to prevent ISIS from killing Americans, not to put Syria back together again. Yes, there’s a humanitarian overlay to Obama’s anti-ISIS campaign: He’s authorized air strikes to save Yazidis at risk of slaughter. But the core of his military effort in Iraq and Syria, and throughout the greater Middle East, is narrow but aggressive anti-terrorism.
Folks on the right are saying this is because Obama is a foreign-policy wimp who is at best a reluctant warrior. Such a reaction may work politically, at least in the short term. According to a new USA Today/Pew poll, Americans are increasingly saying the U.S. is doing “too little” to fix the world. A plurality still (wisely, IMO) believes that we’re “doing too much,” but the numbers are shifting compared to a year ago. Something on the order of 54 percent say Obama is “not tough enough” when it comes to foreign policy and national security.
Yet the idea that Obama is slow to military action or willing to go over the top in the name of national security is clearly at odds with his record as president. He tripled troop strength in Afghanistan and only reluctantly pulled out of Iraq in 2011 (according to the schedule originally put in place by George W. Bush). Then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was promising up until the end that a large U.S. military presence was going to stick around for the foreseeable future. However constitutionally dubious U.S. action in Libya was, it happened, and it seemed clear Obama was gung-ho to start bombing Syria to dislodge the Assad regime until public and political opinion fomented by Sen. Rand Paul and others made that too costly. When it comes to surveillance (legal and otherwise) and abrogating civil rights (including claiming he has the right to unilaterally execute American citizens), Obama has taken a back seat to no president.
The problem, then, isn’t that the president isn’t hawkish enough. It’s that he really doesn’t have a plan for figuring out if, how, and when to use force effectively in the pursuit of U.S. goals. In this, he is yet again extending the legacy of George W. Bush, who mired the country in two long wars that quickly became aimless.
Some pundits like to insist that airpower can’t do much, but they need to look harder at how ISIL’s style creates liabilities for itself. ISIL arrogantly eschews the furtive, hit-and-run tactics that other Iraqi (and Afghan) militants used to escape being bludgeoned by U.S. fighters and bombers. Rather, they like to collect themselves into brazenly visible groups and use their reputation for savagery to scatter their already terrorized opponents.
All of this actually makes them vulnerable to a determined American air campaign. Among other things, ISIL isn’t going to “scatter” or intimidate American airpower. What’s more, ISIL’s penchant for operating openly—as well as for seizing, occupying and trying to administer territory instead of hiding quietly among the civilian populace—presents targeting opportunities that other terrorists assiduously avoid.
If American airpower dominates the skies, no ISIL militant can count on seeing another sunrise. Some ISIL fighters might think they can endure airstrikes having undergone some desultory bombing by Syrian or Iraqi air forces, but that experience doesn’t give them even an inkling of the hell that the United States can unleash from the air.
Something tells me “no strategy” will stick to Obama in the same way that “read my lips” did to George H.W. Bush or “heckuva job” did to George W. Bush or “depends on what the meaning of is is” did to Bill Clinton. Sometimes there are phrases that so perfectly encapsulate what’s wrong with a presidency that they are forever linked. And while President Obama has always had clear personal political ambition and strategy for election or re-election, his foreign policy has been confused and aimless for the duration.
But the most disturbing thing Obama said was not that he had no strategy, believe it or not. It was this:
All headlines from Obama's presser will be "no strategy". But real significance, he says not US policy to defeat #ISIS, only reverse gains.
— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) August 28, 2014
I’m not advocating, necessarily, that we actually go to war against ISIS but this kind of muddled thinking will never lead to a good strategy. Or, rather, if our goal is not to defeat ISIS, we shouldn’t be going halfway on military action. There’s a reason it’s failed through multiple presidencies. We need to come to a good understanding of precisely what the peace we seek looks like… Once we understand the peace we seek, then we can go about doing what is necessary to achieve that peace — and no more and no less. Continuing with the same moderate intervention/nation-building wouldn’t be wise even if we had a Commander-in-Chief who any of the bad guys in the world took seriously.