Last week, as the Obama administration attempted to relaunch a coherent national security policy, Susan Rice claimed that there were no threats “of the existential nature of what we confronted during World War II or during the Cold War” to the US homeland. That seems rather laughable, considering the hostility of nuclear-armed Russia and the expanding military of China, let alone the Iranian race to nuclear weapons that Barack Obama has failed to stop. Even as just a reference to the situation in Iraq and Syria, Rice’s remarks are almost willfully blind. It may be true in the sense that ISIS won’t send aircraft carriers to Pearl Harbor any time soon. On the other hand, al-Qaeda managed to surpass the death total of Pearl Harbor on 9/11 by creating their own ad hoc hijacked air force of four airplanes with 19 hijackers. Asymmetric warfare has changed all those calculations, which we should have learned 13 years ago.
And ISIS presents an even worse threat — the terrorist quasi-state. As Gen. John Allen told Martha Raddatz yesterday on This Week, ISIS/ISIL is on a different level than AQ, especially in terms of its military strength and capabilities. Raddatz asks the man running the US-led coalition whether ISIS poses a threat to the US, and Allen replies, “We should take it very seriously.” Maybe someone should mention that to Susan Rice:
ALLEN: ISIL looks like a criminal gangs in so many ways. ISIL is beginning to eat itself; the increasing numbers of reports of ISIL executing foreign fighters who have come from long distances to be part of this, and some of our trying to go home and they’re getting their own heads chopped off as a direct result of that.
RADDATZ: Do you think ISIS — ISIL — is a more formidable enemy just by sheer numbers, that twenty, thirty thousand fighters, than al-Qaeda in Iraq?
ALLEN: Well, yes, and I know al-Qaeda in Iraq pretty well actually. ISIL is at an entirely different level than al-Qaeda was. It’s better organized, and its command and control is better. It’s situational awareness of of a broader battle space across the entire region is better. And while it al-Qaeda was in many cases relatively isolated in the pockets in which it operated, ISIL has a broader, more comprehensive command and control process. Which also makes it vulnerable. As well as we’re able to understand that command and control system, as we’re able to find and single out ISIL leadership, we’re able to attrit and disrupt that leadership as well.
RADDATZ: Syria it seems like an absolute breeding ground for terrorism. That has to be a greater concern.
ALLEN: It’s a very important concern obviously to us. We don’t have a partner in Syria as we do in Iraq. And the net context — our intent of course iss to work with the Syrian political opposition, the so called SOC in the interim government. And I’ve met with representatives of those organizations, and they’re Syrian patriots, and and they want what we want. And that is that there be a political process that ultimately creates a government in Damascus. That is the will of the Syrian people, and that that government doesn’t include Bashar al-Assad. And by the way, that’s the American policy here and that hasn’t changed. Bashar al-Assad has to go.
RADDATZ: We’ve been saying that a long time.
ALLEN: Yes we have been saying it long time. Until the conditions are ultimately created both inside Syria and the broader international community for that process to occur, that won’t change — our policy won’t change.
Former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn says the problem is more basic. We won’t acknowledge who our enemies are, and that means that we can’t form a coherent strategy to defeat them. As a result, Flynn explains with a sports analogy, it’s like having your team go into the stadium and then sending each person off to play a different sport (via Daniel Halper):
“So are you saying that at this moment, after all these years, we do not have a coherent strategy, full 360 degrees, to combat Islamic terrorism?”
“I think what I’m saying is that the strategy that we’ve had is not working, I mean it’s clearly not working,” said Flynn.
Clearly — and it’s also clear that this administration wants to coast for the next couple of years without dealing with the issue of Islamic terrorism at all, except to the extent that events force a response.