Barack Obama’s speech on ISIS and gun control from the Oval Office didn’t get a very good reception on CNN, especially not from The Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss. When asked about his prediction of ISIS’ reaction to the speech, Weiss started off by saying that they would “laugh, frankly.” That started a nearly three-minute analysis that excoriated Obama for self-indulgence and fantastical thinking:
Among the many salient points made by Weiss was that Obama still seems convinced by earlier cooked intel analyses that his strategy against ISIS has been effective. Even with a new report on his desk commissioned by the White House itself that strips away that fantasy, Obama tried to sell the idea that his 15-month-long strategy has succeeded in some measure. As Weiss briefly references in the clip above, The Daily Beast’s Kimberly Dozier reports that the new analysis makes it clear that it hasn’t succeeded at all in even slowing down ISIS’ expansion:
A new U.S. intelligence report on ISIS, commissioned by the White House, predicts that the self-proclaimed Islamic State will spread worldwide and grow in numbers, unless it suffers a significant loss of territory on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials told The Daily Beast.
The report stands in stark contrast to earlier White House assurances that ISIS had been “contained” in Iraq and Syria. And it is already spurring changes in how the U.S. grapples with ISIS, these officials said.
It’s also a tacit admission that coalition efforts so far—dropping thousands of bombs and deploying 3,500 U.S. troops as well as other coalition trainers—have been outpaced by ISIS’s ability to expand and attract new followers, even as the yearlong coalition air campaign has helped local forces drive ISIS out of parts of Iraq and Syria.
One can understand why Weiss predicts hearty peals of laughter from Raqqa after this speech. Even with this report on Obama’s desk, the President broadcast a rare Oval Office speech outlining his strategy to “destroy ISIL,” which was nothing more than a regurgitation of his original strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL”:
First, our military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary. In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure. And since the attacks in Paris, our closest allies — including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom — have ramped up their contributions to our military campaign, which will help us accelerate our effort to destroy ISIL.
Second, we will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we take away their safe havens. In both countries, we’re deploying Special Operations Forces who can accelerate that offensive. We’ve stepped up this effort since the attacks in Paris, and we’ll continue to invest more in approaches that are working on the ground.
Third, we’re working with friends and allies to stop ISIL’s operations — to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters. Since the attacks in Paris, we’ve surged intelligence-sharing with our European allies. We’re working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria. And we are cooperating with Muslim-majority countries — and with our Muslim communities here at home — to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online.
Fourth, with American leadership, the international community has begun to establish a process — and timeline — to pursue ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian war. Doing so will allow the Syrian people and every country, including our allies, but also countries like Russia, to focus on the common goal of destroying ISIL — a group that threatens us all.
In other words, we’ll conduct some bombing raids along with a handful of allies, send in commandos to train native forces that never seem to materialize — like the 60 or so fighters we spent $500 million to train — and we’ll demand that Bashar Assad will step down. That’s exactly the same strategy we’ve been using since Obama’s offhand admission in August 2014 that we had no strategy against ISIS forced him to articulate one a month later.
This is what Weiss means when he rebukes Obama for “self-congratulating and cheerleading.” Obama isn’t serious about “destroy[ing] ISIL”; he’s serious about making us think he’s serious about it. What Obama does take seriously, however, is gun control, and his belief that the biggest threat here in the US is the risk of offending Muslims, the latter of which Obama spent almost as much time discussing as his military strategy against ISIS.
As Jazz noted earlier, Obama has checked out of reality. Perhaps we’ll get a President who lives in the real world in thirteen months and two weeks. Maybe.