Obama: Yeah, we're not going to change our ISIS strategy after Paris

Speaking from the G20 conference in Turkey today, Barack Obama wants everyone to know that he plans to stay the course on his strategy to “decapitate” ISIS. Three days after declaring ISIS “contained” only to see the group launch a Mumbai-style massacre in Paris within hours, Obama insists that his administration has not underestimated ISIS:


Really? Twenty months ago, Obama scoffed at the notion of a threat from ISIS at all, likening them to a junior-varsity squad playing in the NBA. The White House later tried to distance themselves from that remark, which earned them a spot on 2014’s top lies of the year, according to Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler:

In fact, the JV team remark came up in the presser — and Obama gave a dismissive, exasperated reply:


So does the strategy of occasional bombing change the dynamics on the ground? So far, the answer is clearly and resoundingly NO.

The big message out of this presser — besides a sense of unreality at the White House — is that Obama sees no need to change US policy on fighting ISIS:

“We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they are a state and we use routine tactics used to fight a state that is not a state,” Obama said using the alternative name for the terrorist group. “That’s not what is going on here. These are killers with fantasies of glory.”

Last month, White House announced that the U.S. will send a small number of U.S. special operations forces into Syria as part of a strategy shift in Syria.Obama and his administration have come under mounting pressure amid signs the anti-ISIS coalition has stalled or at least failed to turn the tide against the militants — including the recent Pentagon decision to abandon a failed program to train and equip Syrian rebels.


The problem with this logic is that, unlike the top level of al-Qaeda, ISIS actually possesses and controls large swaths of territory. It’s not just a terror group launching operations from shadowy locations; they operate as a quasi-state, and use that as both a launching pad as well as a claim of legitimacy to tens of thousands of extremists around the world. The only way to defeat an entrenched enemy is to push him off his ground and destroy him in the open field — and the only way to do that is with ground troops.

Instead, Obama wants to send 50 special-ops trainers to help a tiny and poorly organized group of purported moderates in Syria take on an armored and battle-hardened militia. It’s the same basic strategy that got 50 or so Syrians killed at the cost of $500 million.

Obama then oddly argued that preventing these attacks are all but impossible anyway:

Yes — which is why US strategy before Obama became president was to fight terrorists like AQ and ISIS where they were rather than waiting for them to come to us. In fact, that was a point made explicitly and repeatedly by George Bush. Unless we are willing to take that fight to ISIS on a scale that will destroy their quasi-state rather than fantasizing about “containment,” we will continue to see the fight on the streets of the capitals of the West.


Needless to say, that’s hardly a convincing case, especially after the “containment” that produced Paris:

Obama then railed against those who “pop off” with criticisms of his failing policy. CNN’s Elise Abbott called this a bad moment for Obama:

On top of that, Obama says he won’t change US policy on Syrian refugees either:

“Slamming the doors in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” Obama said. Syrian “refugees are the victims of terrorism.”

“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism…they are parents, they are children, they are orphans.” Obama said. “It is very important that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”


Most are, certainly — but some aren’t, a point made clear today by France. Guess where six of the eight known perpetrators in the Paris attacks spent some of their time?

At least one of those came into Europe through the refugee program, too, a fact documented within hours of the attacks.

If Obama won’t reconsider that policy, some US governors certainly are:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said yesterday that his state will not accept any Syrian refugees until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security fully reviews its procedures. “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” the Republican said in a statement. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentleytweeted at 10:25 p.m. last night: “I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way. We refuse Syrian refugees.”

— With the Louisiana governor’s race coming up this Saturday, underdog David Vitter is pivoting to the issue. It’s a welcome distraction from talking around his liaisons with prostitutes (aka “redemption”). Senate Republican leadership is also looking to give Vitter another show vote this week on punishing sanctuary cities to try helping his flailing campaign–just like Democrats did with the Keystone XL Pipeline for Mary Landrieu last year.


One can expect a lot of head-scratching over Obama’s insistence that his strategy is working in the face of ISIS expansion into international terrorism, at home and abroad. This is as clear a demonstration of cluelessness as could be possible on a global stage, and even the international press was figuring it out.

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John Sexton 4:00 PM | April 12, 2024