Despite President Barack Obama’s assurances that ISIS has been forced by coalition strikes into a defensive crouch, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is rapidly adding new territory in Libya and Egypt to the nascent caliphate.
“It also has support in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the leader of the group ravaging northern Nigeria, Boko Haram, has expressed his admiration of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” CNN reported.
With the Islamic State rapidly acquiring territory and ISIS-inspired terrorists executing attacks in Ottawa, Copenhagen, Brussels, and Paris, few are comfortable with the growing danger posed by this apocalyptic Islamist militant organization. According to a new poll conducted by CNN/ORC, the majority of the public agrees that the president has not risen to meet this threat with appropriate urgency.
The CNN/ORC poll found 57% of Americans disapprove of how Obama is handling the threat posed by ISIS, a significant decline in support for the President over the past few months. In late September, that number was 49%.
Fifty-seven percent disapprove of his handling of foreign affairs more broadly, and 54% disapprove of how the President is handling terrorism. Another 60% rate Obama negatively on his handling of electronic national security.
58 percent of the public believes that the fight against ISIS is not turning in the West’s favor, up significantly from the 49 percent who said the same last October. Even 46 percent of self-identified Democrats agreed that America is not winning the war against the Islamic State. While 50 percent of the public still opposes the use of American ground forces to combat ISIS, 47 percent now believe introducing American soldiers into that fight is necessary. Only 43 percent said the same last November.
A majority of Democrats continue to oppose the use of American ground troops to fight ISIS, but a significant minority now disagrees. 36 percent of Democrats now concede that ground troops are necessary in order to defeat ISIS. Those Democrats might be happy to learn that the president’s approach to the metastasizing threat in the Middle East is not being universally praised by the reliably liberal commentators on MSNBC.
“I think this act of mass murder amounts to a religious war,” MSNBC’s Ed Schultz said of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by Islamic State fighters in Egypt. “As I see it, the United States is going to have to have continual reviewal of its strategy. We can’t sit back here and watch hordes of people get their heads cut off.”
“And why would we tell ISIS there’s no way we would ever put ground troops in combat situations?” he asked. “What we’re doing isn’t strong enough, isn’t working,”
Framing the struggle between ISIS and the West as a religious conflict is precisely what that cult would like, but ISIS is also spoiling for the opportunity to directly engage with American forces if only because such a clash would hasten the arrival of the apocalypse (According to Graeme Wood’s superbly reported expose examining “what ISIS really wants”). While it would be folly to lend credence to ISIS’s propagandistic claim to represent Islam in the fight against the adherents of apocryphal faiths in the West, the Islamic State would likely soon come to regret its desire to see combat with American troops.
Schultz is not the only MSNBC host second guessing Barack Obama’s approach to the fight in Syria and Iraq. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews demanded on Monday that the United States take stronger action against ISIS to prevent it from being “morally humiliated” further. “The alternative is too sick, too un-American, too inhuman,” he warned.
If the president is even losing Democrats because his handling of ISIS is seen as too dovish, imagine how his successor will react if he or she inherits a stalemated fight against a death cult operating proto-states inside no fewer than four Middle Eastern sovereignties? By unsuccessfully attempting to deal ISIS a death by a thousand cuts, Obama may be creating the conditions where the public will demand that the 45th President of the United States do whatever it takes to finally destroy this organization. It would have been impossible to imagine just three years ago that American combat forces might soon return to the Middle East and that the public would welcome that new mission, but that may end up being Barack Obama’s legacy. Stranger than fiction.