On Sept. 10, 2014, thirteen days after admitting he had no strategy to deal with the Islamic Caliphate or State (IS, aka ISIL, aka ISIS), President Barack Obama finally unveiled his “counterterrorism” policy against the IS from the State Floor of the White House.
(For a summary and video of his speech, see “Obama announces U.S. ‘counterterrorism’ policy against ISIL“.)
Below is a sample of reaction to his speech. Note that my words are colored green.
Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2014:writes in the
[…] Although Obama promised a “steady, relentless effort” in a nationally televised address Wednesday night, he also said that “it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL,” using a common acronym for the Islamic State.
Such a mission was not the U.S. military’s preferred option. Responding to a White House request for options to confront the Islamic State, Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said that his best military advice was to send a modest contingent of American troops, principally Special Operations forces, to advise and assist Iraqi army units in fighting the militants, according to two U.S. military officials. The recommendation, conveyed to the White House by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was cast aside in favor of options that did not involve U.S. ground forces in a front-line role, a step adamantly opposed by the White House. Instead, Obama had decided to send an additional 475 U.S. troops to assist Iraqi and ethnic Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.
Recommitting ground combat forces to Iraq would have been highly controversial, and most likely would have been opposed by a substantial majority of Americans. But Austin’s predecessor, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, said the decision not to send ground troops poses serious risks to the mission.
Investigative Project on Terrorism writes, Sept. 11, 2014:
President Obama’s assertion Wednesday night that the Islamic State terrorist group “is not ‘Islamic'” is drawing derision from a number of quarters.
The claim, also made by Obama’s predecessors, is “preposterous,” Daniel Pipes wrote for the National Review Online. “To state the obvious: As non-Muslims and politicians, rather than Muslims and scholars, they are in no position to declare what is Islamic and what is not.”
Author Sam Harris, an atheist who challenges all religions, went further, dismissing Obama’s argument as a “scrim of pretense and delusion.”
“Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder?” Harris wondered in an essay. “It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates ‘innocent’? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is ‘no.'”
But Obama’s argument echoes statements made by Muslim American leaders during a news conference Wednesday morning. “All of this is against the foundation and teaching of Islam,” former Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) President Mohamed Magid told reporters. He also is a member of the president’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.
The Quran includes numerous passages encouraging violent jihad and inspiring hatred of non-believers, Harris notes. Robert Spencer offers specific examples here, and asks why the Islamic State has become such a magnet for wannabe jihadists if it was not seen as inherently Islamic.
But instead of acknowledging those verses and debating their modern application, the president used a nationally televised speech to act as if they do not exist. Harris blames “a large industry of obfuscation designed to protect Muslims from having to grapple with these truths.”
We saw that in action during Wednesday’s news conference at the National Press Club.
It’s a difficult sell, Pipes concludes, because of the clear theological statements and justifications Islamic State terrorists invoke for their brutality.
“Anyone with eyes and ears realizes that the Islamic State, like the Taliban and al-Qaeda before it, is 100 percent Islamic. And most Westerners, as indicated by detailed polling in Europe, do have eyes and ears. Over time, they are increasingly relying on common sense to conclude that the group is indeed profoundly Islamic.”
Note from StMA: For those, like Obama, who insist that ISIL/ISIS/IS is not Islamic and that Islam is a “religion of peace,” here are just three sobering quotes from the Quran:
Sura 9:29– “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
Sura 9:5– “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”
Sura 8:12: “When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”
Also, a London-based imam, Anjem Choudary, defended acts of terror, including the beheading of foreign journalists, as consistent with the teachings of the Koran. Choudary told Russia Today that “terrorizing the enemy is in fact part of Islam” and cited a passage of the Koran that calls for Muslims to use “steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah.” “So terrorizing the enemy is in fact part of Islam,” Choudary said. “I mean this is something that we must embrace and understand as far as the jurisprudence of Islam is concerned.”
David Brooks writes in The New York Times, Sept. 11, 2014, comparing Obama to Moses (!):
Moses, famously, tried to get out of it. When God called on him to lead the Israelites, Moses threw up a flurry of reasons he was the wrong man for the job: I’m a nobody; I don’t speak well; I’m not brave.
But the job was thrust upon him. Though he displayed some of the traits you’d expect from a guy who would rather be back shepherding (passivity, whining), he became a great leader. He became the ultimate model for reluctant leadership. […]
President Obama is the most recent. He recently gave a speech on the need to move away from military force. He has tried to pivot away from the Middle East. He tried desperately to avoid the Syrian civil war. […]
Obama is compelled as a matter of responsibility to override his inclinations. He’s obligated to use force, to propel himself back into the Middle East, to work with rotten partners like the dysfunctional Iraqi Army and the two-faced leaders of Qatar. He’s compelled to provide functional assistance to the rancid Syrian regime by attacking its enemies. […]
Note from StMA: Obama “tried desperately to avoid the Syrian civil war”? What is David Brooks smoking? Please see “Pulitzer-award journalist says Obama admin made up intelligence for war on Syria.”
A. James Gregor writes for the Consortium of Defense Analysts, Sept. 12, 2014:
The President’s address was perhaps the most presidential of all his public speeches to date. The delivery was good and the sentiments inspiring. The difficulty lies in the elements of the strategy. To work, all the parts must function impeccably in mutual support. Unhappily that is not likely to happen.
(1) Every analyst recognizes that attacks from the air may degrade (to a certain extent) the enemy, but not destroy him.
(2) For that, ground forces will be necessary–and the President apparently has no clear idea how or from where they might be forthcoming. He has precluded U.S. troops. NATO will not supply such forces (both Britain and Germany have indicated their reluctance to participate–and Turkey has publicly refused any direct involvement). The Arab states do not have ground forces equal to the tasks of such a complicated asymmetrical conflict. To suggest that such a force might be equipped and trained (in Saudi Arabia?) taxes credulity. The U.S. spent about a decade (and multiple billions) attempting to train an Iraqi army for just such a conflict–which proceeded to immediately disintegrate with the first challenge. Still less plausible is the suggestion that the “Syrian opposition” might serve in such a capacity. There is no evidence that the anti-Assad opposition would serve as a “partner force on the ground.” against an Islamic insurgency. Assad has some credible forces at his disposal, but unless Washington is prepared to enter into some kind of political accommodation with him (rather than his opposition), it is very unlikely we will find any “partners” in Syria.
In effect, there is no “broad coalition” anywhere ready to support the “new” strategy–and given the limitations the President has imposed on the nation’s armed forces, it appears that we have been committed to a long, uncertain, and costly conflict in the Middle East with no visible outcome.
Sheila Liaugminas writes for MercatorNet, Sept. 12, 2014:
Democrats are crossing the aisle again, this time as they voice strong support for attacking Islamic State, though the overwhelming majority of lawmakers from both parties oppose the idea of sending in any U.S. ground troops…
Obama flatly said […] he has the authority to do this. Period.
This reflects Obama’s contempt for all matters constitutional. […] this blank “I have the power” talk telegraphs contempt for the intelligence of the American people […]
Isn’t it time we had a president who says aloud the obvious fact that when you massacre a bunch of Christians, you’re making it that much more likely that the American public will demand that the U.S. attack you? Right now, this would be a useful thing for certain terror organizations in Africa to hear…
But that circles back to the question at the beginning, do we, or does the administration, know the enemy? […]
If we are to defeat the violent Islamist radicals who are today threatening the world, we must shine the brightest of spotlights on this malignant idea at the heart of their ideology. And we must counter it, not just with the force of arms, but with a compelling defense of the anti-totalitarian idea of morally ordered freedom. […]
The rise of this extremist ideology to prominence coincided with a deep crisis of faith that engulfed Europe after the carnage of World War I nearly a century ago. In response to this crisis, totalitarianism – initially in communist and fascist forms – rose to fill the void. Its vision amounted to the state’s replacing God as central to all things, while anointing certain people and their movements as humanity’s new leaders, deserving the ultimate powers once reserved for the deity.
[…] The same totalitarian impulse that drove Nazism and communism has hijacked religion as its latest vehicle, creating radical Islamism.
From ISIL to Iran’s mullahs, and from al-Qaeda to the Taliban, these new totalitarians pose similar threats to freedom, dignity, and peace. Displaying characteristic contempt for the rule of law and the crucial distinction between combatants and noncombatants in the conduct of war, they have deliberately targeted civilians and resorted to mass murder, precisely as the Nazis and Communists did. […]
In this struggle, Muslims have a duty to their faith and to humanity to stand resolutely against Islam’s hijacking by people driven by the same diabolical impulse that unleashed the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot on the world. They must rip away its religious mask and reveal its idolatrous soul before the world.
The religious ideology of this group must be understood to be addressed. But the president keeps sidestepping the Islamic factor in this battle of civilizations.
In a televised address on how to address the Islamic State this evening, President Barack Obama declared the organization variously known as ISIS or ISIL to be “not Islamic.”
In making this preposterous claim, Obama joins his two immediate predecessors in pronouncing on what is not Islamic. Bill Clinton called the Taliban treatment of women and children “a terrible perversion of Islam.” George W. Bush deemed that 9/11 and other acts of violence against innocents “violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.”
None of the three has any basis for such assertions. […]
The president and his spokesmen claim to not be at war with the extremists who declared war on the US. […]
On its face, it seems like the administration is sending mixed signals. The president made a rather clear case for a long campaign aimed at rolling back the nascent Islamic State in Iraq and eventually confronting them in their Syrian stronghold. Sources have suggested that this is a mission which will likely outlast the Obama presidency. So why pull punches today?
Josh Earnest made the administration’s thinking clear during his press briefing on Thursday in which he went to tortured lengths to insist that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al-Qaeda were synonymous. Why? Well, claiming these two groups are the same would mean that the administration does not have to approach Congress for a new resolution authorizing use military force. […] Instead, the White House can point to the 2001 authorization targeting al-Qaeda, even though the White House had previously argued that the resolution was dated and should be repealed. […]
[But] the White House’s insistence that the present campaign is merely a continuation of George W. Bush’s War on Terror is unlikely to quiet the increasingly loud voices in Congress demanding a vote on a new authorization.Okay, well, even if we’re playing legal games with the word “war” and are trying to avoid the politics of getting the people’s representatives to sanction military action abroad, at least there is a plan for victory, right?
“What does victory look like here?” Earnest was asked on Thursday. “What does destroy mean?”
“I didn’t bring my Webster’s dictionary,” Earnest replied.
Michael Goodwin writes in The New York Post, Sept. 14, 2014:
The rising clamor over the beheading of two Americans, and rapidly sinking polls, forced President Obama to reassure the nation last week he had a plan to deal with the Islamic State. […] most military analysts believe the expanded airstrikes will not be a sufficient match for the size and weaponry of the terrorist army.
They miss the point. The disjointed speech wasn’t really about terrorism and launching a new war. It was about saving Obama’s presidency.
He is sinking fast and could soon pass the point of no return. In fact, it may already be too late to save the SS Obama.
The whole second term has been a string of disasters, with the toxic brew of his Obamacare lies, middling economic growth and violent global breakdown casting doubt on the president’s stewardship. Six years into his tenure, nothing is going as promised.
Earlier on, he could have trotted out his teleprompters and turned public opinion his way, or at least stopped the damage. But the magic of his rhetoric is long gone, and not just because the public has tuned him out.
They’ve tuned him out because they’ve made up their minds about him. They no longer trust him and don’t think he’s a good leader.
Most ominously, they feel less safe now than they did when he took office. Americans know the war on terror isn’t over, no matter what their president claims.
Those findings turned up in a tsunami of recent polls that amount to a public vote of no confidence. They shook up the White House so much that the plan to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants was put on hold to try to protect Democratic candidates from voter wrath in November.
That was a necessary tactical retreat, but it doesn’t change the basic calculation. The president’s problem is that he has been wrong about virtually every major issue.
His worldview, his politics, his prejudices, his habits — they’ve been a mismatch for the country and its needs. He has been a dud even in the one area where he seemed a lock to make things better, racial relations. Only 10 percent believe race relations have improved under him, while 35 percent said they are worse, according to a New York Times survey. The remainder said there wasn’t much change either way.
That’s shocking — but not surprising. Barack Obama was not ready to be president, and still isn’t. It is a fantasy to believe he’ll master the art in his final two years.
The lasting image will be his yukking it up on the golf course minutes after giving a perfunctory speech on the beheading of James Foley. It revealed him as hollow, both to America and the world, and there is no way to un-see the emptiness.
That means, I fear, we are on the cusp of tragedy. It is reasonable to assume the worst-case scenarios about national security are growing increasingly likely to occur.
Obama’s fecklessness is so unique that our adversaries and enemies surely realize they will never face a weaker president. They must assume the next commander in chief will take a more muscular approach to America’s interests and be more determined to forge alliances than the estranged man who occupies the Oval Office now.
So Vladimir Putin, Iran, China, Islamic State, al Qaeda and any other number of despots and terrorists know they have two years to make their moves and advance their interests, and that resistance will be token, if there is any at all.
Throw in the fact that Europe largely has scrapped its military might to pay for its welfare states, and the entire West is a diminished, confused opponent, ripe for the taking. Redrawn maps and expanded spheres of influence could last for generations.
Of course, there is a possibility that America could rally around the president in a crisis, and there would be many voices demanding just that. But a national consensus requires a president who is able to tap into a reservoir of good will and have his leadership trusted.
That’s not the president we have.