London–(Updates with Obama defending his steps against the Islamic State) President Obama made a lot of political hay from the sensational killing of Osama bin Laden and the decline of al-Qaeda. Since then, however, he has acted as if that event was the be all and end all of battling terrorism.
It is not. The Islamic State rose on his watch and its attacks will be part of Obama’s permanent record.
The other day, Obama presented a progress report to a television interview, saying that the Islamic State has been “contained” and was not expanding in Iraq and Syria and that the US had made “some progress” in stemming the flow of recruits into the organization. Unlike his Republican critics, I’m not saying that Obama had his “mission accomplished” moment. But if his advisors are telling him that being contained in Iraq and Syria is somehow key to ISIS at this point, they are sadly mistaken.
What about Libya? What about the scores of freelance terror groups from Africa to southeast Asia that have taken up the Islamic State’s cause of world Islamic revolution? What about Tunisia, Turkey, Beirut and now Paris? Do those events sound like the fruits of containment?
Both Obama, like his predecessor George Bush, habitually report as progress–the killing of a leader here and there, a seeming terrorist retreat from territory, a momentary lull. Such judgments simply don’t match the reality of the Islamic State.
First, the Islamic State promotes the idea of wherever there is a Muslim with a grievance, there is holy war. That makes it very hard to wipe out–there are plenty of grievances and plenty of fanaticism to go around. Two, Obama’s convoluted foreign policy and the absence of any kind of political reconciliation in either Iraq, Syria or Libya (or Egypt, for that matter) have left he field of action open to the extremists. The spillover beyond their borders with al-Qaeda and now ISIS has always been a predictable part of the equation. Given what Obama says in public, he seems not to understand any of that.
Anyway, the surge of ISIS and the terror of recent months have happened on Obama’s watch and are forming a part of his legacy. Defining progress as containment of the Islamic State in parts of Syria and Iraq will not enough to fix that.
The Islamic State: global warriors?
Defense, not more war, is only option?