Obama’s Legacy: Downhill from Death of Bin Laden to Rise of ISIS

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.

Obama remarks today on his policy.

The Islamic State: global warriors?

Defense, not more war, is only option?



Daniel Williams

Published by Daniel Williams

I am a former correspondent who, for more than 30 years, did time in China, Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and covered wars that went from episodic to non-stop. My book, "Forsaken," about Christian persecution in the Middle East came out January, 2016. NextWarNotes is a news and analysis blog designed to fill gaps, provide background and think about what’s next. The name of the site comes from a 1935 article by Ernest Hemingway in Esquire Magazine called “Notes on the Next War,” in which he predicted the coming conflagration in Europe, told why it would happen and warned Americans to stay out.

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