The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant beheaded U.S. photojournalist James Foley yesterday, and the news shot out across social media at lightening speed — but Americans have been kept in the dark about what it will take to defeat the terrorist group. As Islamic State and its tens-of-thousands of fighters dig in to large swathes of Iraq and Syria, we are being led to believe that random airstrikes, occasional Special Forces operations, and some new weapons in the hands of the Iraqi government will do the trick. Meanwhile, Islamic State is learning how to fill potholes and get the trash out on Thursdays.
The Obama administration is not being upfront about the nature of the threat, and in time that dishonesty will bring the sorrow felt by the Foley family to many other Americans.
James Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy at the Heritage Foundation, spoke with The Washington Times on Tuesday. During the interview, he indirectly reminded everyone that the group President Obama infamously referred to as the “J.V. team” are establishing themselves as a serious adversary.
It’s “a very provocative way of showing that you are still a force to be reckoned with” and not just “a bunch of losers,” he said. “In this part of the world, honor is power. It’s not about doing the right thing. [Honor] is as important to them as martyrdom.
The U.S. is setting itself up for failure because many of its policymakers a.) don’t understand (or want to understand) the threat posed by Islamic State and its allies around the globe, b.) what they do know they don’t accurately convey to the American people, and c.) they deal with the threat by creating the illusion that something is being done (e.g., random drone strikes), when in reality they are most-likely exacerbating the problem.
Meanwhile, Islamic State is using its time in charge of cities across the Middle East to learn how to govern.
Foreign Policy Magazine reported Monday:
The Obama administration’s escalating air war against the Islamic State is running up against a dispiriting new reality: The militants are becoming as good at governing territory as they are at conquering it, making it considerably harder to dislodge them from the broad swaths of Syria and Iraq that they now control.
U.S. intelligence officials say the leaders of the Islamic State are adopting methods first pioneered by Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite militia, and are devoting considerable human and financial resources toward keeping essential services like electricity, water, and sewage functioning in their territory. In some areas, they even operate post offices. …
Islamic State, already the best-armed and best-funded terror group in the world, is quickly adapting to the challenges of ruling and governing. That, in turn, dramatically reduces the chances that the extremists will face homegrown opposition in what amounts to the world’s newest territory.
“ISIS is the most dangerous terrorist group in the world because they combine the fighting capabilities of al Qaeda with the administrative capabilities of Hezbollah,” said David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency expert who spent several years working as a top aide to Gen. David Petraeus during the height of the Iraq War. “It’s clear that they have a state-building agenda and an understanding of the importance of effective governance.”
Once again, it’s time to revisit David Remnick’s January interview with President Obama in The New Yorker:
I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
“Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”
Is the extermination of entire Christian populations in the Middle East worth wading into? We now know that it’s at least worth a few American air strikes along the side of a mountain. Is the beheading of American photojournalists worth wading into? Perhaps not a single person, but the mountain of heads is piling up mighty high in Syria and Iraq, and the guys wielding the instruments of death have openly stated their desire to bring terror to the Western world.
The Obama administration desperately wanted to believe that “extremist Islamic ideology” is something that is only a threat to “local” populations, when members of such groups state again and again that the goal is to build a worldwide Islamic caliphate. While it is much harder to expose Mr. Obama’s incompetence on domestic issues (e.g., The reason why Program X isn’t working is because it requires $10 billion more dollars on top of the $10 billion we’ve already spent, and the evil Republicans in the House aren’t working with me.), honest individuals can see that he is in way over his head on foreign policy. His fundamental misunderstanding of the threat posed by Islamic terrorists will have deadly repercussions for years to come.
If you get a moment, say a prayer for the Foley family. Then, say a prayer for the family of journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, who Islamic State is threatening to behead next.