We've all heard the talk coming out of the White House about what it is going to do to fight ISIS.
“Make no mistake, this is a difficult mission. And it will remain difficult for some time. It's going to take time to dislodge these terrorists,” Obama said in February. “But our coalition is on the offensive. ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.”
About five months earlier, the President had made a dramatic announcement on what his administration was doing to confront the Islamic State, even if the language was a little-less-than intimidating:
My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.
This would all be outstanding - if it were true. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who personally ran up against one of Obama's infamous “red lines,” recently spoke to Charlie Rose, as was reported by Politico.
This is what Assad had to say:
“Sometimes you could have local benefit, but in general, if you want to talk in terms of ISIS, actually ISIS has expanded since the beginning of the strikes,” Assad said, using another acronym for ISIL, during an interview with Charlie Rose aired on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night. “Not like some — American — wants to sugar coat the situation as the — to say that it’s getting better. As — ISIS is being defeated and so on. Actually, no, you have more recruits. Some estimates that they have 1,000 recruits every month in Syria. And Iraq — they are expanding in Libya and many other Al Qaeda affiliate organizations have announced their allegiance to ISIS. So that’s the situation."
Assad, a flagrant human rights abuser that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called a “reformer,” is not what one might call a “disinterested” party to encouraging the United States to take a stronger stance against ISIS.
Assad is a Shiite Muslim in a regional struggle against the Sunni terror state of ISIS. Syria itself is an exporter of terrorism via Hamas, which is in alliance with the terrorism exporter Iran against the Islamic State.
Essentially, there is a lot of terrorist-on-terrorist action going on in the heart of the Middle East. This difficult situation is to be expected because of the Bush administration's “Big Bang” theory of blowing up the Hussein dictatorship in Iraq and attempting to build a functional democracy in the midst of competing religious and sectarian groups.
ISIS is a terror threat that many believe came directly out of the U.S.' precipitous withdraw from Iraq (the one the current President boasted about).
This arose due to a lack of political will since the “surge,” a war weary American public, and the heavy demand on resources needed to carry out a war halfway around the world. This is only exacerbated when a war is open-ended and lacking a clear political resolution.
This lesson from Clausewitz was apparently not lost on the Syrian dictator Assad in his interview:
“Every conflict, even if it’s a war, should end with a political solution.”
Despite the White House's assurances that it has a “strategy” to take on the Islamic State, it appears that airstrikes are not weakening the terror group's political will, let alone breaking it.
If the President wants to convince the public he intends to 'degrade and destroy ISIS,' he might have to be a little more persuasive than issuing a few vague threats or drawing some “red lines.”