His remarks about Ferguson, Mo., and the Michael Brown incident got most of the attention, but the president’s comments on Iraq may be much more important in the long run — and certainly more depressing. The president has never recognized and still refuses to accept the threat posed by the Islamic State. Calling it the “JV” team, he remains without any interest in, let alone strategic plan to deal with, what his own intelligence and military advisers call a direct threat to the homeland. Thursday the president said:
So the bottom line is, is that the situation on the mountain has greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts. Because of the skill and professionalism of our military and the generosity of our people, we broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar, we helped vulnerable people reach safety and we helped save many innocent lives.Because of these efforts, we do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain and it’s unlikely that we’re going to need to continue humanitarian airdrops on the mountain. The majority of the military personnel who conducted the assessment will be leaving Iraq in the coming days.And I just want to say that as commander in chief, I could not be prouder of the men and women of our military who carried out this humanitarian operation almost flawlessly. I’m very grateful to them. And I know that those who are trapped on that mountain are extraordinarily grateful as well.
That is it. Apparently the U.S. military is now a highly sophisticated branch of the Red Cross. No mention of the ongoing threat from the Islamic State. No explanation for why it is in the interest of the United States to stop an Islamist state from setting up shop in the center of the most volatile region on the planet. If ever Hillary Clinton wanted to express her more hawkish thinking and show she is more than a cipher, now would be a good time to speak up.
As for Obama and many on the far right and far left, intentional blindness about the Islamic State is an intractable problem. “The Middle East is a political ecosystem of immense complexity, shaped by a multitude of actors. That makes hesitancy understandable. Yet America must understand that our physical separation from the world won’t shelter us from its problems,” writes Tom Hogan. “We must accept that our deliberate neglect of strategic purpose only invites alternate strategic purpose: the purpose of IS and its opposite fanatics in Iran. And we must realize that those threats aren’t static. Uncontested, these political cancers will spread toward us.” It would be as if we knew the chances of a 9/11 were real and growing, but insisted we do nothing to head it off.
Obama won’t drop his willful indifference to the Islamist threat because he cannot accept error for past inaction and because it would require robust action now, and neither he nor his base will tolerate that. He risks, of course, catastrophic results in the region and worse, God forbid, another 9/11 style attack on the U.S. homeland.
Given the president’s willingness to ignore such an obvious and huge threat to the United States from revived jihadists, is it any wonder that he and his White House cronies convinced themselves and tried to convince us that the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists’ attack on Benghazi, Libya, was some sort of fluke? It had to be explained away by some trivial and random event; otherwise it would mean terrorism was on the rise and all that ending-wars rhetoric, slashing defense and chest thumping about killing Osama bin Laden were grossly reckless.
More than one conservative national security guru has e-mailed me in the last few days that Obama critics may be willing to concede Hillary Clinton had the right instincts on Iraq and Syria, but if she gave up challenging the White House, refused to quit, kept praising the do-nothing Syria policy (as she did when the president refused to bomb Syria) and didn’t spell out the Iraq debacle even after leaving office and still spins nonsense (like the Bush administration made us get out of Iraq) what good is she? She’s already proved she doesn’t have the stomach for leadership and will blow whichever way the political winds carry her. We are supposed to be impressed she knew better all along that the president was endangering U.S. security, in essence ignoring reams of intelligence and the advice of senior foreign policy advisers?
Now it would be helpful, decent even, if other ex-officials joined honest public servants like former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who has explained on the record precisely what went wrong and how derelict the president was. It would be helpful for them to be crystal clear that we had the chance to head this off. That would help set the record straight and inform future policy makers. But they, too, have kept all this rather mum, preferring not to incur the wrath of the White House. And when Hillary Clinton did finally squeak up, a curt word from David Axelrod was enough to send her fleeing to get back in the president’s good graces. Careerism surely is the way of the world in politics.
What we learn, even from Hillary Clinton’s admission of political timidity, is two-fold. We cannot ignore threats to the United States. We really do need someone to answer the 3 a.m. call. And it is downright bizarre for those who couldn’t understand what was occurring or insisted on ignoring it to plead to be promoted to the presidency for their confusion or political cowardice. In essence hasn’t Hillary Clinton’s “defense” disqualified her from being commander in chief?