In his address to the nation last night President Obama almost sounded tough. He talked about the evil that is ISIS, saying they are not Islam because "no religion condones the killing of innocents." He said we are going to increase the air strikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, and we're now going to arm the Syrian opposition, something he has resisted for three years.
That's all well and good - but there are problems with what he said.
First of all - he continues to refer to the terrorist group as ISIL - the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. For those unfamilar, the Levant region includes Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus and part of southern Turkey. ISIS refers to itself as ISIL because they desire to include the Levant region in their caliphate. Why President Obama refers to them as ISIL - a recognition of their plans and desires - instead of ISIS, or IS, is beyond me but since he and his administration are about the only ones in the Western world to refer to them as ISIL, I can only guess it's because he has more respect for ISIS than he does for our strongest ally, Israel.
Second - ISIS is comprised of Islamic terrorists who worship Allah and live by the Quran. Because President Obama has decided to discount that and pretend they are not Muslims doesn't make it true. Obama said "Most of their victims have been Muslims." And that's true. But most of the victims of all Islamic terrorists are Muslims. When they set off car bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim countries their victims are mostly Muslims who don't abide by their radical beliefs. Saying ISIS is not Islam because most of their victims are Muslim is ridiculous.
The President said "America is helping Muslims fight terrorism." I wonder what that says about the fight between Hamas and Israel. President Obama sent millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority who, in cooperation with Hamas, was fighting against Israel. Does that mean the President of the United States believes Israel is a terrorist organization?
Obama said we will build a "large coalition" to deal with ISIS and that it should be led by Middle Eastern nations who are in the greatest danger. He affirmed that we will "not put boots on the ground." But what are those other nations going to do? One can't help but wonder if the United States is unwilling to commit troops to seek out and destroy ISIS after the air campaign - will other nations be willing to do so? ISIS is not a group that can be totally destroyed by air power. As in every other military campaign against an enemy - air strikes are the beginning, not the end of the conflict.
President Obama said that the air campaign will be similar to what we've been "doing successfully in Yemen and Somalia for years." But according to Senator Ted Cruz and others, Somalia and Yemen are not success stories. Certainly we've taken out a few Al Qaeda leaders in both countries with drone strikes, without losing a single American life. Our air campaigns have had some success but haven’t destroyed or even significantly degraded terrorist capabilities of the key groups in either country. And both are just as unstable today as they were when we started. Maybe Obama should stay away from that comparison for now.
Obama talked last night about the various terrorist leaders the American military and intelligence forces had taken out during his Presidency. To his credit, the one thing he refrained from doing was saying that he did it. However, as he was saying this I couldn't help but think of the five Taliban leaders he traded for one American deserter. And I can't help but wonder where those terrorist leaders are today.
All in all the President committed to more same ol', same ol'. I'm all for increased air strikes against ISIS and I'm not thrilled with the idea of putting more troops on the ground to fight them. But unless he's going to level the entire region with bombs, the President needs to understand that eventually ground troops will be necessary. As I said - if he can bomb for a couple of years and hand the problem off to his replacement I think he'll be OK with that. Commitment to non-commitment seems to work for him.
May God bless and protect America on this, the 13th anniversary of the tragedy that was 9/11/2001.