On Thursday, President Obama told the world he didn’t yet have a strategy for dealing with the Islamic Front in Syria. Although it’s never good to let an army who beheads your citizens and is hell-bent on your destruction know you don’t know how to deal with them – yet, or otherwise – Josh Earnest, the president’s press secretary “clarified” his comments the next day. We do have a plan, it turns out. And the plan is awful.
Before we dive into the new statements, let’s take a look back at some older ones.
Back in January, when talking about terrorism, President Obama told the New Yorker magazine, “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. 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.”
The terrorist group making the biggest waves at the time was ISIS. Was the president referring to ISIS as part of a “jayvee team?” It went relatively unnoticed by the mainstream media then. But in the eight months since, ISIS has become the little jayvee team that could. It has taken over a landmass the size of Indiana – and growing. It has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions and amassed a fortune to fund its continued terror campaign.
But our posture toward this outfit has not changed.
When ISIS beheaded American journalists James Foley and posted the video on the Internet, the media remembered the quote and asked about it. Earnest went on to claim the president wasn’t talking about ISIS, just other groups, and that the White House always has taken the ISIS threat seriously.
That claim, on its face, would be insignificant, perhaps even believable, were it not for the president’s statement Thursday. If, as the White House now insists, it always has taken the threat seriously, how can it have no strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria, or anywhere, 8 months later?
Perhaps the political advisors in the White House have yet to calculate how to use this threat to influence the November elections or to at the very least blame Congress for it. But we already know the president has a phone – right next to his pen – and that the Pentagon has phones, too. If he has taken the threat of ISIS seriously for eight months, why has he not used his phone to call the Pentagon and ask the military to formulate some possible strategies for any number of scenarios?
It’s clear the White House has not been interested in the threat posed by ISIS, either abroad or here in the homeland, or else we wouldn’t still be without a plan.
Which brings us to the “clarification” on Friday.
Josh Earnest, appearing on Morning Joe, said, “We don't have plans in place right now for what we want to do and what we could do militarily in Syria. But when it comes to confronting ISIL, the president has made very clear we do have a comprehensive strategy for confronting that threat that is posed by ISIL. That begins with supporting Iraq’s political leaders as they form the kind of inclusive government that can unite the country to confront the threat that their country faces right now.”
First, there they go again using ISIL—Islamic State in the Levant—as opposed to ISIS, the Islamic State in Syria. This is to sow confusion and distract from the administration’s record in dealing with this crisis.
Second, so our strategy is dependent upon Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurds coming together, putting aside centuries of hatred, forming a drum circle and singing “Kumbaya”? Hmmm … why didn’t we think of that before? Wait, we did.
Earnest wasn’t done. “It includes beefing up our support to Iraqi and Kurdish security forces in the form of training and equipment to help them take the fight to ISIL on the ground in their country.” This makes sense, but it would have made more sense before ISIS was the fully armed, disciplined and funded outfit it is now.
Earnest then added that the president has dispatched Secretary of State John Kerry to the area to “engage” with the region’s leaders but wasn’t clear on the goal of that engagement beyond engagement for its own sake.
Plus, he threw in that we’re bombing them in Iraq at least, so there’s that.
See, we do have a strategy. It’s a muddled, rudderless, leaderless strategy with no clear directives or goals. But really, is that such a surprise?