Peter Brookes: Team Obama living in parallel universe
After the San Bernardino terror attack, it’s getting awfully hard for anyone to argue that President Obama is fully on top of what may turn out to be this century’s epic struggle – the fight against violent Islamist extremism.
Like many Americans, I found it painful to listen to the president’s Oval Office speech on Sunday calling on us to stay his chosen course in the fight against the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL).
The plea for patience with a seemingly squishy ISIS strategy was particularly hard on the ears – and the intellect – considering it came in the aftermath of the worst terror attack in the United States since 9/11.
It’s as if Team Obama is living in a parallel universe from the rest of us.
Of course, concern about the White House’s means and methods for grappling with violent Islamist extremism isn’t new for some of us, going back to Obama’s early efforts to get away from his predecessor’s hard-nosed approach to terror.
The result, unfortunately, hasn’t been a happy one.
Since Team Obama came into office, beyond San Bernardino, we’ve suffered the Fort Hood shooting (2009), the Benghazi, Libya, consulate attack (2012), the Boston Marathon bombing (2013) and the Chattanooga shooting (2015).
Of course, there’s also been the rise of ISIS, which the president last winter passed off as just the “JV” team; he recently claimed that ISIS had been “contained,” just before the attacks in Paris.
Add to that the 13 terror plots or attacks this year in the United States – the most incidents in a single year since 9/11 – where almost all, if not all, are related to Islamic State radicalization, recruitment or inspiration.
Unfortunately, news from the terror front isn’t getting better.
According to the Soufan Group’s research, international efforts to stem the tide of militants flowing to the Middle East to join the Islamic State and other extremist groups is failing, the numbers doubling over the last 18 months.
According to the report, around 30,000 people from nearly 90 countries have gone to join the ranks of ISIS and other violent groups since the effort to crack down on the movement of foot soldiers began in summer 2014.
The Islamic State has also set up shop in Libya, taking advantage of the ongoing civil war. A new United Nations report claims that ISIS now has as many as 3,000 fighters there – and could be looking to expand its territory.
It could certainly use its new home as a hub for operations in Africa beyond Libya. An example of the growing concern is the reported U.S. airstrike in Libya last month that killed the Islamic State leader there.
There’s also growing concern about ISIS in conflict zones like Yemen and Afghanistan.
While I’m sure to get some grief for this, I believe that the president wants to keep us safe from terrorism, both from a national security, as well as legacy, standpoint.
But I also know that even the sharpest sword in the grip of a less-than-skilled swordsman is no guarantee of security from, or victory over, a determined opponent – which is what we have in the violent Islamist extremism we face today.
This article first appeared in the Boston Herald. Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a Fort Valley resident. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter. Email: BrookesOutdoors@gmail.com.
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