Barack Obama just gave a wide ranging interview with that tamest of jounalistic outlets, National Public Radio. The choice of the outlet was pretty transparent. NPR is listened to by the few dozen or so people who don’t regret their decision to vote for Obama. The slavishly sycophantic interviewer, in this case Steve Inskeep, could be relied upon to ask questions is such a fawning manner that Obama would be safe from embarrassment. This is an actual question:
STEVE INSKEEP: I have been reading a history of part of the Cold War. Dwight Eisenhower was president, he’s meeting his cabinet sometimes in this room where we’re sitting. The Soviet Union has emerged as a major nuclear threat. The country is very worried at this point in the 1950s. But Eisenhower is convinced that they are not that strong, that the United States is stronger, that the U.S. will win if we just avoid a huge war.
And he decides to try to reassure the public, gives a series of speeches, saying, keep your chin up, everything’s fine, our strategy is working. It’s a total failure. The public doesn’t believe him. He is accused of a failure of leadership, and his approval rating goes down.
Are you going through the same experience now with regard to ISIS?
This is the tough, hard hitting, insightful journalism we’ve come to expect from NPR. Anyway, after Obama zipped his fly he gave an answer. This is an excerpt:
We have to take it [ISIS] seriously. They’ve shown in Paris what they can do in an organized fashion, and in San Bernardino what we’ve seen is their ability to proselytize for their perverted brand of Islam and spur small-scale terrorist attacks. And those are very difficult to detect, so it is going to be important for us to be vigilant. We are pounding ISIL’s core structure in Syria and Iraq. We have put together a coalition that is increasingly effective. We have seen ISIL lose about 40 percent of its populated territory in the region, and both in terms of homeland security and in terms of our efforts over there, I am confident that we are going to prevail.
But it is also important for us to keep things in perspective, and this is not an organization that can destroy the United States. This is not a huge industrial power that can pose great risks to us institutionally or in a systematic way. But they can hurt us, and they can hurt our people and our families. And so I understand why people are worried.
The most damage they can do, though, is if they start changing how we live and what our values are, and part of my message over the next 14 months or 13 months that I remain in office is to just make sure that we remember who we are and make sure that our resilience, our values, our unity are maintained. If we do that then ISIL will be defeated.
Let’s just pause here for a moment and note that no terrorist attack is “small scale” if you are caught in the middle of it. The ISIS inspired attacks in San Bernardino and Chattanooga may not have presented an existential threat to the United States but they did present an existential threat to at least eighteen people and their families. It is easy for Obama to woof this crap when he lives in the ultimate gated community, whether at home or while traveling. A second thought is that “our resilience, our values, our unity” are of damned little use to you if you are f***ing dead.
Even his claim about reducing 40 percent of its populated territory is a dodge. The population is becoming concentrated in ISIS controlled areas reflecting a voluntary migration of people.
Earlier today on “Fox & Friends”, [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] gave his view:
“It’s just another example of how out of touch they are and how clueless they are and quite frankly how dangerous their foreign policy has become for the national security of this country,” Rubio said.
In an NPR interview aired Monday morning, Obama urged listeners to keep the threat of ISIL in perspective, saying that the terrorist organization “is not a huge industrial power that can pose great risks to us institutionally or in a systematic way.”
“He’s trying to compare them to countries. What he’s saying is they’re not an industrial power, they don’t have this large economy or this large industrial complex. That’s true. They pose a very different kind of threat, and that’s what makes them so dangerous,” Rubio said. “If they were an army that had army headquarters and bases and a navy, we’d know where to attack them. But they’re not just an armed terrorist group, they’re also an insurgency. They control territory in a vast number of countries, but they’re also using propaganda to radicalize people, lone-wolf attackers and so forth, whom we may never even be able to identify until it’s too late. So again it’s another example of how this president misunderstands—doesn’t understand the threat that we’re facing.”
Rubio has this exactly right. For reasons of craven convenience, the Obama administration is pushing the narrative that ISIS is mostly an insurgency-turned-failed-state located (mostly) in Iraq and Syria. ISIS, in fact, is very much like the communism the early twentieth century. Yes, it has territory but the takeaway from the failure of al-Qaeda is that without the trapping of statehood there is no safe haven to plan, stockpile equipment, and train. Without a population base, you are dependent upon an uncertain flow of foreign fighters. It doesn’t need to worry about a working economy or feeding its people because ultimately the international community will end up giving ISIS food and money if the humanitarian situation gets sufficiently bad. After all, we’ve seen how another failed terrorist state, the Palestinian Authority, is being kept afloat.
ISIS is also internationalist. Just as agents of Lenin tried to subvert governments across Europe, ISIS is doing the same. ISIS has a significant presence in Libya that the administration is studiously ignoring. It has appeared in Egypt. It will be a major shock to me if Jordan doesn’t get sucked into the quagmire. The men and women ISIS is sending to other nations, or the homegrown radical Muslims they are inspiring to action, serve the same purpose as Soviet ICBMs and Mutually Assured Destruction. It is conscious attempt to hold the civilian population of hostile nations hostage against the good behavior, i.e. ineffectual hostilities directed against ISIS, of those governments.
Obama is framing this as though we were fighting some pissant country in the Middle East. In fact, we are fighting something very different but for him to admit that he’d also have to make changes that to him are more painful than the deaths of mere American civilians.