World View: President George W. Obama Pledges to 'Degrade, Destroy' ISIS

World View: President George W. Obama Pledges to 'Degrade, Destroy' ISIS

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • President George W. Obama presents his ISIS strategy
  • Obama pledges ‘to degrade and ultimately destroy’ ISIS
  • CIA increases estimate: ISIS has 20,000 to 31,500 fighters
  • Iran faces a double threat from ISIS

President George W. Obama presents his ISIS strategy

It was very hard to escape the impression, listening to PresidentObama’s speech on Wednesday evening, that he would rather have all histeeth pulled out than have to give that speech, which could have beengiven by President George W. Bush if he had had two more terms.President Obama’s entire foreign policy has always been to ask whatPresident Bush would do and then do the opposite, but the rise of theIslamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS) has forced him in thepast few weeks to sound more and more like his predecessor. 

His attempts to be the non-Bush were comical. Here’s how he struggledto distinguish what he’s doing from what Bush did: 

But I want the American people to understand how thiseffort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreignsoil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through asteady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist,using our air power and our support for partner forces on theground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us,while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we havesuccessfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it isconsistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to useforce against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, butto mobilize partners wherever possible to address broaderchallenges to international order.

So this is not a war — that’s a Bush thing. This is counterterrorism– that’s an Obama thing, and it’s different.

Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized this when he was askedin an interview whether we were at war: 

We’re engaged in a major counterterrorism operation,and it’s going to be a long-term counterterrorism operation. Ithink war is the wrong terminology and analogy but the fact isthat we are engaged in a very significant global effort to curbterrorist activity.

I don’t think people need to get into war fever on this. I thinkthey have to view it as a heightened level of counter terroristactivity…but it’s not dissimilar to what we’ve been doing thelast few years with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and inYemen and elsewhere.

I try to write about President Obama on as few days as I can get awaywith, because I criticize him, and then people criticize me forcriticizing him. But I just never have the feeling that Obama liveson this planet, or has any idea what’s going on on this planet. It’sjust one bizarre thing after another. I’ll come back to thecomparisons with Yemen and Somalia below. But we’re not at war? Wasn’t it just last week that Vice President JoeBiden said we’d follow ISIS to “the gates of hell”? 

It’s a basic principle of Generational Dynamics that even in adictatorship, major policies and events are determined by masses ofpeople, entire generations of people, and not by politicians. Thus,Hitler was not the cause of WW II. What politicians say or do isirrelevant, except insofar as their actions reflect the attitudes ofthe people that they represent, and so politicians can neither causenor prevent the great events of history. The corollary to thisprinciple, which I’ve discussed many times since President Obama tookoffice in 2009, is that going beyond pure rhetoric and politics, therewill be little effective difference between Obama’s presidency andPresident George W. Bush’s hypothetical third and fourth terms, ifsuch had taken place.

Indeed, Obama frequently said that the world would change on January20, 2009, as soon as he was inaugurated as President. His goal was toheal the world with his mere presence — cure global warming, provideuniversal health care, close Guantanamo, leave Iraq in peace, bring atwo-state solution to Palestinians and Israelis, beat the Taliban inAfghanistan, restore the stock market bubble, and dismantle PresidentBush’s war against terror. Nothing would be beyond his reach. Andyet, it would be hard to find any real effective difference with howany of these policies would have unfolded in additional Bushadministrations. 

President Obama and John Kerry have had one foreign policy debacleafter another. Now they’re starting on something new, the conflictwith ISIS, and they’re playing with words. We can hope that thiswon’t be yet another debacle, but this is a very bad omen. White House and CBS News

Obama pledges ‘to degrade and ultimately destroy’ ISIS

President Obama began his Wednesday night speech with: “My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to youabout what the United States will do with our friends and alliesto degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known asISIL.”

What can he possibly mean by “destroy”? I can’t think of a singleexample of a terrorist group being “destroyed,” and he certainlyprovided no such examples. Let’s make a list of the comparisons thathe and Kerry did make in the excerpts quoted above: 

  • Al-Qaeda: Kerry said, “it’s not dissimilar to what we’ve been doing the last few years with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Is he claiming that al-Qaeda has been “destroyed”? The Taliban is surging in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. There’s every reason to believe that as soon as American troops have departed, later this year, Afghanistan will once again be governed by the Taliban.
  • Yemen: Is Obama claiming that Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), headquartered in Yemen, has been “destroyed”? Coincidentally, I just wrote about Yemen a few days ago (“10-Sep-14 World View — Yemen faces both Shia Houthi protesters and Sunni AQAP jihadists”), and Yemen’s government is in crisis from both AQAP and another terror group, the Houthis.
  • Somalia: The U.S. was forced to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 because of the famous “Blackhawk Down” incident. The Somali forces that fought the U.S. were later alleged to be linked to al-Qaeda, and a group subsequently named al-Shabaab. As we wrote last month in “30-Aug-14 World View — Al-Shabaab wants jihadists from UK, Germany and Minnesota”, al-Shabaab is drawing would-be jihadists from Minneapolis and was responsible for the horrific Westgate Mall terror attack last year in Nairobi, Kenya. Obama bragged that American bombs did kill one al-Shabaab leader a few days ago, but al-Shabaab is nowhere near

One of Obama’s big problems is that he keeps making ridiculouspromises that he would know can’t be kept if he understood what wasgoing on in the world. The worst one was the chemical weapons “redline” in Syria that would trigger an American military response.Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad continues to use chemicalweapons to this day, targeting innocent women and children with barrelbombs loaded with explosives, metals, and chlorine gas. 

So now Obama has committed to “destroying” ISIS. How is he going to do that? 

And here’s one more thing from his speech: 

Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt downterrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. Thatmeans I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, aswell as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If youthreaten America, you will find no safe haven.

What’s he talking about? Is he really going to take action againstISIS in Syria, when he refused to take action after Bashar al-Assadkilled hundreds of people with Sarin gas? 

When Obama was campaigning in 2008, he promised that as soon as tookoffice the earth would heal and the tides would recede. Obama isstill making ridiculous promises. He just can’t stop himself. Let’shope this doesn’t end up as another debacle. White House

CIA increases estimate: ISIS has 20,000 to 31,500 fighters

The CIA now estimates that the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (ISor ISIS) is made up of anywhere between 20,000 to 31,500 fighters.The CIA previously put the number at 10,000 and is now revising itupward by a factor of 2-3. The Hill

Iran faces a double threat from ISIS

Iran is a Shia Muslim state, but Iran’s southeast province, on theborder with Pakistan, is Balochistan, which has a Sunni majoritypopulation. The rise of the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS orISIS) is presenting a serious internal threat to Iran. Just aswould-be jihadists from around the world are heading for Syria totrain with ISIS, the same is true of would-be jihadists fromBalochistan, fueled by a combination of extreme poverty anddecades-long resentment by the local Sunni population against thepolicies of the Shia-dominated central government in Tehran. 

I’vereported several times about Jundullah, a terrorist group that hasperpetrated major attacks on Shia mosques and Revolutionary Guardstations in southeastern Iran. Jundullah’s successor in Balochistanis Jaysh al-Adl (Army of Justice), and it’s feared that ISIS and Jayshal-Adl will link up with disaffected citizens of Balochistan andthreaten the Tehran government. 

That’s ISIS’s internal threat to Iran. The external threat is toIran’s two closest allies in the region, the governments of Syria andIraq. In particular, it’s feared that the conflict in Iraq will spillover onto Iran’s soil, and some unconfirmed reports indicate that’salready happened. Jamestown

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, John Kerry,Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL,Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen,Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP,Somalia, Kenya, al-Shabaab, Minneapolis, Westgate Mall,Syria, Bashar al-Assad,Iran, Balochistan, Jundullah, Jaysh al-Adl, Army of Justice 

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