. . . with Jim Geraghty
. . . with Jim Geraghty
September 11, 2014
A TIME OF CR-ISIS
This president is still walking around with an oversized sense of his own popularity, political capital, and
He's capable of giving a good speech — well, reading from a teleprompter with the right tone, facial expressions, and mannerisms — but very few people, at home or abroad, still expect dramatic action to follow dramatic words. The Obama pattern is clear: big promise, lousy results. Too many lines instantly pop into the minds of viewers. Red line. "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan." "We're going to arm the moderate Syrian rebels." "New tone." "Assad must go."
Just because Obama says it doesn't mean it's going to happen. "We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are." Well, that will be nice if it happens. As @CuffyMeh put it, "We will chase ISIS to the end of the earth as long as it doesn't involve actually touching the earth."
And as we've noted, Obama periodically offers comments that suggest he's out to lunch: The world is safer than it was 20 years ago. We know more about trouble overseas because of social media.
Obama's numbers are terrible — and that's because of three things: beheadings on Americans' televisions, and the idiotic "we don't have a strategy" declaration, coupled with the subsequent statement that the Islamic State was a problem to be "managed." You can throw in the "JV team" as another key element of the deep unease with this administration's terror-fighting abilities. (The Osama bin Laden raid sure feels like a long time ago, huh?)
The president and his administration insist upon calling the group "ISIL" rather than "ISIS," preferring the term "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant." As Chuck Todd said, they don't like to refer to Syria in this context. This is a silly word game in hopes for political spin.
Last night I enjoyed the chance to briefly speak to Brit Hume in the Fox News offices. "He'll speak about ISIS as if they appeared out of nowhere like Godzilla," Hume predicted.
David Frum makes the very solid point that by attacking the Islamic State, we are helping the Iranian regime, the Assad regime in Syria, and Hezbollah. He points out that the Obama administration is ignoring this embarrassing situation, and hoping the American public doesn't notice it. Indeed, it is a pretty remarkable and revealing aspect of the Obama administration that apparently no one on that foreign-policy all-star team even thought about using the carrot of anti–Islamic State action as leverage against the Iranians.
Frum's whole argument opposing military action is almost persuasive . . . except for the detail that the Islamic State has killed Americans and has made clear its intent to kill more Americans.
The John Wayne-Ted Nugent-Toby Keith-Andrew Jackson-Early-Frank Miller-Batman-Papa Bear-Author-of-a-book-titled-V
oting to Kill
side of me says that whenever anybody anywhere in the world kills an
American for being an American, we're obligated to rain hellfire down
upon them, oftentimes in the form of a literal
But the 2014 version of me recognizes something the 2004 version didn't: If you openly broadcast that philosophy, a lot of people are going to kill Americans just because they want to fight the lone remaining superpower. Everybody wants to be the man who shot Liberty Valance. Every aspiring terrorist wants to be the one who punched the Great Satan and lived to tell the tale.
And let's face it, there are a lot of groups in this world that killed Americans and escaped much consequence. There were the barracks bombers of Lebanon. We hit Qaddafi, but only before Lockerbie, not after. The Iranians had a hand in Khobar Towers; we only exposed the names of their agents. We've caught one Benghazi attacker. Syria basically ran a superhighway for insurgents in Iraq, and the Iranians helped the insurgents, too. We still don't know who we can trust in Pakistan. (Perhaps America has taken vengeance in some covert manner, to be revealed to a future generation.)
You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask of the ol' Lone Ranger, and . . . well, you know.
Deterrence requires consequences. The world doesn't lack people who enjoy killing Americans, and while we can debate "root causes" and "why do they hate us" questions as long as we like, we're not likely to talk such people out of trying to kill us any time soon. (Does it seem like the Chinese don't have this problem as much? The Russians? Is it that nobody's really afraid of crossing us?)
So we have to respond. We have to punish aggression, wickedness, and brutality when it targets our fellow Americans. But, as presidents are fond of saying, we must deal out that punishment "at a time and place of our choosing."
You Can't Spin Terrorism
Stephen Hayes reveals that some of the intelligence and documents found at bin Laden's hideout painted a picture of an al-Qaeda that wasn't "on the run":
The CIA provided access on a read-only basis, but even that limited look into bin Laden's world made clear to the military analysts that the Obama administration's public story on al Qaeda reflected the president's aspirations more than reality.The narrative heading into the 2012 presidential election was simple. "Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat," Obama said repeatedly. And "Al Qaeda has been decimated." And "Al Qaeda is on the run." And "We have gone after the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11 and decimated al Qaeda." And "Al Qaeda is on its heels."There was some truth to the claims. Drone strikes on al Qaeda senior leadership in Pakistan had eliminated several of the group's top leaders, and the resulting turnover created uncertainty in its senior ranks. And Obama was well within his rights to boast about the killing of Osama bin Laden.But the administration chose to portray these short-term tactical successes as long-term strategic victories. The official spin required a static analysis of al Qaeda and its leadership, an assumption that al Qaeda wouldn't adequately replace fallen leaders or adjust its strategy to counter U.S. moves . . .The broader collection of documents paints a far more complicated picture of al Qaeda. There are documents laying out al Qaeda's relationships with terror-sponsoring states, including Iran and Pakistan. There are documents that provide a close look at bin Laden's careful cultivation of a vast array of increasingly deadly affiliates, including the one we now know as ISIS. Other documents provide a window into the complex and highly secretive system of communications between al Qaeda leaders and operatives plotting attacks. Still others offer a glimpse of relations between bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and the others who run the global terror syndicate…When David Petraeus went to CENTCOM, he took [Derek] Harvey with him to the Tampa headquarters to create and run the Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence.Harvey would not discuss the contents of the documents. But he acknowledges that the DIA/CENTCOM conclusions contradicted the story the administration was telling the American people. "They were saying al Qaeda was on the run," he recalls. "We were telling them al Qaeda was expanding and growing stronger."
As said above, just because the president says it, doesn't mean it is necessarily true.
Susan Rice, Standout Diplomat
On the edges of the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, which took place Sept. 5 and 6, 2013, Washington continued to push for international support of military action [in Syria] as it had been doing ineffectively since late August. In one meeting, [National-security adviser Susan] Rice pressed the German delegation relentlessly for leadership within the European Union. The Germans sought more time and consultation with other EU member states, frustrating Rice to the point that she lost her cool and reportedly launched into a profanity-filled lecture that featured a rare diplomatic appearance of the word "motherfucker." Germany's national security adviser, Christoph Heusgen, was so angered that he told an American confidante it was the worst meeting of his professional life.
ADDENDA: Stay safe out there today. As I finish up this e-mail, it is midafternoon in much of the Middle East. All's quiet so far.
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