Apparently, unlike some Americans I support President Obama’s careful and deliberate assessment of what to do with the extremist terrorist group, ISIS. We’ve heard the knee-jerk criticism of Obama, an understandable emotional reaction to the sickening images of beheadings of journalists on the internet. Why is he on the golf course instead of in Washington devising a devastating and decisive response?!!!! (As if planning and policy comes to a standstill as Obama slices a tee shot. And as if we have an immediate strategy for dealing with all permutations of such groups. And as if we can do anything to make this group simply disappear.)
When President Obama takes to the TV tomorrow we’ll hear more specifics about dealing with ISIS, and there is a good summary of what to expect on ABC’s blog.
It’s pretty clear that this is not a “boots on the ground” war, but one similar to what we’ve waged against Al Qaeda. ISIS is even better organized and funded. It is unlikely we can “defeat them” in the military sense of the word. They are like a form of the black plague which at best can be forced into remission but is easily activated. It is an especially dangerous group as they know how to court social media and they are positioning themselves as the long sought after Islamic caliphate. We’re talking about trying to contend with about 1,000 years of history and religious fervor in that case.
No you don’t march on them; you surgically and systematically degrade their capabilities (as has already been said by Obama). And of course we must develop collaboration with European and Arab states for containing ISIS, and especially how it is being financed. Judging by their sophisticated weaponry, more like an army than a fragmented terrorist group, some factions of the oil rich Middle East states would seem to be involved. Is this a middle-eastern incarnation of the protection racket? Intelligence is needed to identify and choke off those funds.
Indeed, those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it. As Adam Gopnik recently wrote in his article in The New Yorker, “Does It Help to Know History?” ISIS is a horrible group doing horrible things, and there are many factors behind its rise. But they came to be a threat and a power less because of all we didn’t do than because of certain things we did do—foremost among them that massive, forward intervention, the Iraq War. (The historical question to which ISIS is the answer is: What could possibly be worse than Saddam Hussein?)