First, if you think this is going to be a hit piece on Barack Obama…keep reading, because that is precisely not what this.
What this is, fundamentally, is an analysis of where our global fight against existential terror groups stands.
It is not a pretty picture.
Even before this weeks events in Iraq, we have seen a resurgence of Islamists all over the world.
In African, numerous groups have seen a comeback, most famous being that Baku Haram in Nigeria, who kidnapped several hundred young girls, and led to a Twitter phenomenon that so far has failed to find and return those girls safely.
In Libya, the West’s strategy has failed completely, as the majority of the country is now controlled by rebels, and the Capital itself has come under attack several times; Libya is on the verge of being a failed state.
Syria has long been a failed state, as the Civil War rages on. Thousands have died since the West signed a chemical weapons deal with Assad. The chemical weapons deal is a nice public relations coup, but will not change the killing one iota.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are apparently biding their time until the US leaves, so they can restart their Jihad against everyone. And they staged one of their biggest coups in years, by receiving 5 key leaders back from Guantanamo Bay, at the price of one single American Soldier.
And the Taliban, along with the Hiqqani network, staged an underreported attack on Karachi airport in Pakistan, which signals new trouble for that nuclear state.
Iraq’s troubles, with ISIS and other Islamist groups, marching toward Baghdad is just another symptom of the larger problem.
Now, people’s instincts are to do one of two things: blame George W. Bush for everything and do nothing; or blame President Barack Obama for everything, and bomb everyone.
Both are incorrect and illogical.
Let us stipulate, at least in Iraq, that George W. Bush shares a lion’s share of the blame. I don’t want to get into the larger fight about the historical record of the war; but Bush owns this, for all time.
That said, that doesn’t mean Mr. Obama should simply play the tit-for-tat game, point at Bush, and say he wins the game. This is no game. This is not a time for political theater.
Let us put this into perspective, shall we? ISIS is a group that Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s titular leader, thought was too extreme for him, and thus he severed ties with that organization. He once thought the group was a liability…the the ‘Al Qaeda brand’. Think about that for a second. To allow them to just walk into Baghdad would be a horrible failure of U.S. foreign policy.
Furthermore, let us recall that Osama Bin Laden’s key strategic goal was not to attack the United States. His key goal, all along, was to create a caliphate in the Middle East, that can grow and then present a true threat to the West. ISIS is on the verge of accomplishing just that.
The question now becomes, as we look at this global surge of islamic terror rising, and then see one event in which we could, at the very least, stem that tide in the hopes that more moderate and democratic forces can take charge, should we just ignore it because it is inconvenient?
Obama has only limited tools at his disposal. Putting troops on the ground is not an option anyone is considering, nor should they. There is much debate about whether drone or air strikes would do the trick. That is a military question I cannot answer.
I think the war in Iraq was a mistake. I think we should be far more non-interventionist in our foreign policy as time passes. But ignoring the threat posed here is foolish as well…9/11 taught us that.
I for one hope the President takes decisive, albeit limited, action here. He has a host of terrible choices, and many if not most of the problems in this specific case were not of his making. However, that should not excuse him from having to make the choice that is needed now, nor should it do so in the future.
Additionally, I hope the country quickly unites and backs the President if he takes quick action. This is a moment for unity, not for politics. There are real costs to failing here; and people who don’t understand that have learned nothing from the last two decades of foreign policy failures.