President Obama’s ISIS Strategy Isn’t Reality Based

President Obama’s response to ISIS is another example of how our ruling class couples their illusions with whatever they find it convenient to do.

Angelo Codevilla, The Fedralist

President Obama’s promise “to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL” may or may not end up causing problems for the Islamic State. Surely however, it further degraded our security by further engaging us in the combination of fantasy and half measures that has earned America a reputation for un-seriousness and opened hunting season on Americans everywhere.

Obama degrades America by dwelling in a politically convenient fantasy world. In his September 10 2014 prime-time speech, Obama claimed to have made America safer by combining the withdrawal of troops from abroad with the killing of Osama bin Laden and “taking out terrorists who threaten us” in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Obama pledged to deal with ISIL in the same successful way.

In Obama’s fantasy, ISIL is neither Islamic nor a state. But distinguishing ISIL’s doctrine from the orthodox Wahabism preached daily in Mecca and Minneapolis, and that from the Koran, is hardly possible for scholars never mind for religiously illiterate politicians. In fact, some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential Muslims think enough of ISIL’s Islamic credentials to give it countless millions of dollars as a faith-offering, thousands upon thousands of young Muslims from around the world, including the USA rush to fight and die for it, the Muslim governments of Qatar and Turkey, respectively, continue to buy and transit supplies for it, while the Islamic world’s leading intellectual authorities have not critiqued its Islamic credentials.

De facto, ISIL is a state because it controls territory larger than that of a plurality of the UN’s members, and because the people it rules prefer it to their former rulers. They do so because ISIL shares the people’s religious sect (Sunni Islam) while the leaders of the former Syria and Iraq are Alewis or Shia. ISIL conquered its territory with the help of the locals.  In Iraq, the local Sunnis helped ISIL chase away the Iraqi army, and the Kurds too, using arms given them by the US government as part of “the surge.”

But in Obama’s fantasy, as expressed by Sandy Berger, Clinton’s former national security adviser whose advice Obama solicited, our confrontation with ISIL “can’t turn into a U.S versus Sunni battle.” “It has to be us helping the Sunnis battle the Sunni extremists.” It has to be that, regardless of whether the Sunnis who live under ISIL regard their rulers as extremists or not. The locals have to look at things the way we do. They just damn well have to.

More than that, the folks in the region have to believe in and fight for entities called “Iraq” and “Syria,” to which heretofore they have shown scarce allegiance but in which Obama, like the Bushes and Clinton before him, professes to believe deeply. In his speech, he told the world that he had helped fix Iraq by brokering the new, “inclusive” Iraqi government sworn in on September 8. By supporting its efforts “to address the legitimate grievances and needs of all Iraqis”- read, the Sunnis – that government will “drive a wedge between ISIL and Sunnis.” Thus, “The Iraqi Government is taking the fight to ISIL, and will ultimately be the one to defeat it in Iraq.” Inclusiveness will do the trick, for Obama just as it did for Bush. This time, for sure.

If the hard men who now run the ISIL military, who had been Saddam Hussein’s security cadre, who marched against an Iraqi army flush with top-of-the line US arms confident that Iraqi soldiers would hand them over; if the Sunni Islamist agitators whom the American occupation of Iraq had imprisoned for shooting Americans and who now lead an ISIL Caliphate that draws countless recruits aching to behead Americans; if such people believed Obama’s speech, if they shared the Obama-Sandy Berger thesis, they would be quaking in their boots. Odds are they listened to Obama’s speech with glee.

They heard Obama promise to reduce ISIL’s revenue “from oil and assets it has plundered” and to disrupt “the flow of external donations to the group.” They know, just as any well-informed person anywhere knows, that the US government has the capacity to do just that. But they also know what Obama would have to do to accomplish it – namely institute some kind of secondary sanctions on countries (and there are a lot of them) that traffic in oil sold by ISIL – and that Obama does not have the slightest intention of upsetting these countries or the domestic US interests that deal with them. As for cutting off the external donations, the hard men of ISIL can use their financial account books as comfort-pillows, confident that Obama – and John McCain, Qatar’s favorite senator – will bring zero significant pressure on any Gulf rulers to jail their cousins who fund ISIL.

The secular and religious men of ISIL did not hear a peep from Obama about how the pipeline of food and fuel and medicine through Turkey by which ISIL survives is going to be shut down. That is because it isn’t going to be shut down and ISIL, along with its host population, will continue to eat, drink, and be well.

They heard Obama promise to strike from the air to “degrade ISIL’s leadership, logistical and operational capability, and deny it sanctuary and resources to plan, prepare and execute attack.” They know that America has an air force that could do that. Heck, they know that Saudi Arabia and Jordan together have over 400 modern fighter-bombers that, even without American attack aircraft but only with American air controllers, these could starve and kill them in an intensive campaign over a couple of months. But Obama told them that all they need worry about is the sort of thing that America has mustered against its enemies in recent years. Massive campaigns aimed at swift victory are now politically incorrect in Washington.

Obama promised to limit “ISIL’s ability to extort local populations; stemming ISIL’s gains from kidnapping for ransom.” That would be serious. But the men of ISIL can discount the threat because executing it would take physically pushing ISIL rulers out with a substantial ground force. Obama made it clear that the U.S. will not supply such a force. (Good thing too, because a US ground invasion would likely repeat the disastrous Iraq occupation policy). The Kurds fight magnificently. But they have learned to do so exclusively for Kurdistan. The Iraqi army does not, and will not, exist. Iraq has plenty of ferocious Shia militias – death squads – eager to take the equivalent of Sunni scalps. But all know that Obama will do his best to shield ISIL from the Shia. The Saudis demand it.

Again and again, Obama degraded the English language by describing his fantasy as “strategy,” as in: “our strategy will be underpinned by a strong coalition of regional and international partners who are willing to commit resources and will to this long-term endeavor.” This usage is akin to: “our strategy is to make a ham sandwich, contingent on somebody providing the bread and someone else the ham,” or “the mouse’s strategy for dealing with the cat is to place a bell around its neck.”

But Obama gave no hint as to how “regional and international partners” would be persuaded to do whatever it takes to “degrade and destroy” ISIL – nor even of what activity and what level thereof would be required to do that – any more than how any mouse might go about belling a cat.

The American people watched videos of men like ourselves being beheaded by Muslim thugs with a knife who now dispose of a state, and who are drawing unto themselves God-knows-how many would-be beheaders of Americans. The American people reasonably demanded a real campaign to destroy ISIL. What Obama delivered was yet more fantasy.

Alas, our ruling class couples their illusions with whatever they find it convenient to do, and call it “strategy.” Thereby do they advertise their impotence.

Angelo M. Codevilla is a fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace, Hoover Institution Press, 2014.
September 14, 2014 | 284 Comments »

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34 Comments / 284 Comments

  1. M Devolin Said:

    This guy is taking on Mr. Ross, Dweller AND Yamit? LOL Good luck with that!

    What am I? A gar-bage-man? Let someone else take out the tr-a-sh, let someone else read their posts and have in-an-e mean-ing-less “discussions” which are actually psy-chol-ogical ab-reactions to being exposed to small slices of rea-li-ty.

    I don’t even read their posts.
    But apparently they read mine – like the desert seeking water – they need something to fill the barr-en-ness.
    ..
    (Edit – Well this didn’t get through either- such a stifling discouraging process here.)

  2. M Devolin Said:

    This guy is taking on Mr. Ross, Dweller AND Yamit? LOL Good luck with that!

    What am I? A garbageman? Let someone else take out the trash, let someone else read their posts and have inane meaningless “discussions” which are actually psychological ab-reactions to being exposed to small slices of reality.
    . I don’t even read their posts.
    But apparently they read mine – like the desert seeking water – they need something to fill the barrenness.

  3. @ the phoenix:

    “You’ve been about getting rid of me since virtually the DAY you realized that I was a traditionally-raised Jew who did his own thinking and who — pursuant to that — dug Jesus. Everything else has been peripheral to that for you, and your pattern of assault has never altered.”

    “Did you use John Deere, kubota or caterpillar?”

    Ruach Elohim. Old, family-owned firm. Superb, reliable workmanship. Highly recommended. Frequently outsold, however, by cheap shoddy knock-offs often peddled by shady operators. . . .

  4. @ yamit82:

    “Israel will not ever accept one like yourself as a Jew and probably not grant you citizenship under our law of return, if you would ever seek such a status, likelihood Zero.”

    Wrong. I would/will have no problem whatsoever in this regard.

    “Yaakov Weksler-Waszkinel, a Jewish-born, former Catholic priest, is denied automatic Israeli citizenship due to syncretic beliefs”

    No comparison.

    He may no longer be a priest, but there is no indication (in the article, as I skimmed it) of his having left the RCC in which he was formerly ordained.

    His problem (in re auto Israeli citizenship) is not his ‘syncretic beliefs’ — rather, his affiliation: the fact that he remains a member of the RCC, a religious institution of another faith.

  5. @ honeybee:

    “Too cryptic for me.”

    “The provocateur prevaricates ?”

    Yes, she certainly does do that on occasion.

    But why ask me about what she herself does?

    You’d think if anybody would know, that she would. . . .

  6. @ yamit82:

    “Money and you seem to be strangers.”

    Not at all. I have obligations; they come first.

    “Btw how’s that new computer you just bought??”

    When did that happen & why didn’t I hear about it?

    “Don’t tell us you have no one close to you or cares enough about you to get one for you???”

    Nobody that I’d allow to “get” one for me.

  7. @ yamit82:

    “Then take on this Barbie it’s all about you from the top of your little pointy head to the tips of your fat toes.”

    Dream on.

    “ENJOY I DID!”

    Can’t say I’m surprised.

  8. @ yamit82:

    “Insidiously devious and cowardly is more accurate.”

    You are the biggest coward on this SITE — bar none. Your preoccupation with the very concept of cowardice (howsoever couched or directed) bears witness to unresolved issues of your own. What’s more, I think you know this.

    “He will throw his barbs on us but directed to others so he can claim to be technically correct.”

    Is this direct enough for you?

    I’m ordered to ignore Ross

    — but not YOU, shmendrick.

    YOU I’ll take on anytime, at the drop of a hat.

    ‘Devious,’ indeed.

  9. honeybee Said:

    You have a point, Sugar, its been a tough day and I’am in a dark mood. Much pain today and it is time to chase the ” White Rabbit down the hole:”.

    Sorry for you pain and discomfort and I did catch your mood, hoped the music might help. Feel better.

  10. honeybee Said:

    obfuscation ???????????

    Insidiously devious and cowardly is more accurate. He will throw his barbs on us but directed to others so he can claim to be technically correct.

  11. @ bernard ross:

    “I want you both to ignore each other from now on.”

    We are Ordered to not respond in any way.

    That includes whatever excuses may be conjured for getting in a remark.

  12. M Devolin Said:

    “No man was ever written out of reputation but by himself.”

    yamit82 Said:

    Deviation from the truth,deceiving or misleading someone and lying

    You have a point, Sugar, its been a tough day and I’am in a dark mood. Much pain today and it is time to chase the ” White Rabbit down the hole:”.
    Your music has been a joy.

  13. honeybee Said:

    I said prevaricate not equivocate, there is a nuance.

    I concede it can be nuanced but isn’t it a distinction without a difference? Deviation from the truth,deceiving or misleading someone and lying? At least in the context we are using here?

  14. dweller Said:

    It isn’t for you to decide what somebody else gets to say or not say.

    I have never asked for any one to be censored or blocked however, I cannot accept your insults, libels and insulting psychobabble without responding and pointing out your MO. Notice that I never insulted you but only factually pointed you out. I dont care what you write, it is ted that wants to avoid these threads. I dont care which happens but I will not allow your insults without responding, whether directly or indirectly. If you insult, you must be pointed out.

  15. honeybee Said:
    <blockquote

    The Mayan Indians have a god that never lies but never tells the truth.

    hmmmm….
    Is he a regular poster on israpundit?
    🙂 🙂 🙂

  16. @ bernard ross:

    Don’t push your luck. It isn’t for you to decide what somebody else gets to say or not say.

    We have been explicitly directed to refrain from responding to each other’s comments. I have done so from the moment of that admonition until now.

    YOU, on the other hand, have since then replied to over a DOZEN of mine — despite the fact that not one of them was addressed to you. And the last of my posts to which you have replied was itself a direct answer to a remark which had been addressed unambiguously to me.

  17. yamit82 Said:

    a fighting Marlin I caught in the keyes

    used to go there a lot when I lived in Miami
    yamit82 Said:

    Dweller as I have stated will never admit defeat. He reminds me of the Arabs, same mentality. Totally devoid of rationality and totally delusional, with the Arabs it’s cultural with dweller it’s just a pathological mental dysfunction. He is to be pitied and I really believe he can’t help it, too far gone.

    I believe that your assessment is 100% correct and it is based on facts and history. Perhaps Dweller can learn from you what Psychological evaluation based on actual facts is, rather than myths and fairy tales. Your evaluation, for example, was not an insulting diatribe whereas his psychobabble is always focused on being insulting.
    yamit82 Said:

    Then again?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKhEw7nD9C4

    Right on! actually, I just posted with great restraint and made no insults, I merely pointed out in detail his absurd behavior, insults and insulting psychobabble.

  18. honeybee Said:

    Would you keep me ??????????? If I promise never to be provocative or prevaricate ???????????????

    Provocative: Yes,you betcha!!!

    prevaricate …. Not sure I hate intentional equivocation.

  19. dweller Said:

    He can’t afford to subject himself to common sense, however, because that would mean relinquishing his attachment to the process of intellectualization — and he’s ADDICTED to that. Worse than addicted: threatened — by the proposition that it may not be all there is. . . .

    another example of unsupported, obfuscating psychobabble, of which you have never shown a single instance of being right. when you have nothing, no support, no rational arguments you must resort to these cowardly tactics.
    Phoenix Said:

    “The clarity of his comments, the ability to connect dots in a very logical and sequential way is stellar…”
    Dweller said:
    Clear, logical, stellar — and wrong.

    and yet, true to form you provide no example, evidence, or support for this statement. It appears that if you are able to speak words, in your mind, those words must be facts.

    dweller Said:

    Anybody predisposed to believe his own fantasies can “connect the dots” and arrive at what he wants to arrive at; happens all the time. In fact, YOU have done precisely that with the above-referenced individual (and the previous one). And he himself does it routinely.

    another blurb of completely unsupported psychobabble which also attempts to accuse Phoenix of the same fairy tale.
    dweller Said:

    The Inquisition made an institution out of “connecting the dots” and arriving where they wanted to arrive. Lynch mobs are notorious for doing precisely the same thing. Without an interior lodestar for reference, a connector of dots is a danger to his world and even himself.

    Unsupported incredulous psychobabble again with not oone shred of support or evidence for the assertion.
    dweller Said:

    If I were a betting man (I’m NOT a betting man, but if I were), my chips would be on your eventually seeing thru his ‘process’ — and in all likelihood, before HE ever does.

    another unlikely fantasy submitted in substitution of an incredible lack of evidence,support or examples of anything that dweller has said so far.

    It appears that NOT ONE statement of Dwellers, in his whole post, is NOT unsuported gratuitous insult or unsupported gratuitous psychobbable.

    Perhaps Dweller is upset that phoenix paid me compliments: would that be an example of the “envy” that dweller always psychobabbles about?

  20. yamit82 Said:

    I had him in the boat. After he knew he was beat I unhooked him and threw him back.

    Would you keep me ??????????? If I promise never to be provocative or prevaricate ???????????????

  21. @ bernard ross:

    He reminds me of a fighting Marlin I caught in the keyes, flaying arourd in all directions trying to escape my line and pull against his. It never gave up until I had him in the boat. After he knew he was beat I unhooked him and threw him back.

    Dweller as I have stated will never admit defeat. He reminds me of the Arabs, same mentality. Totally devoid of rationality and totally delusional, with the Arabs it’s cultural with dweller it’s just a pathological mental dysfunction. He is to be pitied and I really believe he can’t help it, too far gone.

    After watching his hysterical performance in the last few days I am losing my appetite for rebuttal. It’s like kicking a guy already down. Then again? 🙂

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKhEw7nD9C4

  22. dweller Said:

    Even the few things he’s right about (and they are a VERY few) should’ve been apparent at a glance to anybody w/ a soupçon of common sense.

    apparently YOU are that person without a “soupcon of common sense as this very simple accurate statement, self evident to anyone with a soupcon of common sense and still completely accurate without a doubt, has not been apparent to YOU!
    You might remember this accurate, correct and indisputable statement from previous posts:

    You’ve NEVER been able to show a single instance of you being right about someone’s emotional and psychological makeup (including your own)

    It appears that this “right” statement was unable to be apparent to you at a glance, hence you lack a “soupcon of common sense” by your own standards.
    dweller Said:

    Yet he’s had to deduce them thru a plodding, tortuous process intricate enough to break a snake’s back yet no more thorough for its plodding.

    Of course, as usual, you produce not one example, or any support for this statement, which demonstrates why you had to begin by insulting Phoenix.
    an empty suit must obfuscate with insults!