We are in a war against terrorism. It may last a very long time. It is a very unfortunate thing. It will cost us lives and treasure. But we have to face reality or face the consequences.
President Obama wants his presidency to be about domestic policy – his plan to fundamentally transform the country, as he has put it. If he is conducting serious operations overseas, Obama will lack both the bandwidth and the money to drive his domestic agenda. And so he draws back. And al Qaeda is filling the space he abandons.
Obama’s failure to aggressively push for an adequate continued troop presence in Iraq – a decision that allowed him during the campaign to say he had completely “ended” the Iraq war – is now having dire consequences. The reason is simple: Iraq’s security apparatus is incompetent compared to ours.
And so Al Qaeda in Iraq has, like a once-flickering match that is now burning your finger, grown from being nearly extinguished by President Bush into a major new threat, slaughtering hundreds of Iraqis. Recently, the group freed more than 500 of its members during a massive operation that killed more than 100 Iraqi guards. Eventually it will turn its sites on us.
In Syria, Obama failed to swiftly back a rebel group that might have overthrown Bashar Assad without dressing up the entire country in burkas. As he dithered, our enemies strengthened the Islamist rebels and made Syria the new locus of al Qaeda recruiting from around the world. It is no longer clear that Assad’s overthrow would be a good thing.
Meanwhile, we’ve been picking off al Qaeda leaders on the Arabian Peninsula. That’s fine, except a strategy that relies too heavily on drone killings reduces the number of prisoners we might take in order to obtain information about future attacks.
That is, if we can get any info out of them. I assume the Army Field Manual, which Obama instituted as the guideline for interrogating these characters, is taught during the first semester at Al Qaeda University.
Soon we’ll be out of Afghanistan, perhaps entirely so, reducing our ability to attack al Qaeda’s “base” in Pakistan and providing a nostalgic return for al Qaeda veterans to the hills of Afghanistan – and perhaps eventually Kabul.
Obama offers olive branch after olive branch. He clearly doesn’t want to fight. He stiffs the Israelis. He equivocates on Egypt.
The jackals of the world recognize weakness. It gives them strength. Strength, lamentably, to start launching attacks our way once again.
I know Obama wants to prevent attacks on our land. But doing so will require a major revision of his thinking. Even Jimmy Carter toughened his approach to foreign policy, albeit too late for him.
But I see little evidence that Obama will “grow” in office. Rather, he seems to be returning more and more to his radical roots. And that’s a shame – a dangerous shame – for all of us.