More of the Same–Even after San Bernardino Obama fails to change course–72.21h., b2,12-2
On December 6, Barack Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office, .for just the third time in his tenure. The president sought to reassure the American people that the has a strategy for defeating ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), just days after supporters of the self-declared “caliphate” massacred 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.
The president simply offered a bullet point summary of what his administration has done to date. He also stressed, once again, that he would not deploy a significant number of American ground troops to combat ISIE’ s jihadists.
“We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria,” Obama said. “That’s what groups like ISIL want. They know they can’t defeat us on the battlefield.” If ISIL knows it “can’t defeat” the American military, why would it want a ground war? Obama attempted to explain this contradiction: “ISiL fighters were part of the insurgency that we faced in Iraq. But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits.”
By 2008, however, the jihadists had been pushed back, losing much of the ground they once controlled. This wasn’t magic. It was the result of an American-led “surge” in forces and an uprising of Iraqis who wanted to end the jihadists’ draconian rule. Obama remembered the high cost paid by American soldiers, but said nothing of their accomplishments.
In October 2011, Obama announced he was bringing the Iraq war to a “responsible end.” Just two months later, the last U.S. forces left Iraqi soil.
According to the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism for 2011 ISIL’s predecessor could field only 1,000 to 2,000 fighters by the end of the year. Their presence was a problem—one we should have actively fought—but it was not a menace. By the end of 2014, the situation was dramatically worse. State’s Country Reports on Terrorism for 2014 notes that ISIL could “muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters. Even this figure likely underestimates ISILs roster.
Obama’s claim that ISIL would use “our presence to draw new recruits” is a nonstarter. The total number of ISIL fighters grew quickly (10 to 30 times over) in the three years after the Americans left.
They believe that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has resurrected the long-awaited caliphate. Until this founding mythos is refuted, ISIL will continue to terrorize the world.
ISIL has lost some ground, but the jihadists will not lose Raqqa or Mosul any time soon unless President Obama decides Baghdadi’s men should feel the full brunt of American force. Therefore, ISIEs claim to have resurrected the caliphate will live on. And so will the violence ISIL’s mythology inspires.
source-weekly standard (12/21/2015), thomas joscelyn, country reports on terrorism,