So overnight the crisis on Mount Sinjar is, well, over. The president’s vacation may now continue uninterrupted by videos on CNN of kids being tossed into helicopters that land briefly, are overwhelmed by a mob, and fly away with a cohort of sobbing women and children. The world’s media has been dismissed by U.S. officials speaking on background to the New York Times. No more fall of Saigon analogies please!
The Times’ references to “the secret team of Marines and Special Operations forces [that] were already on Mount Sinjar, in the middle of a 24-hour trip to talk to the displaced people and pesh merge fighters” and to planning for a “corridor of escape…which would have been guarded primarily by pesh merga fighters and backed by some American troops” hinted at the reality that American ground troops are already operating against IS from Kurdistan and within western Iraq just as American planes have been striking at the new caliph’s front line fighters. The key to understanding what is going on here is that the president and his team cannot admit that the ground troops are there, even as they are loathe to provide the details of airstrikes or release the footage of IS fighters getting blown up.
The president’s personal rhetorical reality —the jayvee team putting on Kobe’s jersey, “stupid stuff,” the “core of al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on a path to defeat”— must be preserved by his inner circle and by himself from the reality of ISIS orISIL or IS or “the new caliphate” or whatever. We are simply to pay no attention to the man in the mosque in Mosul –who is most definitely not behind any curtain– summoning everyone to the jihad. Most of the Yezidis are off the mountain we are told, so the story must be over and the president can go back to golfing indifferent to complaints that presidents should not golf during genocides.
Not everyone is buying into the world according to Martha’s Vineyard. “The speed with which the Obama administration announced that the siege had been broken may cause some consternation overseas,” the Times adds, “given the increasingly dire descriptions from aid agencies about the crisis on Mount Sinjar.”
Here’s the reality. Islamist radicalism is on the rise across the globe, and it is particularly centered now in Mosul, not Afghanistan. That radicalism has engulfed the opposition to Syria’s butcher and forced its way across western Iraq to to the border of Kurdistan even as Assad with Iranian and Hezbollah help kills hundreds of its loyalists in Syria. Whatever the condition of the Islamists in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan –and by all accounts the Taliban are just waiting out President Obama before retaking large swaths of the country– the wave of violent jihad is rising not falling. America is facing greater and greater danger and the president simply will not admit to this. If he does, he will be admitting what history will surely show: His grand strategy was no strategy at all. His eight years were an abject failure on the most important issue which is protection of America.
My audience of listeners and readers get very, very tied of hearing me recommend Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 as the necessary book for anyone who wishes to have an informed opinion of the war against the Islamist terror and the jihad. But it was true when I first began saying it a decade ago when the book first appeared and it remains true today. Let me restate it again: If you haven’t read this book and know the modern history of radical Sunni jihadism, you have no idea what you are talking about on the subject of what to do about the war we are in. You are, as Charles Krauthammer said about the president on my show last week, “strategically clueless.”
The free world –“The West”– faces four terrible problems: a near-nuclear Iran, this spreading Sunni jihadism, an old KGBer with visions of retro-Soviet glory in the person of Vladimir Putin, and a surging PRC. A serious president would spend most of his time trying to rally the world of very different interests into a united four-sided front against these four threats, and he or she would constantly be balancing priorities based on the threat matrix of the morning. That’s what George W Bush and Dick Cheney did every day after 9/11, and it is what President Obama refuses to do at all at least in public. President Obama is trying to make it through to his Carter Center career phase with as little engagement with the realities of the world add possible so he can spend the next 30 to 40 years blaming either Bush or whomever turns out to be POTUS 45 for either breaking the world or breaking Obama’s fixes to it.
The Yezidis and the Kurds, like the gassed Syrian children and the people of Crimea, are inconvenient reminders that everything Obama campaigned on through 2012 was a lie, and that Romney was in fact right about the state of the world and of America’s defenses. Read the The National Defense Panel’s review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, titled “Ensuring A Strong defense For The Future” and the extent of the president’s fecklessness about the nation’s military will be impossible to absorb.
Don’t have time between rounds of golf to read Wright or the report? OK, then, how about just this exchange from a week ago with between Breaking Defense’s James Kitfield and Lt. General Michael Flynn, the outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency:
JK: When you were asked recently at the Aspen Security Forum whether the United States is safer from the terrorist threat today than before 9/11, you answered no.
Flynn: I know that’s a scary thought, but in 2004, there were 21 total Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 18 countries. Today, there are 41 Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 24 countries. A lot of these groups have the intention to attack Western interests, to include Western embassies and in some cases Western countries. Some have both the intention and some capability to attack the United States homeland.
For instance, we’re doing all we can to understand the outflow of foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq, many of them with Western passports, because another threat I’ve warned about is Islamic terrorists in Syria acquiring chemical or biological weapons. We know they are trying to get their hands on chemical weapons and use what they already have to create a chemical weapons capability.
Remember anthrax was used in 2001 [killing five people] and pretty much paralyzed Capitol Hill. If that anthrax had been dispersed more efficiently, it could have killed a quarter million people.
JK: You also said recently that terrorist leaders like Osama bin Laden represent the leadership of al-Qaeda, but that “core al-Qaeda” is its ideology of perpetual jihad.
Flynn: Yes, and unfortunately the core ideology and belief system is spreading, not shrinking. Look at the unbelievably violent videos [of beheadings, executions and the destruction of religious places] coming out of Iraq just in recent days. I’ve physically interrogated some of these guys, and I’ve had the opportunity to hear them talking about their organizations and beliefs. These are people who have a very deeply-rooted belief system that is just difficult for Americans to comprehend. Just think about the mindset of a suicide bomber.
I added the emphasis above. The person who seems to have the most difficulty comprehending this terrible bottom line is President Obama, and thus the mixed messages on the Yezidis and the man on the balcony in Mosul –the captain of the jayvee squad.
President Obama isn’t the only willfully blind man in D.C. Harry Reid is the most irresponsible senator in the body’s post-Civil War history as far as I can tell, and the GOP has its own band of ostriches who are believers that we can withdraw from the battle and wait out the fire’s eventual extinguishment.
My fear is that every bad actor in the world has taken this president’s measure and understand that the next two-and-a-half years are the best hope for expansion and breakout in the next forty or fifty or more. The clueless president, the golfing Commander-in-Chief, presents a rare opportunity that everyone in Moscow and Mosul, Beijing and Teheran understand even if the network newsrooms don’t. Which is why General Flynn sounded so grim. The serious people know, and the serious people aren’t in Martha’s Vineyard or with the negotiators in Geneva or advising in Kiev.
Pray that the awake and serious people outside of the U.S. do everything they can to rush arms to the Kurdish pesh merge, that Egypt’s al-Sisi and Israel’s Netanyahu keep the Hamas branch of radical Islam contained, and that the allies drag John Kerry from the rooms in Geneva before he gives the mullahs a nuke or two in a show of good faith in his own endlessly intoning voice and incoherent barrage of words. There is Harper in Canada, and Abbott in Australia —Abbott had his own very unique reminder shown off to the world yesterday— and a few hundred million Muslims who hate the disfigurement of their faith this way.
But the person most responsible for responsibly dealing with the world as it is not as Martha’s Vineyard would wish it to be, well, he doesn’t want to deal with this mess, or at least acknowledge it. That would bring him too close to acknowledging that W was right and the Nobel Committee so wrong as to be hilarious if it wasn’t so terrible a judgment. Withdrawn and closeted with his shrinking band of loyalists and surrounded by a complacent White House press corps –recall that the day before the massacre of the Yezidis began there was an uneventful presser with POTUS yawning his way through questions that included how he would use executive orders to help this or that special interest group– President Obama golfs on towards retirement and a lecture series on how his approach was right and W’s wrong. No matter what the man in Mosul says.