First, they were Al Qaeda’s JV squad. Then they were a band of murderers who did not represent the true nature of Islam. Then, according to the State Department, all they needed was a good jobs program. Now, with the Islamic State growing stronger by the day, President Obama says that ideology, not guns, is the key to dismantling the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization.
“If we try to do everything ourselves,” Obama said Monday, “we’ll be playing whack-a-mole.”
The president remains determined to keep U.S. military troops out of the action, instead calling on local communities, Syrian rebels, and Iraqi soldiers to defend their homeland. And while he continues to show a public face of optimism, he admits that the ISIS threat is not going away anytime soon. “The battle for hearts and minds is going to be a generational struggle,” he predicted.
Whatever may happen in the generations to come, the fact remains that the U.S. and its allies are having limited success against ISIS in the here and now. The group continues to swell in both numbers and influence, proving that Obama is losing on both possible fronts. He’s certainly losing the military fight, and there is little to indicate that he’s doing any better on the ideological one.
In such a situation, it’s fair to wonder if “generational struggle” is a code phrase meaning: Well, I’m just gonna pass this on to the next guy. Obama doesn’t want to ruin his carefully-constructed image as a president of peace by getting us involved in another Middle Eastern war. By refusing to take the bold action necessary to defeat ISIS, he is making a dangerous wager. If they don’t attack us at home, he wins the bet. If they do, millions of Americans will suddenly become very interested in why this administration did not do more to stop these deadly extremists.
The president is not exactly wrong when he calls this an ideological battle. But if there’s a man less equipped to wage that battle than Barack Obama, he’s probably already waving a black flag in the desert. Confronting the ISIS “ideology” means confronting some of the tenets of Islam itself, and that’s something this president refuses to do. That’s not to say that ISIS = Islam, but it is an exercise in naiveté to claim they have nothing to do with one another. Until we get a president willing to confront some uncomfortable truths about Islam and terrorism, we will not make significant progress against this scourge. Not in one generation, not in a thousand.