By Daniel Greenfield
Last year at a NATO summit, Obama explicitly disavowed the idea of
containing ISIS. "You can't contain an organization that is running
roughshod through that much territory, causing that much havoc,
displacing that many people, killing that many innocents, enslaving that
many women," he said.
Instead he argued, "The goal has to be to dismantle them."
Just before the Paris massacre, Obama shifted back to containment. “From
the start, our goal has been first to contain them, and we have
contained them,” he said.
Pay no attention to what he said last year. There’s a new message now.
Last year Obama was vowing to destroy ISIS. Now he had settled for
containing them. And he couldn’t even manage that.
ISIS has expanded into Libya and Yemen. It struck deep into the heart of
Europe as one of its refugee suicide bombers appeared to have targeted
the President of France and the Foreign Minister of Germany. That’s the
opposite of a terrorist organization that had been successfully
Obama has been playing tactical word games over ISIS all along. He would
“degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. Or perhaps dismantle the Islamic
State. Or maybe just contain it.
Containment is closest to the truth. Obama has no plan for defeating
ISIS. Nor is he planning to get one any time soon. There will be talk of
multilateral coalitions. Drone strikes will take out key figures. And
then when this impressive war theater has died down, ISIS will suddenly
pull off another attack.
And everyone will be baffled at how the “defeated” terrorist group is still on the march.
The White House version of reality says that ISIS attacked Paris because
it’s losing. Obama also claimed that Putin’s growing strength in Syria
is a sign of weakness. Never mind that Putin has all but succeeded in
getting countries that were determined to overthrow Assad to agree to
let him stay.
Weakness is strength. Strength is weakness.
Obama’s failed wars occupy a space of unreality that most Americans
associate with Baghdad Bob bellowing that there are no American soldiers
in Iraq. (There are, according to the White House, still no American
ground forces in Iraq. Only American forces in firefights on the ground
There’s nothing new about any of this. Obama doesn’t win wars. He lies about them.
The botched campaign against ISIS is a replay of the disaster in
Afghanistan complete with ridiculous rules of engagement, blatant
administration lies and no plan for victory. But there can’t be a plan
for victory because when Obama gets past the buzzwords, he begins
talking about addressing root causes.
And you don’t win wars by addressing root causes. That’s just a euphemism for appeasement.
Addressing root causes means blaming Islamic terrorism on everything
from colonialism to global warming. It doesn’t mean defeating it, but
finding new ways to blame it on the West.
Obama and his political allies believe that crime can’t be fought with
cops and wars can’t be won with soldiers. The only answer lies in
addressing the root causes which, after all the prattling about climate
change and colonialism, really come down to the Marxist explanation of
When reporters ask Obama how he plans to win the war, he smirks tiredly
at them and launches into another condescending explanation about how
the situation is far too complicated for anything as simple as bombs to
work. Underneath that explanation is the belief that wars are
Obama knows that Americans won’t accept “war just doesn’t work” as an
answer to Islamic terrorism. So he demonstrates to them that wars don’t
work by fighting wars that are meant to fail.
In Afghanistan, he bled American soldiers as hard as possible with
vicious rules of engagement that favored the Taliban to destroy support
for a war that most of the country had formerly backed. By blowing the
war, Obama was not only sabotaging the specific implementation of a
policy he opposed, but the general idea behind it. His failed wars are
meant to teach Americans that war doesn’t work.
The unspoken idea that informs his strategy is that American power is
the root cause of the problems in the region. Destroying ISIS would
solve nothing. Containing American power is the real answer.
Obama does not have a strategy for defeating ISIS. He has a strategy for defeating America.
Whatever rhetoric he tosses out, his actual strategy is to respond to
public pressure by doing the least he can possibly do. He will carry out
drone strikes, not because they’re effective, but because they inflict
the fewest casualties on the enemy.
He may try to contain the enemy, not because he cares about ISIS, but
because he wants to prevent Americans from “overreacting” and demanding
harsher measures against the Islamic State. Instead of fighting to win
wars, he seeks to deescalate them. If public pressure forces him to go
beyond drones, he will authorize the fewest air strikes possible. If he
is forced to send in ground troops, he will see to it that they have the
least protection and the greatest vulnerability to ISIS attacks.
Just like in Afghanistan.
Obama would like ISIS to go away. Not because they engage in the ethnic
cleansing, mass murder and mass rape of non-Muslims, but because they
wake the sleeping giant of the United States.
And so his idea of war is fighting an informational conflict against
Americans. When Muslim terrorists commit an atrocity so horrifying that
public pressure forces him to respond, he lies to Americans. Each time
his Baghdad Bob act is shattered by another Islamic terrorist attack, he
piles on even more lies.
Any strategy that Obama offers against ISIS will consist of more of the
same lies and word games. His apologists will now debate the meaning of
“containment” and whether he succeeded in defining it so narrowly on his
own terms that he can claim to have accomplished it. But it really
doesn’t matter what his meaning of “containment” or “is” is. Failure by
any other name smells just as terrible.
Obama responded to ISIS by denying it’s a threat. Once that stopped
being a viable strategy, he began to stall for time. And he’s still
stalling for time, not to beat ISIS, but to wait until ISIS falls out of
the headlines. That has been his approach to all his scandals from
ObamaCare to the IRS to the VA.
Lie like crazy and wait for people to forget about it and turn their attention to something else.
This is a containment strategy, but not for ISIS. It’s a containment
strategy for America. Obama isn’t trying to bottle up ISIS except as a
means of bottling up America. He doesn’t see the Caliph of the Islamic
State as the real threat, but the average American who watches the
latest beheading on the news and wonders why his government doesn’t do
something about it. To the left it isn’t the Caliph of ISIS who starts
the wars we ought to worry about, but Joe in Tennessee, Bill in
California or Pete in Minnesota.
That is why Obama sounds bored when talking about beating ISIS, but
heats up when the conversation turns to fighting Republicans. It’s why
Hillary Clinton named Republicans, not ISIS, as her enemy.
The left is not interested in making war on ISIS. It is too busy making war on America.