Of all the silliness that came out of President Obama’s final State of the Union speech, his remarks about the Islamic State went beyond mere silliness and into the realm of the dangerously outrageous. Despite once admitting it may have been a mistake to dismiss ISIS as Al Qaeda’s “JV squad,” Obama seems to still regard the terror organization as a minor threat.
“Over-the-top claims that this is World War 3 just play into their hands,” Obama told Congress and the nation Tuesday night. ISIS, he said, “does not threaten our national existence.”
Once again, Obama was much more concerned about Islam’s reputation than the war on terror. He saved his harshest rhetoric not for the bloodthirsty murderers who are spreading violence throughout the world but for politicians who “insult Muslims.” Though he didn’t call any Republican presidential candidates out by name, he warned against “echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.”
Obama’s comments on terrorism drew a brilliant response from Sen. Ted Cruz, who said the president’s speech was “less a State of the Union and more a state of denial.”
That classic burn, unfortunately, describes more than President Obama’s SOTU address. It encapsulates perfectly his entire foreign policy. Obama will always be able to take credit for Osama bin Laden (as he did Tuesday night), but one victory does not magically make up for seven years’ worth of staggering blunders. The Iraq troop withdrawal, the Arab Spring bombings in Libya, the Iranian nuclear deal, and the strategy to remove Syria’s dictator are but a handful of this president’s most unforgivable mistakes.
But in continuing to pretend that ISIS is no big deal, Obama is making his most tragic mistake yet. His airstrikes, which sound so impressive when he starts numbering the missiles, have yet to do any fundamental damage to this organization. Yes, coalition forces have managed to keep ISIS from gaining new ground, but this war isn’t just about protecting Syria and Iraq. This is a sophisticated, well-funded, global network of Islamic jihad – not just, as Obama said, “masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks.”
ISIS is neither strengthened nor weakened by American political rhetoric. That was one thing that Obama got right; it will certainly take more than “tough talk” to destroy these fanatics. We need action, though, and significant military action requires the will of the American public. If our leader is unwilling to inspire that will, ISIS is certainly capable of doing it themselves.