Now that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has taken Mosul and Tikrit and has set its sights on Baghdad, Barack Obama has responded with a strong statement – and in doing so, revealed the deep contradictions in and incoherence of his entire foreign policy.
3. U.S. troops in Iraq vs. no U.S. troops in Iraq
Obama declared Thursday: “Iraq’s gonna need more help. It’s gonna need more help from us, and it’s gonna need more help from the international community. So my team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them. I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter.”
Immediately after saying that he was not ruling out anything, however, Obama seemed to rule out U.S. military intervention in Iraq: “We’re not gonna be able to be everywhere all the time. But what we can do is to make sure that we are consistently helping to finance, train, advise military forces with partner countries, including Iraq, that have the capacity to maintain their own security.”
The great man then reminded us that this would not be an instant fix: “And that is a long and laborious process, but it’s one that we need to get started. That’s part of what the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund that I’m going to be calling for Congress to help finance is all about: giving us the capacity to extend our reach without sending U.S. troops to play whack-a-mole wherever there ends up being a problem in a particular country. That’s gonna be more effective, it’s gonna be more legitimate in the eyes of people in the region as well as the international community, but it’s going to take time to build it. In the short term, we have to deal with what clearly is an emergency situation in Iraq.”
So apparently the solution to the problem in Iraq would be the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, but that would take a long time to develop, and in the meantime, we would have to deal with the emergency there, and he wasn’t ruling anything out to deal with that – except the use of U.S. troops, who can’t be everywhere. He thus deftly managed a complete non-elucidation of the question of whether he was actually ruling out direct military intervention in Iraq.
2. “Jihadists”? What?
In referring to the fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as “jihadists,” Obama broke with his own administration’s policy. CIA chief John Brennan said in 2010 that Islamic jihadists were not Islamic jihadists: “They are not jihadists, for jihad is a holy struggle, an effort to purify for a legitimate purpose, and there is nothing — absolutely nothing — holy or pure or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.”
This was not just Brennan’s opinion: in October 2011, the Obama administration placed off-limits any investigation of the beliefs, motives and goals of jihad terrorists, overseeing the scrubbing of all counter-terror training materials of all mention of Islam and jihad in connection with terrorism. At that time, Dwight C. Holton, former U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, emphasized that training materials for the FBI would be purged of everything politically incorrect: “I want to be perfectly clear about this: training materials that portray Islam as a religion of violence or with a tendency towards violence are wrong, they are offensive, and they are contrary to everything that this president, this attorney general and Department of Justice stands for. They will not be tolerated.”
But if the people who just took Mosul are indeed engaged in an Islamic jihad, then Islam is at least arguably “a religion of violence or with a tendency toward violence.” In this, of course, Obama fell into the chasm between his fantasy-based counter-terror policy and what is obvious and manifest reality: he knows that the warriors of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are jihadists, and in an unguarded moment, said so – thereby demonstrating the incoherence of his own position on this question.
1. Aiding jihadists in Syria and opposing them in Iraq
Last year, Barack Obama wanted to invade Syria on the side of the “jihadists” he is now saying must be stopped. He has given weapons to groups in Syria that he claimed were “moderate,” but which actually were collaborating with these jihadists: the Long War Journal reported on June 29, 2013, that the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, which is “al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria,” has “cooperated with Free Syrian Army units to establish sharia, or Islamic law, in Aleppo and in eastern Syria.”
What is the Free Syrian Army? The “moderates” whom we are training and to whom we are giving weapons: “the US government is backing the Free Syrian Army despite the group’s known ties to the Al Nusrah Front.”
So apparently it’s all right for the group the U.S. backs to establish Islamic law in Aleppo, but not all right for a similar and allied group to establish Islamic law in Mosul.
Barack Obama’s foreign policy is utterly incoherent, and the world is on the brink of catastrophe because of it.