Obama’s Peculiar War Speech, Deconstructed

If you heard our president’s address tonight laying out a war of sorts against what he says is a non-Islamic Islamic State and are relieved or confident after hearing it, we’d like some of what you’re having.

RedState’s Erick Erickson wants some, too. Erickson:

Folks, this speech is what I imagine you’d try to say to your mom if she walked in on you playing with yourself. It was awkward and we’ve caught the President with his pants down. Now he’s scrambling. But at least we can thank heaven that, according to Barack Obama, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is neither Islamic nor a state.

It was going to be difficult for the speech to impress or stir a nation. At best, it’s a mulligan. Under any scenario, it’s an admission that events, and the American people, are leading him and he’s following along in making national security policy.

This? We’ll have to call this a worst-case scenario. On multiple levels.

My fellow Americans – tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

He starts off calling it ISIL, rather than ISIS. That’s the White House’s chosen formulation of the Islamic State. ISIL stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the Levant is an old word for a vast area which includes Lebanon, parts of Turkey, all of Jordan, Israel and even parts of Saudi Arabia and the Sinai Peninsula as well as Syria and part of Iraq. To call it ISIL, rather than ISIS, which is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – a correct term at this point since Iraq and Syria are the two countries in which it currently controls territory, should be very, very off-putting. That’s either a shot at Israel, which is bad enough but even worse since it’s also a shot at Jordan and Egypt who we would probably need the help of if we’re going to do any good, or it’s a refusal to explicitly name Syria as part of a conflict Obama wants to take us into. But Syria is part of the Levant. So all of this is very suspicious, frankly.

As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.

Osama bin Laden is no longer relevant to the conflict with ISIS, and to continue patting himself on the back about killing bin Laden actually hurts his cause in discussing his exploits in this fight. And the fact that we’ve taken out bad guys in Yemen and Somalia isn’t exactly significant of a glowing victory either – there seems an endless supply of Somalis to carry out the jihad, and Yemen could be run by something like ISIS at any time.

The statement that America is somehow safer isn’t borne out by any evidence, and it certainly flies in the face of public opinion. What Obama believes and says, when it flies in the face of perceived or concrete reality, does not change that reality. This is a point which continues to resurface throughout the speech.

Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL – which calls itself the “Islamic State.”

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

Our buddy Chris Holton supplies a response to this…

1. They aren’t “ISIL.” They are the Islamic State. Don’t make up names for the enemy.
2. IS does what they do based on Islamic Doctrine and Islamic Scripture. that is what THEY believe. What we think they should believe couldn’t be any less relevant.
3. Under Islamic doctrine, the definition of “innocents” is quite different from Western norms.
4. IS is Salafist. They consider many other Muslims to be apostates. Under Islamic doctrine, it is the duty of Muslims at large to kill apostates.

There is more, including the fact that the “terrorist organization” Obama wants to denigrate ISIS to be is in control of a sizable treasury, a territory the size of Belgium and some $10 million a day in revenues from oil wells they control.

But more importantly, we come back to the central point: Obama deigns to instruct the enemy on what they believe. That is not reality. ISIS believes in a militant, jihadist Islam frankly not dissimilar to that practiced by Muhammed as he spread his faith via the sword. To say that somehow jihadist Islam is not Islam, and to say that to followers of Islam, is not constructive. It is intended to deceive, not illuminate. It’s intended to soften the American people toward Muslims out of fear that Americans might mistreat Muslim store owners or toss incendiary devices at mosques.

It elevates “moderate” Muslims to a position of victimization or moral superiority which is not earned. “Moderate” Muslims are indeed part of the problem because they have refused to stand up and take care of the jihadists among them, and now it is the jihadists and not the “moderates” who are relevant.

The fact is, jihad is Islamic. That jihad is Islamic is the source for 1400 years of violence, brutality and blood, and that’s a sad circumstance which is not going away.

We deny this truth out of convenience, but more than that we deny it because many of our politicians are bought and paid for by Saudi Arabia and their Muslim Brotherhood epigones. This is true of Obama, whose administration is abjectly polluted with Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers, but it was also true of the previous administration. The Bush administration sent Karen Hughes all over the Muslim world in an attempt to lecture Muslims what their religion says and doesn’t say, and that effort was a total failure and frankly insulted more people than it moved.

This “jihad is not Islamic” line is a lie. It’s a lie bought and paid for by the Saudis, just like the American politicians who repeat it. And the American people deserve better.

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. In acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists – Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Certainly they’re barbaric, but unique? There was a beheading of an octogenarian grandmother on a city street in England last week by a Muslim convert. And enslavement, rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, genocide against non-Muslims…these things are fairly regular occurrences in the Muslim world and not just by hard-core jihadists.

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East – including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.

This is the “mulligan” part of the “mulligan” speech. We’ve gone from “ISIS is the JV” to “ISIS is a threat to the United States.” In less than a year.

I know many Americans are concerned about these threats. Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve. Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances. Since then, we have conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq. These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. These strikes have helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

The airstrikes are a good thing. We should have more of them, and Obama should go to Congress forthwith and seek authorization to continue them not only in Iraq but also in Syria so as to deny the enemy a place of refuge.

But this is not our fight alone. American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

What happens if this “inclusive” government in Iraq collapses into chaos or devolves into Shiite factionalism like its predecessor did? Does that mean the plan is off? Whether the Iraqis have a viable national government is not a consideration of importance where the defense of American security interests is concerned. If ISIS is a national-security threat to the United States they should be annihilated with no hesitation or distraction.

Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

It’s good that he will go into Syria, but who are these Iraqi forces he’s depending on? Is he talking about the Iraqi Army which dropped its weapons and fled upon ISIS’ initial advance? Is he talking about the Kurdish peshmerga he waited far too long to arm while they offered the only real resistance to the jihadists? This should have been made much clearer.

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi Security Forces. Now that those teams have completed their work – and Iraq has formed a government – we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission – we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We will also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.

Perhaps not bad policy, but those are boots on the ground. If he’s sending military advisors to support Iraqi ground troops, Obama is involving America in a ground war in Iraq. There is no honest way to deny it.

And this is quite possibly the right thing to do. But the American people are owed an honest accounting of what our government is doing. If you’re sending military advisors in, or special operators, or contractors late of the Navy SEALS, you are putting American boots on the ground in defense of our national security interests. And you should have the moral courage to say so.

This will likely resurface, and in a less humorous light than it is offered…

mission creep


Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters. In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.

Obama has failed to make the case that the “Syrian opposition,” which he has derided as farmers and pharmacists, is a viable recipient of military aid. At this point it is quite uncertain whether a case can still be made that if we are searching for a military partner in Syria against ISIS that we aren’t far better attempting to concoct an accord with the Assad regime. Either way, it is supreme foolishness at this point to even speak of some political solution to the Syrian crisis. That was a mission Obama effectively abjured a year ago; attempting to resurrect it now is only a distraction from the current mission of putting ISIS out of business.

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into – and out of – the Middle East. And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

This is all fine, but it is likely to ring hollow if there is a significant attack on America or American interests tomorrow – the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. We pray that vicious irony does not make its way to our doorstep.

Fourth, we will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

Too little, too late. It would have been far more presidential for Obama to make the statement that America will provide a haven for the brutalized Christians of Iraq and Syria if that is needed; after all, we seem to have few qualms about taking in Muslims from places like Somalia, and it turns out that those Somalis are becoming jihadists at an alarming rate.

This is our strategy. And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.

No, this is not American leadership at its best – and frankly, to blow that horn at this late date and in these diminished circumstances doesn’t just ring hollow; it comes off as petty and small. Also, why didn’t Obama honor our broad coalition of partners by naming them and their contribution to the mission? If they are in fact putting their best on the line in support of this noble cause, they should rate at least a mention in a presidential speech, no?

My Administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.

No, that’s not how this is done. What Obama is proposing is a war against ISIS. He needs to take that proposal to Congress and make the case, which the public currently supports, for prosecuting that war. That he’s not doing so is a matter of rank partisan politics – his party has devolved into, as Chuck Todd said, Jimmy Carter-level disrepute on foreign policy and national security, and for Obama to go to Congress with authorization under the War Powers Act will expose the fact that most of his party will not support military action in Iraq. That will cause a crisis of confidence within the Democrat Party, and Obama would rather have a constitutional crisis over another unauthorized war like the one he fought in Libya than a crisis of confidence within his party.

Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved – especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.

The war against ISIS will not be like Iraq, where Obama was left a success, but it will be like Somalia, which is exporting terror all over East Africa and beyond? This is his sales pitch?

My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked. Next week marks 6 years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression. Yet despite these shocks; through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back – America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.

This is aimed at improving American morale, but it rings quite hollow. It will be remembered if there is an attack on American soil tomorrow.

Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day – and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.

Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people – or the world – again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.

We’ve rallied the world against Russian aggression? Exactly how have we done that? And don’t the latest headlines say that Assad’s chemical stockpiles are largely intact?

America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia – from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East – we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform – pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.

When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety – our own security – depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for – timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.

Wonderful words, without much of a record of action to back them.

May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

May God especially bless us tomorrow. We need His protection, because our leadership to do it ourselves is very much in question.

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