Op-Ed

ISIS threat demands a strong response

President Obama is muddling his own message. In a recent overseas press conference, President Obama announced, “Our objective is clear — that is to degrade and destroy ISIS until it is no longer a threat, not just to Iraq, but also to the region and to the United States.”

However, when asked to clarify his statement regarding the destruction of ISIS, he backtracked suggesting that the United States can continue to shrink ISIS’ sphere of influence until it is reduced to a manageable problem.

Does Obama mean ISIS will be destroyed when it becomes manageable? Taken at his word, it appears that the president doesn’t know. Unfortunately, both friend and foe are witnesses to his waffling at this critical time.

It doesn’t take the savage beheading of a second American journalist to see that ISIS is evil much in the same way as al Qaida, perhaps even more so. It took 20 years and more than one administration, but the United States, with help from some allies, severely weakened al Qaida, demonstrating that this type of enemy can be defeated again.

ISIS is effectively showing its ability to finance and run an operation while establishing its position as a geopolitical force. The United States and its allies remain in a global war against terror. Some recent activities to consider: In Nigeria, Boko Haram has kidnapped and enslaves young girls; thousands of Christians have been all but annihilated in the Middle East; and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has made clear that ISIS, an unequivocal threat to the American homeland, has control of half of Iraq and half of Syria and shows no sign of remaining within those borders.

There is an obvious threat to U.S. national security and interests that requires a clear, if not muscular, response. So far, President Obama has shown neither.

The president would be wise to follow in the footsteps of President George H.W. Bush in the Gulf War of 1990. That August, Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait, which was a major supplier of oil to the United States. Hussein’s aggression also represented a real threat to Saudi Arabia and world stability.

As a former director of the CIA, Bush was a foreign-policy expert and enjoyed good relationships with many foreign leaders. He placed 500,000 troops in Saudi Arabia to protect against a possible invasion by Hussein and he mustered a multilateral coalition to militarily respond to Hussein’s brazenness. The coalition included Arab nations. It was a masterpiece in diplomatic and multilateral cooperation which was led by the U.S.

That would be difficult to replicate today because President Obama does not have those close ties abroad. His relationships in the Middle East are weak. In order to be successful against ISIS, Obama has to come to terms with Syria’s President Assad, whom he threatened more than once. Assad is no friend to human rights, much less democracy but in this case, there is no other choice. To make matters more complicated, Obama is trying to have it both ways, saying that ISIS must be destroyed and but then asserting that ISIS can be “managed.”

One American ISIS terrorist who recently was killed in battle worked at the Minneapolis airport. This could be significant as terrorists appear to have taken 11 commercial jets from Libya last month. The threat is real.

ISIS has many followers, but it also has more enemies than friends, even among other Muslim extremists. It is imperative that the United States convince the international community, to form a coalition against ISIS, an initiative that even Saudi Arabia would need to support. That requires the deft leadership that, as of now, President Obama has failed to display. It is as if he is uncomfortable with the full responsibility of the high office that he holds.

The nation is waiting for the president to speak about the threat of radical Islam with the same energy and clarity that he uses while touring the country and fundraising for the Democratic Party. Obama says that the problems in the Middle East are not new. This is true. As we approach another anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and Benghazi, stating the obvious doesn’t make America any safer.

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