It has now been just over one year since President Barack Obama delivered a confident White House address explaining how the United States and its partners would be able to counter the Islamic State—which, in 2014, he claimed was neither Islamic nor a state. A year later, as we mark the fourteenth anniversary of September 11, ISIS is still very much Islamic and ever more entrenched as a rogue state. Obama’s 2014 speech about ISIS paved the way for the political and humanitarian crisis that we are now facing one year later. There are no surprises here: Bad consequences follow when a United States President thinks that he can counter forces of terrorism and world disorder on the cheap without the use or threat of ground forces.
And the bad guys recognized that, and acted accordingly.
His mistake was evident, even at the time. He told us “what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.” The word “ultimately” said it all. There was no urgency, no timetable for success, no awareness that the individuals who are being raped, killed, and terrorized cannot afford to wait for “ultimately.” They have to survive immediate threats, and a promise to “degrade” an enemy someday is no promise of assistance at all. His speech was an unambiguous signal to these people that they are on their own.
Given Obama’s rhetoric, our enemies know that they have a clear field of operation. The stirring words that the President will “hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” carried with it two dangerous caveats, both realized. First, he was not prepared to hunt down terrorist who threatened millions of other innocent lives. His speech was to the voters of the United States, not to the millions elsewhere who have no one else to whom to turn. Second, he also signaled unambiguously that he would not use ground forces as part of his hunt.So, now Europe's ground forces must deal with tens of thousands of refugees with needs for food, clothing, shelter, sanitary facilities. And, surely, some of the bad guys will have infiltrated along with them, and Europe's military/police will have to also deal with that.