As instability and violence increased in the Middle East, President Obama has consistently told Americans to ignore the troubling headlines. Al Qaeda, he maintained, was “on the run.” At its core, the terrorist group was “on its heels” and “decimated.” Speaking at the U.N. in 2011, the president’s assurance was unequivocal: “So let there be no doubt: the tide of war is receding.” He repeated these phrases often, particularly on the campaign trail.
Meanwhile, his administration’s foreign policy blunders piled up. When Libya became leaderless, America infamously led from behind – then our posts in Benghazi were attacked. The reset button with Russia was an embarrassing failure, underscored when a hot mic caught President Obama’s assurances to Vladimir Putin that he’d have “more flexibility” after the 2012 election. In Syria, the president didn’t bother to enforce the red line he established, and then turned to Russia for a political lifeline. Emboldened, Putin muscled his way into Ukraine. Then President Obama set five elite terrorist commanders free from U.S. custody. From Egypt to Afghanistan, the world takes note of America’s weakness.
Ryan Crocker, who served President Obama and three other presidents in the last 20 years as U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and (most recently) Afghanistan, summarized the current situation in Iraq last week (emphasis added):
[The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)] has effectively established a radical Islamic state.
We would be foolish to think that ISIS will not plan attacks against the West now that it has the space and security to do so. This is a more formidable force than Osama bin Laden’s group that brought us 9/11. Its fighters are experienced, completely committed to their cause, well armed and well financed. As many as 2,000 of them hold Western passports, including U.S. ones, so there’s no need for visas. This is global jihad, and it will be coming our way.
Caught off guard, the president was finally forced to admit the truth in an interview with ABC News. Terrorists are “gaining strength in some places,” he said, “but we’ve also gotten a lot better at protecting ourselves.” As if the tireless work of America’s national security personnel excuses his failed foreign policy.
This concession is significant for two reasons. First, it directly contradicts what the president has been telling the country. Second, if terrorists are “gaining strength” and now have “the space and security” to launch attacks on U.S. soil, that’s a step backward for America and our efforts to combat the global threat of terrorism and keep America safe.
“Retreating from the world stage…is not an option,” Speaker Boehner said this week. “It only undermines our allies and leads to more chaos that puts Americans at risk.” With two and a half years left in office, let’s hope President Obama changes course and offers a comprehensive strategy for both Iraq and the Middle East that reverses the momentum and spread of terrorism – before even more damage is done.