October 26, 2021

How Obama Caused ISIS

The Syria policy of the Obama administration is the main reason for the growth of the Islamic State (or ISIS)  – and with it, for the current crisis in Iraq, and for a greatly increased danger of terrorism in Europe and America.

Administration policy has fanned the rebellion in Syria and kept it going for three full years, while doing nothing to bring it to a successful close. Sometimes the administration has explicitly tried to keep the rebels in a stalemate with Assad; Secretary of State Kerry said that it was his policy to do just that, in order to promote negotiations and “peace.” The result, so obvious as to make that statement a shameless Orwellianism, has been to keep the war dragging on.

This has provided the hothouse for the growth of the extremist Islamic State. In due course, it spilled over from Syria into Iraq, and it has issued threats against the American homeland. The Obama-Kerry policy has also made for the more than 190,000 deaths in Syria, 500,000 wounded, and 8 million refugees (more than 2 million abroad, 6 million inside Syria) — this, out of a population of about 22 million.

It is hard to imagine a policy more irresponsible, or worse from a moral standpoint. Yet it has been the long-standing policy of Obama and Kerry — and it was Secretary of State Clinton’s, too, until her last weeks in office, when she finally seemed to be getting serious, only to have her new plans thrown out by Kerry. Fanning a rebellion just up to the point where the country is bleeding continuously — what could be more horrible? As the saying goes, “It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake.” Worse, because it keeps compounding the crime, as a matter of principle. But absurd behaviors often have their causes in beliefs. This policy has been a logical product of the attitudes and ideologies of the Obama administration: anti-anti-Islamism, moral posturing, moral inversion — enthusiasm about toppling allies like Mubarak, nervousness about toppling adversaries like Assad — and, under the guise of peace, an ideological neutralism directed against one’s own side, something very different from an honestly neutral objectivity.

There are several other self-defeating U.S. policies that have nurtured the rise of the Islamic State, directly and indirectly. They go beyond Syria; indeed, they span the entire Mideast:

1. The “little and late” character of the current air strikes in Iraq.

The U.S. for months ignored Iraq’s requests for help. It just let the Islamic State keep growing. The belated help has been minimalist, and it is given a false, self-limiting rationale. Militarily, the refusal to put boots on the ground means that we lack the guidance needed for fully effective air strikes. Politically, Obama has relied on Iraq’s democratic parliamentary process to make essential changes, and the most it has been capable of delivering is another leader from within Maliki’s Shi’a party, hardly a good beginning for winning back Sunni trust. What was plainly needed was a figure from Ayad Allawi’s mixed Shia-Sunni party instead.

2. The prior complete withdrawal from Iraq.

This compounded the mistake of the Bush administration in destabilizing Iraq, while undoing Bush’s self-corrective measure, the surge. Obama argues that he had to withdraw, after failing to get a new status-of-forces agreement, but that failure was far from a mere objective fact. Obama did not keep pushing by the usual methods that have gotten America status-of-forces agreements and allowed us to keep adequate long-term residual forces on the ground elsewhere. He was too interested in satisfying his domestic base with a total withdrawal.