President Barack Obama’s underplaying of the dangers of terrorism and its prime progenitor, the Islamic State, have been a consistent theme in his presidency. It was reflected in his last State of the Union Address delivered January 14.
Calling claims that the fight with the Islamic State is “World War III” “over-the-top,” Obama outlined his policy to destroy the terror group ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), as he refers to them.
Consistent with his characterization of the global wave of Islamist terrorism as “violent extremism,” he said, “We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are—killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.”
Yet, how to do that? Obama rightly pointed out that technology has globalized the terror threat – specifically the first step — the radicalization process, of which the Internet is a most accommodating medium.
Yet, the president stated emphatically, “We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis…. we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.”
With this approach, Obama is willing to accommodate the occasional and inevitable lone-Islamist-wolf attack, “even though in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage.”
But it is a failed approach. At the beginning of the Syrian civil war, when the conflict was still a democratic uprising, help from America may have prevented Islamist terror groups from taking over the opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Similarly, the power vacuum recreated by the premature withdrawal of American troops from Iraq was a trigger event exploited by al-Qaeda in Iraq (which later morphed into the Islamic State).
Obama may have convinced himself his step-back policies have so far worked for America. But the next years will most certainly see a difference. The influx of Syrian and other Middle Eastern immigrants into the U.S.– immigrants that have been and will continue to be impossible to vet – have the potential to change the picture dramatically, bringing the conflict to American soil.
Looking at Europe, which is at least a generation ahead of the U.S. vis-à-vis its failed policy of multiculturalism and the lack of integration of second generation immigrant youth, and an image of a powder keg begins to emerge.
The Islamic State brags that it has embedded operatives in the masses of immigrants. Judging from the perpetrators of the Paris attack, we should take them at their word and act accordingly.
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org
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