The president’s State of the Union address only briefly touched on the growing threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly know as ISIS or ISIL. Obama showed solidarity with terrorism victims whether they are in a “school in Pakistan or France.” Curiously he didn’t mention the recent atrocities committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, where at least 2,000 people were slaughtered. This is an atrocity and at least acknowledging it would show that he “stands united” with victims of terrorism. The best way to stand united with terrorism victims is to take the lead and fight terrorists. Obama was big on campaign-friendly phrases such as “hunting down terrorists” but short on actual concrete proposals to combat violent extremists.
Mr. President, the American people and the world needed to hear your plans to build an international coalition to crush the Islamic State. After all, if there is one common threat that most states—including states adversarial to the US—wish to eliminate, it’s ISIS. This threat presents a prime opportunity for the president to actually take the lead in combating a growing international problem. The Islamic State’s ever increasing audacity and ability to become the latest cause célèbre for every militant or dysfunctional person is alarming. Obama commented that he would seek congressional authorization for increased powers to fight ISIS, but nothing beyond that.
The president discussed his beloved idea of diplomacy, stating that we cannot rely on military action alone. I completely agree. So, where is your diplomacy in Syria, Mr. President? Are you actively trying to bring that war to a close? Syrians fighting Bashar al-Assad have been waiting for help for nearly four years. While some US assistance may have trickled in, serious US efforts to either support the Syrian oppositions groups or bring the war to an end through diplomacy are not sufficient. The Syrian war is related to the Islamic State’s ability to organize within Iraq after the US disastrously abandoned it in 2011.
The threats posed by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are very real. Events in the last two weeks have underscored that fact. Wishing the problem away and conducting half-hearted airstrikes will do little if anything to address the problems posed by terrorism. We are dealing with an actual threat, but more importantly we are dealing with an ideology that’s serious, organized, and determined. The president missed an opportunity last night to tell the world he’s serious in fighting ISIS by failing to state a concrete plan to address this issue.