** Originally posted at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
Just under a year ago James Foley, an American journalist, was killed by ISIS (also known as ISIL or Islamic State). Just prior to that time, the general public were unaware of this terrorist organization. Within a month, the cold-blooded murder of Steven Sotloff, another American journalist, cemented the anger of America with this terrorist organization. President Obama, after initial stumbles citing no plan exited to deal with ISIS, rebounded on Sept 3, 2014 and promised the nation a plan to “…degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat…“
Fast forward to today, and ISIS remains entrenched in a ground war. It is actively fighting the Syrian government, the Iraqi government, while having endured over 5,000 airstrikes from the international coalition that President Obama has lauded in the past year. ISIS is arguably not degraded, and certainly not destroyed. Hundreds have been alleged to have been beheaded, with hundreds (possibly thousands) more murdered in an ethnic genocide.
The response from President Obama on July 6, 2015, has been underwhelming. After what has been reported as a rare meeting with the Pentagon (his last trip there was in October 2014), President Obama struck a blow in the US battle with ISIS. Obama Administration Press Secretary Josh Earnest accused Republicans of blocking the nomination of Adam Szubin – thus preventing the US from cutting ISIS off from international funding. Absent from that attack on Republicans was the fact that ISIS has begun minting its own currency, and already has hordes of cash, gold, and oil.
On a more ISIS focused front, President Obama was a bit more muted,
“This will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign.”
Looking forward, President Obama has stated that the new plan to combat ISIS will be to double down on the combination of international airstrikes, as well as the funding and training of Syrian rebel forces. Thus far, ABC News reports that out of a planned 5,400 rebel troops a year, the US has trained less than 100.
It is this lackluster response that has placed pressure on the international coalition in the past. From the lack of foresight to address the vaccum of power being created in regions where ISIS has been forced to retreat – like in Raqqa where Kurd forces are now facing a backlash from Sunni Arabs fearing Kurd invasion of their lands – to focus on Iraq as opposed to Syria where most of the ISIS forces are, to the growing focus as stated by General John Allen, on June 2, 2015, to
“…deal with inherent social, economic, religious issues. Because in the end, the aggregation of those creates an environment where an organisation like Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the IS group) can find cohesion and purpose.”
It is that alternative strategy, rarely discussed by the Obama Administration in US news media that is a central portion of the Obama strategy. To address the ethnic tensions in the region, to shift the focus from the impoverished quality of life many in the region live through the solution, long-term, is social and economic. When President Obama stated today that ISIS is “dug in” and must be “rooted out” of the civilian population, he may be referring to the plan detailed by State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on MSNBC, February 17, 2015,
“We need in the medium- to longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs… We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.”
Thus, the Obama strategy for fighting ISIS, a year in the making, boils down to a few simple steps:
- Bomb ISIS where we see ISIS. (As long as we only look in Iraq)
- Find someone that will take our money and guns and hope they fight ISIS. (Although this is part of how we enabled ISIS, using this strategy against Syria)
- Create jobs (Just like we did in Iraq)
- On the domestic front, don’t mention #3, instead blame Republicans
- On the international front, focus on #1 and #3, especially in talks with France.
This is not an intricate plan. It is not a short-term plan. It is a plan without a clear end-point, either in time or proof of success. Perhaps most importantly, to-date it (debatably) has not been an effective plan. But it now is (once again) America’s plan under the Obama Administration.