Commanders and commanders in chief always spoke of victory because nothing less was acceptable. When peace was not an option, triumph was the only reason to fight.
Obama has put himself at odds not just with that history, but with the very concept of national leadership. Nowhere has his failing been as obvious as in the fight against Islamic terrorism.
Beginning with his foolish refusal to concede the Islamic roots of Islamic terror, Obama’s uncertain course created the vacuum filled by Islamic State. Brutally determined to build a modern caliphate, it now controls about half of Syria and, after seizing the major Iraqi city of Ramadi, controls a huge portion of that country, as well.
It was after those shocking gains that Obama made his bizarre observation about not losing. That seems to be good enough for him.
“We’re eight months into what we’ve always anticipated to be a multiyear campaign,” he told The Atlantic magazine, calling the Ramadi loss a “tactical setback.”
A “campaign” for what? A “setback” from what?
Obama never laid out a clear vision, because he doesn’t have one. He pulled all American troops out of Iraq in 2011, and claimed credit for ending the war.
That helped get him re-elected, and he was dismissive of Islamic State even early last year, calling the terror group a “JV squad.” He was warned then he was wrong, yet it wasn’t until Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded last summer that Obama changed his tune.
Yet the pin-prick airstrikes he ordered were more about placating outraged public opinion than making a military difference. Despite his saying the goal was to “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group,” analysts scoffed that the means he offered were too puny to achieve the ends.
Nothing has changed — except Islamic State is proving his critics right with its expansion. And not just in territory, but in money, arms and manpower.
So much so that in its propaganda magazine, the group claims it might be able to buy a nuclear weapon within a year. “It’s the sum of all fears for Western intelligence agencies and it’s infinitely more possible today than it was just one year ago,” the magazine boasts. “And if not a nuke, what about a few thousand tons of ammonium nitrate explosive? That’s easy enough to make.”
The leaders of Islamic State are madmen, but they have a vision for victory, and a mountain of corpses in two countries to prove it.
The consequences of Obama’s fecklessness fall most heavily on Muslims, Christians and Kurds in Iraq and Syria. But it will not end there.
Islamic State wants to attack America and, as its magazine says, “do something big, something that would make any past operation look like a squirrel shoot . . . something truly epic.”