The day after the President of the United States gave his first wartime speech, 13 years into America's long march against Islamic extremism, his Secretary of State declared we were not at war with ISIS but “What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation, and it's going to go on for some period of time".
This confusion was echoed by Susan Rice and Marie Harf and contradicted by Josh Ernest at the White House and at the Pentagon. It seemed lost on some that Obama was basing his authority to go to war without Congressional authority on the 2001 and 2003 resolutions against al-Qaeda. The 2001 resolution mentioned "war" four times and the 2003 mentioned it nine times.
This was followed by the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond telling reporters at a news conference in Berlin: Let me be clear; Britain will not be taking part in any air strikes in Syria." He said London won't be "revisiting" the issue after Parliament decided last year against participating in air strikes. Number 10 Downing Street then had to walk that back by saying that P.M. David Cameron had not yet decided on air strikes. (However after the Saturday release of a You Tube video of the decapitation of British aid worker, David Cawthorne Haines, that could change dramatically.)
It all went down hill after that with Germany stating that they were not yet in the coalition followed by Turkey and then Saudi Arabia announcing that their contribution would be only the training of the Syrian Free Army on Saudi territory.
Friday it got worse with the CIA in a surprise release stating that ISIS had grown by as much as 300% since June and now numbered between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters in the terror army. This would make ISIS the 76th largest army out of 106 forces in the world. It should be remembered that when they took Fallujah in the beginning of 2014 they were estimated to be around 4000 strong.
When it comes to Barack Obama we have learned over 6 years to live in a state of diminishing expectations. Thus when he gives us a little, many tend to bequeath it a potency that is not there. He began his fifteen minutes into war making with a pronouncement that ISIL or ISIS is not Islamic nor is it a state. Who then are the volunteers who have swelled its ranks at 500 a week...Presbyterians? The insistence of Obama to protect anything and everything Islamic is the source of this obsession. The reflexive impulse to see Islam in western terms is the source of those non Muslims who always want to begin the conversation with the assertion that "Islam is a religion of Peace". They are the 21st century avatars of those with a "little knowledge" and thus are as dangerous as ISIS.
Then came his predictable pledge of no ground troops from the US, causing Speaker Boehner to decry "An F-16 is not a strategy" and that an air war alone will not get the job done.
Obama's claim that ISIS or the Islamic State is not a state is likewise questionable. ISIS now occupies 18 cities in Iraq and 22 cities in Syria. 31 of that total are under their full control. The opposition to ISIS , which includes both the disparate elements of the Syrian Free Army and the Syrian Army of Bashir al-assad is all in the eastern corridor. Part of the east , the north central and the west are basically controlled by ISIS.
In Iraq, Anbar and parts of Diyala, Salahuddin and Nineveh Provinces extending south to Bagdad and west to Kurdistan are controlled by ISIS. This territory is roughly the size of Belgium or Jordan and estimated by some to be as large as 35,000 square miles. The 8 Sunni "militias' in the Sunni triangle at the present time are all either supporting ISIS or in a truce with them although there have been incidents of fighting between ISIS and the Jaysh Rijal al- Tariqa al- Naqshbandia (JRTN) the largest Sunni nationalist groups that also has Caliphate type dreams. ISIS also controls one border crossing in Syria and perhaps as many as three in Iraq.
Over two million people in both Syria and Iraq have been displaced and are living in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey or Iraqi Kurdistan.
Obama has now stacked what remains of his Presidency on a proposal that seems both unstable and unserious. It is beginning to feel in its infancy like more spin than substance and some openly wonder if this is serious or just more political necessity.
He has tried to convince us that he waited for a new regime in Bagdad and now that he has it no one can really say if it is the real deal or not. In Iraq, it is a new Sunni Awakening that is needed along with an Iraqi army that can and will fight. In Syria it is a collection of insurgents some with al-Qaeda ties, who Mr. Obama just weeks ago demeaned as "Doctors, Farmers and Pharmacists" whom he would be stupid to arm. Then his core principle was "don't do stupid "stuff"". Now it is "no safe haven" for those who try to kill us. The truth is that nobody knows what this is or where this is going and that in the long run is the biggest danger of it all.
No American should be sent into harms way if the ultimate objective is not complete and total victory. Anything less is immoral and illogical. A three year campaign with the finale left to a new President is yet another example of his propensity to fit square pegs into round holes. It is a graduate studies exercise devoid of the essence of or the unpredictability of the reality of war. Why three years? Three years will allow this cancer to metastasize and grow until ISIS is not just part of Islam but is Islam itself.