by Daniel Greenfield
Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to lay out an offensive strategy for defeating ISIS. Instead his real mission was a defensive strategy to protect Obama from critics on the right and the left.
Obama’s delayed strategy hasn’t won over liberals and conservatives. It certainly hasn’t won over the American people. For the first time, Obama’s counterterrorism policy no longer has the support of a majority of Americans. Americans don’t believe that Obama can keep them safe. They suspect that he’s just trying to protect the last shreds of his fading popularity by bombing ISIS. And they’re right.
Kerry was on the defensive from the first, appeasing Code Pink protesters there in support of ISIS, as they have in the past shown up in support of Hamas, and then taking fire from members of the Senate from both parties. He began his statement by appeasing Code Pink and ended it by appeasing Islam.
His statement was layered with television friendly talking points. “We do have a clear strategy,” he insisted. The defensive statement was a reference to Obama’s own disavowal of a strategy. Since then Obama, Kerry and countless administration personnel have insisted that there really is a strategy.
Defending Obama against accusations that his delayed response had allowed ISIS to become a major threat, he claimed that, “Early this summer the ISIL threat accelerated when it effectively erased the Iraq-Syria border and the Mosul Dam fell. The President acted immediately.”
“Immediately” makes Obama sound proactive. Kerry’s testimony was full of similarly active language. He used the word “immediately” three times in close succession. But cheap marketing tricks can’t cover up the fact that Obama’s “immediately” kicked in when ISIS was marching on Baghdad. That “immediately” sounds a lot like “the horse ran away and we immediately shut the burn door.” If you wait until an Al Qaeda spinoff has nearly taken over two countries, then there’s nothing immediate about your actions.
Kerry’s statement was filled with such delayed immediacies. “Deliberately and decisively, we further surged the ISR missions immediately,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In fact there was nothing decisive or immediate about it.
Obama significantly delayed the rescue of the hostages leading to the televised beheadings. He responded with air strikes only when actual genocide had begun taking place and Iraq appeared to be on the verge of falling to ISIS.
There’s nothing immediate about any of that.
After boasting of the “immediacy” of the response, Kerry then walked that back claiming that the response was delayed in order to create an inclusive Iraqi government and assemble an international coalition. The international coalition consists of countries whose leaders are willing to be photographed with John Kerry. Some might say that’s a more serious sacrifice than actually sending troops into battle.
Or as Kerry said in his testimony, “There are more than 50 countries that already have agreed or are now doing something. Not every country will decide that their role is to have some kind of military engagement, but every country can do something.”
Where Bush had managed to assemble a coalition of countries willing to send ground troops, Obama and Kerry have assembled a coalition of countries for a war that won’t actually fight in the war, but will do something. What is that something? It could be anything. It’s the “Do Something” coalition.
Like everything about Kerry’s testimony, the only strategy involved is domestic political gamesmanship.
The 50 number isn’t a coincidence. The “Coalition of the Willing” had 49 members. Obama is trying to show that he can go one country more. Even if unlike the “Coalition of the Willing” its members won’t fight or do much of anything. But they will do “something” even if it’s issuing a press release and that will allow the media to claim that Obama has assembled a larger coalition than George W. Bush did.
By one country. Of such petty cynicism is the anti-ISIS strategy woven.
Kerry waxed enthusiastic about the accomplishments of the “inclusive” government. “The result is something also for Iraq that it’s never seen before in its history: an election deemed credible by the United Nations followed by a peaceful transition of power without any U.S. troops on the ground.”
And all it took was ISIS on the front lawn of Baghdad. By “peaceful transition of power”, Kerry means a transition in which the sitting Prime Minister deployed troops and has to be forced out by one of his own clerics. That’s not the peaceful triumph of democracy that Kerry seems to think it is.
While US troops were not on the ground (unless you count the nearly 1,000 that officially are), the only reason for the transition was in exchange for US military intervention. It’s a little cynical of Kerry to claim that using the promise of military intervention is more democratic than having US troops on the ground.
The withdrawal from Iraq, according to Obama, would lead to an inclusive government. But instead it took the return of the United States to Iraq to bring that inclusive government into being. If Kerry were honest, he would admit that the transition actually disproves the entire Iraq policy that his boss used as his election platform. Instead he acts as if it somehow proves him right.
Kerry needs to claim some sort of diplomatic accomplishment to explain the failure to act. The Democrats have become comfortable with diplomatic rhetoric and uncomfortable with the use of force. Obama’s approval ratings have tumbled because he is incapable of offering strong wartime leadership.
But no speech on ISIS by any member of the administration would be complete without more Islamic revisionism.
And Secretary of State John Kerry certainly did not disappoint.
Kerry fumed that ISIS were “cold-blooded killers marauding across the Middle East making a mockery of a peaceful religion.” He asserted that the “Do Something” coalition was about exposing ISIS as un-Islamic.
“This mission isn’t just about taking out an enemy on the battlefield; it’s about taking out a network, decimating and discrediting a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement,” he said.
“We must continue to repudiate the gross distortion of Islam that ISIL is spreading,” Kerry whined. That would be the gross distortion spread by Mohammed and his followers through the Koran.
Repudiating it would be a good start, but it would also be considered blasphemy. And the followers of Islam, like ISIS, respond to such repudiations with threats of violence and actual violence.
The real mission of the “Do Something” coalition isn’t to destroy ISIS; it is to protect the reputation of Islam. Kerry’s real mission in the Senate wasn’t to lay out a strategy for defeating ISIS, but to protect the reputation of Obama. If the strategy is out to lunch and the mission seems vague, it’s because the real action isn’t taking place in Iraq, but in Washington. It’s not about defeating ISIS. It’s about perpetuating the disastrous policies that allowed it to become so big and so powerful.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.
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