Barack Obama’s strategy in fighting ISIS may end up helping terrorists. I am not referring to the insanity of training and arming militants in Syria on the grounds that they are moderates who will fight ISIS rather than collaborate with them. That is a separate issue. I’m referring to our bombing campaign.
It would be one thing if we had a plan for swift and overwhelming victory (and that plan actually worked). But that is not going to happen. Remember what Barack Obama said:
My fellow Americans – tonight, I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL
There’s also the danger that the United States is uniting, rather than dividing, its terrorist adversaries. ISIL’s rejection of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership weakened the latter group’s grasp on foreign fighter flows and donor cash. By striking both ISIL and Al Qaeda’s official arm in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, the United States may be encouraging ISIL and Al Qaeda to return to coordinating rather than competing against each other. There are already hints of this happening elsewhere. Last week, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, two Al Qaeda affiliates losing manpower and momentum to the hot new kid on the block — ISIL — called for unity among jihadi groups in the fight against America. If Nusra and ISIL, rather than eroding each other’s support and competing for resources, join forces to combine ISIL’s resources and skill at insurgency in Iraq and Syria with Al Qaeda’s international terrorism knowhow, the danger to the United States and its interest around the world could multiply rapidly. In other words, the United States could win some tactical victories by hitting both groups hard in Syria, but might be committing a massive strategic blunder by uniting a jihadi landscape it desperately sought to fracture over the past decade.
There is another problem: what happens if “victory” in Syria and Iraq disperses these Jihadists? Our bombing runs the risk of bursting ISIS like a terrorist-filled piñata.
The Obama administration was under tremendous pressure, both in Washington and among America’s Sunni allies, to act in Syria. But bombing ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra could create consequences beyond the president’s control. What happens when the jihadis scatter to the winds, and American jets run out of targets?
All of this seems ill-planned and very risky. Terrorists could travel all over the world. And if someone dies, it will probably not be the President or anyone he cares about. The victims will probably be Americans who have no influence on foreign policy.