National Security

Wishful Thinking Is Bad Policy for Fighting Terrorists

Obama may wish al-Qaida was decimated, but the evidence says otherwise.

Sep. 9, 2014

On May 2, 2011, a small number of U.S. Navy SEALs embarked on a mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in Pakistan. Acting on intelligence pinpointing bin Laden’s location, the Obama administration gave the green light for Operation Neptune Spear. The operation was successful – it resulted in the death of bin Laden, and the raid on his home in Pakistan yielded massive quantities of valuable intelligence that would lead to the capture or deaths of numerous other high ranking terrorists from the al-Qaida network. One senior military official from the Pentagon described the haul from the successful raid as “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”

With the top leader of the al-Qaida network dead, Barack Obama focused his 2012 re-election bid on bragging to the American public, “Al-Qaida is on the path to defeat. Al-Qaida has been decimated. Al-Qaida is on the run.” Americans waited many years for the day to come, and Obama was right to declare bin Laden’s death a blow to the al-Qaida terrorist network. Yet to insist that one man’s death would lead to the destruction of an organization bent on carrying out terrorist attacks wherever it can was shortsighted and naïve. As The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes put it, Obama wanted to portray these “short term tactical successes as long term strategic victories.”

It turns out that Obama’s policy of useless words and wishful thinking doesn’t translate to reality. In the months following bin Laden’s death, members from the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) exploited the evidence gleaned from the raid on bin Laden’s compound, and the reports they generated showed “al-Qaida was expanding and growing stronger.” These reports were much different than Obama’s election narrative to the American public.

No doubt, Obama’s decision to disregard reports from Americans who worked tirelessly and diligently within the intelligence community was a political calculation he made in order to boost his chances of re-election. Fast forward to 2014, and we’re seeing the results of the failure to act on information that could have resulted in al-Qaida being decimated, on the run and ultimately defeated. But acting on intelligence would have meant extending the war in Afghanistan instead of stubbornly sticking with his plan to withdraw American forces. It would have meant continuing to seek out terrorists in other countries and holding other government leaders throughout the world accountable for supporting terrorism. Further, it would have meant forgoing his own pompous and arrogant narrative regarding al-Qaida.

Sadly, Obama’s failure to recognize the growing threat of al-Qaida also meant the failure to deal with the birth of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which began as a branch of al-Qaida. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says ISIL has al-Qaida affiliates that support its aims and objectives. But don’t worry; our president has invoked his passion for sports in his foreign policy antics, calling ISIL “the JV team.” (He has since tried to claim he wasn’t referring to ISIL, but even Leftmedia “fact checkers” laugh that one off.) In light of the territorial gains made by ISIL and the beheading of two American journalists and murders of thousands of innocent people in the Middle East, those words seem even more ignorant now than when he uttered them.

Rogers, who has served on the intelligence committee for 10 years, recently stated in an interview with National Review that “he has never quite seen it this bad.” Obama, however, doesn’t seem to think it’s too bad as is revealed in his weakening of the military during his presidency.

According to foreign-affairs columnist Bret Stephens, “By 2017, the U.S. military will be an increasingly hollow force, with the Army as small as it was in 1940, before conscription; a Navy the size it was in 1917, before our entry into World War I; an Air Force flying the oldest – and smallest – fleet of planes in its history; and a nuclear arsenal no larger than it was during the Truman administration.”

Mitt Romney, who should be president today, argued last week for the critical need of military might. Romney wrote, “The history of the 20th century teaches that power-hungry tyrants ultimately feast on the appeasers.” We live in a time when shrinking the military should not be an option, he says. “Freedom and peace are in the balance. [Washington politicians] will choose whether to succumb to the easy path of continued military hollowing or to honor their constitutional pledge to protect the United States.”

Obama, who is clearly disconnected from the threat of ISIL and other terrorist organizations, sees no need for a strong military. Who needs peace through strength when he can resort to his pen? Perhaps he is considering using his phone to speak words of condemnation for the actions of ISIL. Whatever his strategy, surely he wouldn’t want the next president to inherit his mess.

It’s going to take more than empty rhetoric and wishing upon stars to defeat our enemies. Obama is plainly not up to the task.

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