National Security

Obama Blames Intelligence Failure for Rise of Islamic State

It might help if the president showed up to intel briefings.

Sep. 30, 2014
Ain't my fault

No president wants to leave a legacy of failure, particularly in the realm of foreign policy. Barack Obama, however, doesn’t worry about such things. He just blames someone else.

During an interview on “60 Minutes” Sunday, Steve Kroft asked Obama how the U.S. “underestimated” the rise of the Islamic State and how we “overestimated the ability of the Iraqi military to fend off the militant group.” While Obama admitted some failures in confronting ISIL, he just couldn’t help but shift the blame.

Obama scapegoated the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. According to Obama, “Clapper has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”

Bull pucky Barack. You got the Intel loud and clear. You just couldn’t find a suitable political narrative to wrap it in.

Obama’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq during his first term was premature, though at least he kept one of his campaign promises. During his bid for re-election, he repeatedly told us the death of Osama bin Laden meant al-Qaida was “decimated,” on the “path to defeat” and “on the run.” But that was just wishful thinking in service of a campaign narrative. In fact, the administration ignored reports that al-Qaida was expanding and growing stronger.

Now with the Islamic State presenting a real threat to U.S. national security and regional stability in the Middle East, the president has to blame someone else for his failure. Who better to blame than those in the intelligence community charged with keeping the president informed on threats to U.S. national security?

Several in the intelligence community rejected the president’s accusations. One former Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq suggests the president is either “being mendacious or ignoring his intelligence briefings.” There is a good chance that both allegations are likely, given that this administration has a proven track record of lying and has little time to deal with national security issues due to other priorities such as golf and fundraising. And indeed, he skipped nearly 60% of his daily intelligence briefings.

Surprisingly, Rear Admiral (retired) Joe Sestak, formerly a prominent Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, also disagreed with the president’s blame game. When asked by MSNBC host Jose Diaz-Balart, “How did the intelligence community get it so wrong on [ISIL]?” Sestak responded, “I don’t think they did.” Sestak reminded the host that the House and Armed Services committee had been briefed early this year on the growth of ISIL by Lt. General Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. In his brief, Flynn warned that ISIL had the capability to take over large chunks of territory in Syria and Iraq – especially after the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, once liberated with the blood of American Patriots, fell to brutal jihadists in January.

After failing to listen, after failing to recognize the threat and after failing to act decisively against those seeking to destroy human life by waging Islamic Jihad – indeed, after denying it’s even Islamic – will the president change course? Will he seek to correct mistakes made over the last several years? Will he start listening to those in the intelligence community and military doing everything possible to keep America safe from another terrorist attack?

It is high time for Obama to start owning up to his mistakes. When does the buck ever stop with him? America needs and wants a leader who will take on the responsibilities of being a leader. Part of presidential leadership requires that whoever is holding the office act upon the information given him by the intelligence community in order to address threats to national security. Unfortunately, the president wasn’t listening, and we now face a serious threat from terrorists who are determined to wage jihad against those who are standing in the way of their ability to establish a caliphate.

We the people can’t expect the president to be perfect in his decisions. But we should and do expect him to listen to those in the intelligence community and the military who sound the warning bells when our national security and our interests abroad are threatened. Further, we expect a president who will do what it takes to lead our nation and others to eliminate the threat. We can’t wait until 2016 – unless this president would like the next to inherit his mess.

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