What will the White House say caused the terrorist massacre in Paris? Will it be lack of job opportunities for an at-risk population?
What will the White House say caused the terrorist massacre in Paris? Will it be lack of job opportunities for an at-risk population? Will it be outrage over an offensive Youtube video? Or maybe we are starting to see the practical national security effects of global warming? Whatever the administration says was the cause, they will never blame radical Islam, and that is why we cannot win the war.
The Islamic State has claimed credit for the Paris attacks, calling them “the first of the storm.” Earlier on Friday, hours before a small band of allegedly ISIS-linked jihadists took over 150 innocent lives in Paris, President Obama downplayed the terror threat. “I don’t think [the Islamic State is] gaining strength,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “we have contained them… you don’t see this systemic march by ISILacross the terrain.” This assessment betrayed a certain type of intelligence failure, the inability to understand the transnational aspect of the threat. ISIS is an adaptive unconventional enemy that has built a potent international network of highly motivated killers. We cannot simply draw a red line on a map and hope they stay inside it.
President Obama also said “we’ve made some progress in trying to reduce the flow of foreign fighters,” referring to international jihadist recruits heading into Syria. But what about the flow of foreign fighters out of the region? It is significant that Syrian and Egyptian passports were found near the bodies of suicide bombers in Paris. Earlier this year ISIS threatened to send 500,000 refugees to Europe to sow chaos, and this year there have been over 700,000 asylum claims filed in Europe alone. It is unknown how many of these might be ISIS infiltrators, but recent experience has shown – whether in Paris, Madrid, London, Boston, or with the 9/11 attacks – that it only takes a small number of committed terrorists to wreak havoc.
This is not just Europe’s problem. The first 10,000 refugees from Syria began arriving in New Orleans last week. Last month FBI Director James Comey warned Congress that the incoming refugees cannot be adequately vetted, and if ISIS is weaponizing them we have no way of knowing it. While it is important for the United States to assume some of the humanitarian burden for the expanding Syria crisis, it is recklessly irresponsible to distribute unvetted refugees to 180 communities across the country,forcing untrained and inexperienced local law enforcement officers to try to sort outwho is a potential threat.
The White House is fresh out of ideas how to counter the Islamic State’s compelling ideological message. At the UN Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in September, President Obama cycled through the usual litany of supposed solutions to the terrorism problem; confronting “economic grievances,” “creating opportunity and dignity,” spreading “more democracy in terms of free speech, and freedom of religion.” However, ISIS, al Qaeda, and other Islamist extremist movements are immune to these appeals. They don’t offer their followers a job training program, they promise an eternal afterlife in Allah’s glory. President Obama also lectured the world once again that “violent extremism is not unique to any one faith, so no one should be profiled or targeted simply because of their faith.” But the global jihadist movement is most definitely unique to Islam, and the sooner the White House confronts that fact the better.
And yes there was an offensive Youtube video involved, but it was a warning, not a provocation. Last July ISIS released a video in which a French jihadist vowed to “fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies,” then shot a bound Syrian soldier in the head and kicked him off a cliff. Like most such threats it passed with little notice. But the Islamic State has shown a disturbing propensity to at least try to make good on its promises. The Paris massacre shows that half-hearted attempts to degrade, contain, or diminish the jihadist threat are failing. What we need is a strategy to defeat and destroy them. There is no substitute for victory, but unfortunately only ISIS seems to understand that.
James S. Robbins writes weekly for USA TODAY and is the author of The Real Custer: From Boy General to Tragic Hero.