U.S. needs a strategy to fight extremists
Americans can be excused if they are scratching their heads these days, wondering what and who is the biggest threat to our security, the role of our military, and whether even the Obama administration is really serious about protecting U.S. citizens or ensuring the continued support of loyal Democratic voting blocs.
After enduring two weeks of criticism for saying he didn't have a strategy for fighting the latest Muslim extremist group in the Middle East — ISIS, or ISIL or IS, depending on your acronym of choice for this al-Qaida offshoot — Obama announced his plan, sort of. But even that proclamation began with a politically correct statement that these terrorists are not Muslims.
"ISIL is not Islamic," proclaimed Obama, completely ignoring the first word in the group's name, "Islamic State of Iraq and Levant," the final word referring to the vast Middle East, including Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, southern Turkey, the Palestinian territories and Israel.
As for the Islamic terrorists, they simply refer to themselves as the IS, or Islamic State, which they aim to form throughout that part of the world as part of a caliphate in the lineage of the Muslim founder Muhammad.
They even have a leader already in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose merciless rule includes beheadings and the slaughter of anyone who stands in the way of the IS advance.
After the videotaped decapitation of two Americans, Obama was finally moved to action, though his policy engenders skepticism about its potential effectiveness since it relies on surrogate fighters from the Iraq army being led by U.S. advisers who are in the Middle East, but not to fight terrorists.
That doubt is well earned since Secretary of State John Kerry declared that America is not at war with ISIL/ISIS/IS while the White House said just the opposite.
Further, we are training the same troops who cut and ran when first confronted by the terrorists, leaving behind millions of dollars worth of American military hardware, which was secured by the Islamic terrorists. Some was destroyed by targeted U.S. air strikes.
On my WJR radio show at the recent Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund (FWSF.org) golf tournament, I interviewed four former U.S. military members who were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Two of the veterans had been involved in helping train those Iraqi soldiers while in theater and both expressed complete doubt about the competency of the Iraqi military.
Army Sgt. Rick Hensler said the effort is the equivalent of expecting Boy Scouts to fight a war, and the entire quartet voiced the belief that only direct U.S. military intervention — in other words, boots on the ground — was an answer to temporarily halting the thousand-year long uprising in that part of the world.
Sgt. David Denhardt, confined to a wheelchair because of his war wounds, voiced a wish to return to Iraq to fight the Islamists himself.
But Obama, aware of the anti-Iraq war sentiment among his political base, insists American soldiers will not fight in Iraq again, leaving him open to speculation that he fails to appreciate the sacrifice of those who fought there in the past and fails to understand that members of our all-volunteer military know they may be called on to fight on behalf of their country.
And finally, the president got his wish when the House this week authorized the spending of up to $4 billion to support the Free Syrian Army — the so-called "moderate rebels" — in its fight against President Bashar Assad, and ostensibly against ISIL/ISIS/IS.
Problem is, recent reports in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications quoted an FSA military commander as saying his group is collaborating with the Islamic State, so our tax dollars will be used by the very enemy against whom we're ostensibly funding a fight.
All of this may leave Americans confused. But if the muddled policy fails to succeed, there will be no misunderstanding the reason — jumbled strategy based on political ideology — or who is to blame — a president who can't even understand Islamic extremism when the terrorists spell it out for him.
Frank Beckmann is host of "The Frank Beckmann Show" on WJR-AM (760) from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday.