16 November 2015

Obama’s Failed Policy of Containment

By Joseph Loconte

Just a few hours before foot soldiers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) unleashed a storm of terror, anguish, and death upon the city of Paris, President Obama assured an ABC News interviewer that his military approach to the terrorist threat was working. “What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain,” he said. “And we have contained them.”

Here are words, dishonest and ignoble words, which will define the dishonest and ignoble presidency of Barack Obama. No matter how the president’s defenders parse these words, they expose the self-deception of liberalism’s utopian outlook on international affairs.

Mr. Obama has spent his entire tenure as president denying, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Islam offers any inspiration to terrorist atrocities. He assumed office arguing that it was the presence of the U.S. military in the Middle East that was fomenting terrorist violence. “Islam is not part of the problem,” he proclaimed in his 2009 Cairo speech to wild applause. “The enduring faith of over a billion people is much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few.”

In October 2009 Mr. Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for promising to get American troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and chart a new course of diplomacy to “win hearts and minds.” Toward that end, in his 2010 National Security Strategy, he purged from the document any references to Islam or Islamic extremism in explaining the terrorist threat to the United States.

In May 2013, the president declared the end of the “global war on terrorism.” He announced that al Qaeda was “decimated” and that the United States merely faced “less capable al Qaeda affiliates.” In a January 2014 interview in the New Yorker, he dismissed one of those affiliates – ISIS – as an amateurish “jayvee team” (junior varsity), despite its strategic gains in Iraq, including its seizure of Falluja, the Iraqi city that American marines fought desperately to liberate from insurgents in 2004.

A recently as July 2014, Mr. Obama claimed that “the world is less violent than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been.” He made these remarks even as ISIS was seizing large territories and strategic resources in Iraq and Syria; redrawing the borders in the Middle East; humiliating the Iraqi Army; and beheading soldiers and civilians in an orgy of nihilistic bloodletting.

Speaking Monday at the G-20 press conference in Antalya, Turkey, the president answered critics demanding a much stronger U.S. response by insisting that he was not interested in “pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning.” The strategy, he said, was working: “We have the right strategy, and we’re gonna see it through.”

When President Obama reaffirmed the success of his containment policy last week, ISIS had just launched a double-suicide attack in Beirut that killed 40 and injured hundreds. Barely a week earlier, ISIS claimed responsibility for bringing down a Russian commercial airliner, killing all 224 people on board, making it the most lethal airline assault by a terrorist group since the 9/11 attacks. Meanwhile, ISIS not only remains a significant threat in Iraq and Syria. It has expanded globally, gaining cells and safe havens in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, the Sinai region, and Bangladesh, as well as establishing links with other terrorist organizations in Africa.

“We have contained them.” Even as Mr. Obama spoke these risible words, the latest assault on Western Civilization, on the unsuspecting innocents in Paris, was underway.

Mr. Obama’s policy of containment is, in fact, a policy of appeasement, inspired by a political ideology that is unwilling to make the painful choices necessary to confront and overcome radical evil. It is yielding the same tragic results as the 1938 strategy that failed to stop Hitler and the Nazis at Munich. The fascists have returned, this time praising Allah.

“They could have chosen shame, or war with honor,” Winston Churchill warned the House of Commons. “They chose shame. They’ll get war, too.”

Joseph Loconte, PhD, is an associate professor of history at the King’s College in New York City. He is the author of A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 (HarperCollins, 2015)