Dr. Boozman's Check-up

In separate statements made just days apart last week, President Obama and CIA Director Brennan both touted progress in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS). They pointed to the terror organization’s loss of territory, key leadership and finances.

Their assessments of the group’s capabilities, however, was quite different.

“ISIL is on defense.” - President Obama on the Islamic State (6/14/16)
“ISIL remains a formidable adversary.” - CIA Director John Brennan on the Islamic State (6/16/16)

The disconnect between these two statements is quite striking. While both can be true at the same time, one outlook is unmistakably more positive than the other. The context of President Obama and Director Brennan’s statements were quite different. Clearly the President wants to present the situation in a much better light than our intelligence community sees it.

In a similar vein to the President’s pre-Paris attack declaration that ISIS has been “contained”, he has once again attempted to paint a rosier picture than reality offers.

The truth is the Obama Administration’s lack of a real strategy to combat ISIS allowed the group to continue to add recruits, claim territory and spread its warped ideology. Any territory that has been reclaimed by coalition efforts in the ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate, has been countered by massive growth in Libya, the co-opting of groups in places like Egypt and an expansion into Asian and East African nations.

The President’s lack of a strategy has not only failed us with ISIS. The Taliban holds more territory in Afghanistan now than at any time since 2001. Equally as troubling is the fact that the Taliban now appears to be taking a page from the ISIS playbook and ratcheting up the brutality of its atrocities.

We can defeat ISIS. We can make our homeland safer. In order to do so, the President has to bring forth plans based on reality. He must listen to the strategy our military leadership proposes to defeat ISIS abroad. He must engage our intelligence community, which has a much more grim view of ISIS’s capabilities than he does, to ensure that we can prevent attacks at home. And he absolutely must be honest with the American people about the nature of the enemy we face. 

These efforts cannot succeed, however, if the President does not understand the gravity of the situation. ISIS remains a dire threat and must be treated that way.