By Avi Davis
The sense that the United States is not receiving adequate leadership in the war against terrorism is gaining steam from an even more audible group of critics.
On Monday, Michael Flynn, the former head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency slammed the Obama administration as paralyzed and playing defense rather than offense in the fight against Islamic militancy. He said the administration is unwilling to admit the scope of the problem, naively clinging to the hope that limited counterterrorist intervention will head off the ideological juggernaut of religious militancy.
His calls were echoed by Gen. Jack Keane, the former Vice Chief of the Army who told the Senate Armed Services Committee that al Qaeda’s influence has grown exponentially over the past several years and despite the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the hydra headed movement is threatening American Interests all over the world and not just in the Middle East.
Flynn’s and Keane’s comments reinforce calls by other former Obama administration officials such as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who say that while in office they urged more intervention earlier in the Syrian conflict but met with a deafening silence from the Obama Administration. Repeated demands for a greater commitment in those theaters went unheeded. No doubt Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, once his own inevitable memoirs are published, will amplify the criticisms of his two predecessors. It is no secret in Washington DC that Hagel was dumped because of his strident advocacy of greater American military involvement in Iraq and Syria.
All of which is anathema to this president. His decision to pull all troops from Iraq – and to leave only a handful in Afghanistan – after years of American sacrifices in both countries to bolster regimes friendly to the United States, was more than just the fulfillment of a campaign promise; it was the practical reflex of an ideology which harbors only contempt for what he sees as imperialist or internationalist missions and views America as far too extended. He sees no good national interest advanced by the presence of U.S. troops in any theater of conflict and is viscerally opposed to the kind of nation building and interventionism which became a hallmark of the Bush Administration.
But as the world situation develops it is becoming clearer that the United States – just like every other Western nation – can no longer hide from the reality that if the war is not fought on foreign soil it will be fought on our own soil. The Kouachi brothers in Paris two weeks ago brought back what they had learned about ambush strategy and tactical frontal assault warfare from their training and experience with ISIS in Northern Iraq and executed a technically perfect raid on the Charlie Hebdo offices in central Paris; ISIS inspired plots have been uncovered in Australia, Indonesia, the U.K. and of course France.
What is patently clear is that the contagion of ISIS is going to bounce back to the United States. We cannot leave a vacuum in the Middle East and expect it not to be filled by al Qaeda , ISIS and a host of other insurgent forces dedicated to undoing the work of the United States and using the countries in the region as platforms for striking out against the West. We can also not expect ISIS and al Qaeda to fail to export their military successes to the streets and boulevards of our cities and our leaders would be foolish to blindly turn away from this eventuality.