Add Michael Morrell to the growing list of Obama administration officials and former officials who consider ISIS a clear and immediate threat to the United States. Morrell, who served two shifts as Obama’s acting CIA director, said on Face the Nation that ISIS’s rise presents “the most complex terrorism problem that I have ever seen.”
What should the U.S. do in response? First, says Morrell, the United States must help push ISIS out of the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria. Second its leaders must be captured of killed.
Morrell acknowledged that these objectives cannot easily be achieved. But according to Mike Rogers, head of the House Intelligence Committee, it’s actually worse than that.
Appearing on Meet the Press, Rogers said that, with ISIS “one plane ticket away from U.S. shores,” the U.S. intelligence and military services and administration policy are “just not configured in a way to continue a tempo that allows disruption” of ISIS.
Note that Rogers is talking about “disruption” of ISIS, not the kind of rollback Morrell says is required. If we we’re not “configured” even to seriously disrupt ISIS, we face the very real threat of many plane tickets for its terrorists to our shores.
But how can it be that we are not “configured” to disrupt what Chuck Hagel, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and now Mike Morrell agree is a force that presents a massive threat to homeland security? These folks have, after all, been five of the very most important figures in the national security policy arena under President Obama. Collectively, they helped configure our intelligence and military policies and the administration’s national security policy.
Moreover, they inherited instruments and policies well-designed for the express purpose of enabling the U.S. not only to disrupt terrorist organizations, but to expel them from territory and kill or capture their leaders. And these policies had worked, pushing al Qaeda into the mountains of Afghanistan, defeating al Qaeda in Iraq, and imprisoning many hundreds of leading terrorists.
How did we fall so far, so fast?
The answer is straightforward. President Obama found our successful anti-terrorist instruments and policies distasteful. He also perceived political advantage in telling Americans that terrorism was no longer much of a threat, and therefore that we had no further use for the offending instruments and policies.
Not only could we dispense with harsh interrogation techniques and U.S. “boots on the ground” to oppose terrorists, we could actually “pivot” away from the entire subcontinent infected with jihadists and slash our military budget.
As we pointed out several times, Obama could make these claims only by defining the terrorist threat as limited to something he called “core al Qaeda.” It was a bit like the joke about the guy who looks for his car keys under a street lamp, not because he lost them there but because the light is better.
In this instance, Obama focused on terrorists as they were configured circa 2002 not because that’s where the threat was coming from but for precisely the opposite reason — because it’s where the threat had largely been quelled. They keys weren’t under that lamp, but Obama looked good in that light.
Now that ISIS has shined its light in Syria and Iraq, Obama doesn’t look so good. And Americans who have been paying attention don’t feel so safe.