Paul Mirengoff has done the hard work and dissected the substance of President Obama’s speech on ISIS last night. John commented here and Steve here. The White House has now posted a transcript of the speech along with the video below.
My impression was that Obama was trying to impersonate a serious man, though he has demonstrated spectacular misjudgment and neglect in his approach to ISIS. The misjudgment or neglect continues, but under cover of the concerns he now expresses — ISIS is no longer the JV — consistent with the mood of the public. Yet, so far as we can discern from the speech, Obama remains fundamentally unserious about ISIS.
About one matter, Obama has been consistent from the fist days of his administration, and that is the defense and promotion of Islam. He was at it again last night, at the top of the speech (paragraph four):
Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.
Here Obama was recycling his statement on the beheading of James Foley by ISIS:
Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages — killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children, and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims — both Sunni and Shia — by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people.
So ISIL speaks for no religion.
In his remarks on Foley Obama added this, also consistent with this speech last night:
Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.
ISIL is of course an acronym for the Islamic State in the Levant. (Why Obama persists in calling it ISIL, I do not know.) ISIS purports to have created or restored an Islamic caliphate in the territory under its control. How do you edit Islam out of the Islamic State?
Like Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN (and its terrorist Revolutionary Guard) and all the rest, ISIS promotes the imposition of Sharia law in the name of Islam. They all understand themselves to be Muslims acting on behalf of the faith. Yet Obama makes a special point of standing up for the good name of Islam, such as it is. According to Obama, any connection between Islam and the actions of the many terrorist groups and regimes acting in the name of Islam is purely coincidental.
Thirteen years after 9/11, I find this to be bizarre. Does it impress anyone? Does anyone take it seriously? Along with the rest of the speech, it put me in mind of John McEnroe’s characteristic rant: “You cannot be Serious!” In this case, that would be: “You cannot be Syrious!”