President Obama is getting hit hard from across the political spectrum for his lackadaisical response to the ISIS threat. A year ago he compared them to a “jayvee team,” just before the attacks on Paris he said they were “contained,” and last weekend he called them “a bunch of killers with good social media.” It’s one thing to refuse to show your enemy any respect, but it’s quite another to underestimate the threat they pose. Over the past couple of years it’s become clear that Obama’s comments represent the latter.
Republicans have long been critical of President Obama’s lethargic approach to dealing with the increasing threat and his willingness to override the counsel of his military advisors. But Democrats are joining the admonitory chorus as well.
“This has gone on too long now. And it has not gotten better. It’s gotten worse,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “There may be some land held by ISIL in Iraq and Syria that’s been taken back. But for all of that there’s much more they have gained in other countries.”
Feinstein went on to say that Obama’s approach, which includes airstrikes and training for local troops, was not enough.
“I don’t think the approach is sufficient to the job.”
Perhaps most notably, the interview revealed a differing interpretation of the intelligence being provided about ISIS’ progress. Feinstein said that she’s “never been more concerned. I read the intelligence faithfully. ISIL is not contained. ISIL is expanding.”
The remarks come at the same time that the White House is being accused of scrubbing the intelligence to meet its narrative ends. Fox News’ Catherine Herridge reports:
Fox News is told by a source close to the CENTCOM analysts that the pressure on them included at least two emails saying they needed to “cut it out” and “toe the line.”
Separately, a former Pentagon official told Fox News there apparently was an attempt to destroy the communications. The Pentagon official said the email warnings were “not well received” by the analysts.
Those emails, among others, are now in the possession of the Pentagon inspector general. The IG’s probe is expanding into whether intelligence assessments were changed to give a more positive picture of the anti-ISIS campaign.
Sadly, those allegations aren’t new. Earlier this year, The Daily Beast similarly reported:
Analysts have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is, according to [sources familiar with the matters], and to paint an overly rosy picture about how well the U.S.-led effort to defeat the group is going.
Reports that have been deemed too pessimistic about the efficacy fo the American-led campaign, or that have questioned whether a U.S.-trained Iraqi military can ultimately defeat ISIS, have been sent back down through the chain of command or haven’t been shared with senior policymakers, several analysts alleged.
Intelligence ceases to be intelligent if it’s manipulated according to the whims of politicians or to fit the needs of an agenda. So what is Obama doing? Is he in over his head? Is he just biding his time, waiting to hand the problem to the next president? Is he concerned about the politics of committing to wipe out ISIS? Maybe, but I sense that Obama’s main problems is one that Leon Panetta diagnosed in his memoir.
Mr. Obama “lacks fire,” and too often “avoids the battle, complains and misses opportunities,” the former CIA director and Pentagon chief wrote. “The president relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.”
That lack of passion was on full display this week when he stood beside French president Francois Hollande to explain their efforts to defeat ISIS. Hollande aggressively promised to take on the “cowardly murderers” with a “ruthless determination” that includes “hunting down their leaders” and “taking back the land.” President Obama? He said defeating ISIS would be “hard, methodical work. He said that a political settlement in Syria was “going to be hard” and that we “should not be under any illusions.” And he said that preventing the terrorist attacks was “hard — that’s a hard thing to track . . . That’s a tough job.”
Yes, it’s hard. Nobody is doubting him there. But c’mon, show a little fire. Or at the very least, just show us that all that methodical thinking has produced a plan.