No Change of Course, of Course

Yes, Mr. President, it was "an act of terrorism."

The Obama administration has been so ineffective in reacting to the threat from the Islamic State (also called ISIS and ISIL) that hearing the president use that phrase to describe the San Bernardino attack felt like a real breakthrough.

Unfortunately for a nation anxious to avoid becoming home to the next Paris-style strike, there was little else to cheer in his Oval Office address.

Yes, President Obama stepped up his rhetoric, saying we'd "destroy" ISIS (an improvement over "degrade," as he used to say). Although he acknowledged that "tough talk" goes only so far, we expect a president to do that. In fact, we need it (though not in the somewhat patronizing tone he often adopts).

And yes, he talked about the need to do more to confront what he called an "evolving threat." We need to win, and we will win. All well and good.

But how will he do that? We'll be "strong and smart, resilient and relentless," he said. OK. Points for deploying some ear-pleasing alliteration there, but what steps will he take? Some quotes from the short list that followed:

• "First, our military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary."

• "Second, we will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we take away their safe havens."

• "Third, we're working with friends and allies to stop ISIL's operations — to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters."

• "Fourth, with American leadership, the international community has begun to establish a process — and timeline — to pursue cease-fires and a political resolution to the Syrian war."

Notice a pattern? The key word: "continue." All of these things, their merits aside, were already in motion before the San Bernardino attack that prompted this address in the first place. What's different?

Nothing. As the president said, "The strategy that we are using now — airstrikes, special forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country — that is how we'll achieve a more sustainable victory."

Small wonder that disapproval of how the president is handling this threat is rising — and crossing party lines. The most dyed-in-the-wool Obama supporter can see that this threat is metastasizing despite our current strategy.

That doesn't necessarily mean that every aspect of that strategy must be junked or completely overhauled. But to tell Americans that we'll win by doing the same thing is hardly reassuring. And gee, "the international community has begun to establish a process" to give us cease-fires in Syria? I'm sure ISIS is trembling at the thought.

What steps are being taken to rebuild our military? For all the justifiable pride we can take in the hard work of our troops, this administration has presided over a deep and alarming downgrade in our ability to fully defend ourselves in the event of a war — the chances of which, ironically, appear increasingly higher due to the feckless policies of an administration that has spent seven years alienating allies and appeasing enemies.

We heard nothing about that. We did hear, though, about the need for more gun laws. This despite their abundance in California, home of the San Bernardino attack, and despite the fact that still more laws would do nothing to stop the followers of a poisonous ideology hell-bent on our utter destruction.

Quite a contrast to the ringing words of FDR on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked: "As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory."

Absolute victory is what we need now. When will we get it?


-Ed Feulner is founder of the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
Founder's Office

This piece first appeared in the Washington Times