Sorry to interrupt your Hawaii golf game Mr. Obama but …

Mele Kalik-Baracka        (I think “Mele Kalik” is some kind of Hawaiian greeting?)

President Obama jets to a Hawaiian holiday, while the world unravels.

By Karl Rove

Wall Street Journal, Dec. 24, 2015

Before leaving for his annual Hawaiian Christmas vacation, President Obama found an odd way to wish Americans “Mele Kalikimaka!” In an interview with National Public Radio, he discussed Islamic State, also known as ISIS. While admitting that “they can hurt our people and our families,” the president once again played down the terrorist threat.

“It is also important for us to keep things in perspective,” Mr. Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “This is not an organization that can destroy the United States. This is a not a huge industrial power that can pose great risks to us institutionally or in a systematic way.”

Furthermore, he said, “the strength of the United States and its allies are not threatened.” He then compared Islamic State to al Qaeda, which he said “was able to carry out one spectacular attack,” but “at no point was there ever a sense that in fact it could do catastrophic damage to us.”

Mr. Obama should try telling the families of the nearly 3,000 people killed on 9/11, and the Americans who saw two great buildings topple, that al Qaeda’s attacks that day were not “catastrophic.”

Not only was the statement tone-deaf, the president’s description of Islamic State reveals his terribly shortsighted vision. This is something you might expect from a man who, just last year, referred to ISIS as the “jayvee team,” and who, the day before the Paris massacres, said the group was “contained.”

ISIS has already destabilized the Middle East, drawing Iraq deeper into Iran’s orbit and giving Russia an opening to return to the region from which it was ejected in 1973. Because of the threat posed by Islamic State, the U.S. is no longer actively pressing for the ouster of the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Instead, America is seeking to cooperate with Russia. Neither is in the long-term interest of the U.S. and the West.

Islamic State’s actions have already resulted in a flow of more than a million refugees to Europe, straining relations among the continent’s governments and fueling the growth of right-wing populist political parties. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has exploited this, having begun long ago to foster closer relations with European right-wing parties like France’s National Front. That’s because Mr. Putin is playing chess, working to bring about NATO’s demise and restore a buffer of subservient European puppet states, while Mr. Obama is playing checkers, apparently content to keep things patched together until he leaves office.

At the same time, ISIS is creating a zone of instability from the Strait of Gibraltar to Central Asia. This could result in the creation of radical Islamic terror states along the southern Mediterranean and the overthrow of the Western-oriented Egyptian regime, both of which would directly harm U.S. interests.

This same volatility could threaten Israel; undermine our Saudi, Jordanian, and Gulf state allies; and help return the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. It could topple the government of nuclear-armed Pakistan. Radicalization could destabilize the peaceful, largely Western-oriented Muslim nation of Indonesia. The Obama administration seems clueless about ISIS’ catastrophic potential and has no long-term strategy to bend events to America’s benefit.

President Harry Truman, by contrast, thought decades ahead. The haberdasher from Missouri reformed the government to meet new challenges after World War II and created international structures that helped contain America’s adversaries and win the Cold War. Mr. Obama’s vision is limited to the coming months, to the next quarter, to the end of his term. Whenever events undermine his view of the world, he has the habit of retreating to an alternate reality. Mr. Obama is a man with an uncommonly rigid, anti-empirical mind.

We’ve seen this manifest itself in areas other than foreign policy—for example, in his refusal to address the entitlement and debt crises.

Because of an aging population, the trust funds for Social Security and the hospital portion of Medicare will both run out of money within 20 years. The nation’s public debt, equal to 41% of GDP in 2008, now stands at 74%. Yet Mr. Obama is acting as if we’re in the middle part of the last century, with plenty of time before disaster hits. He is not bothered by inconvenient truths. Don’t worry, be happy.

For a man who thinks he’s always the smartest person in the room, Mr. Obama has shown himself remarkably astigmatic about our national interests, always behind the curve. Because of his lack of vision, the mop-up operation his successor will face is unlike any in living memory.


Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

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