Despite comments to the contrary by the White House spokesman, we are at war with ISIS and they are a real and sophisticated threat. The intentions of the Islamic State have been made crystal clear: kill the infidel and establish the caliphate by any means necessary. The escalations in just the last few weeks, specifically the beheadings, have awakened many to the dangers of the Islamic State, but is has also caught the President flat footed on the back nine.
There are a few things you should understand about ISIS. This isn't Al Qaeda. They aren't operating under duress with the full weight of the United States Military coming down upon them. They have advanced rather freely and have taken over not just territory, but the resources that come with that territory, whether it be oil fields or University labs, they own it right now.
According to a Buzzfeed report from earlier this week, ISIS controls "seven oil fields and two refineries in northern Iraq, and six out of 10 oil fields in eastern Syria." The article goes on to note ISIS is "currently making millions daily from oil revenues." ISIS is the richest terrorist organization in the world and has the sophistication to keep it that way. ISIS also has enough money to pay the soldiers in its ranks at a higher rate than the Iraqi military.
As I said, ISIS isn't Al Qaeda, and we should all keep that in mind when we assume what the Islamic State is and isn't capable of doing.
While the idea of a real chemical weapon threat, or WMD threat, is looked upon with skepticism after years in Iraq and Afghanistan at war with Al Qaeda, I must stress again that ISIS isn't Al Qaeda. ISIS has a different infrastructure and aims. The gains made in land and treasure set ISIS apart from Al Qaeda and should give everyone pause. In an article yesterday at Foreign Policy, two authors reported on a ISIS laptop found in Syria with instructions for making a chemical weapon on it and noted that ISIS may have access to the facilities to take this next step, which long eluded Al Qaeda.
The Islamic State's sweeping gains in recent months may have provided it with the capacity to develop such new and dangerous weapons. Members of the jihadi group are not solely fighting on the front lines these days -- they also control substantial parts of Syria and Iraq. The fear now is that men like Muhammed could be quietly working behind the front lines -- for instance, in the Islamic State-controlled University of Mosul or in some laboratory in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group's de facto capital -- to develop chemical or biological weapons.
In short, the longer the caliphate exists, the more likely it is that members with a science background will come up with something horrible. The documents found on the laptop of the Tunisian jihadist, meanwhile, leave no room for doubt about the group's deadly ambitions.
This particular laptop was owned by a Tunisian who had gone to college and studied chemistry and physics. Those two studies would certainly come in handy when making a bomb. I wouldn't doubt ISIS also has people who have studied other areas within its ranks that may help it along in the creation of chemical weapons.
Despite all of this, along with members of Congress, the intelligence community, and a few Generals, raising the alarm, this President and his Administration have no real strategy to address the threat of ISIS. Our aimless foreign policy, directed from the golf course by President Obama, has impacted the world. Just not in any positive fashion.
As a knowledgable friend relayed to me regarding the last year and the rise of ISIS:
Let's accept, arguendo, that the outgoing DIA chief is right, and that we are now in an era of danger similar to the mid-1930s. How did we get here? It's worth looking back into the mists of time — an entire year, to Labor Day weekend 2013. What had not happened then? It's quite a list, actually: the Chinese ADIZ, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the rise of ISIS, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fall of Mosul, the end of Hungarian liberal democracy, the Central American refugee crisis, the Egyptian-UAE attacks on Libya, the extermination of Iraqi Christians, the Yazidi genocide, the scramble to revise NATO's eastern-frontier defenses, the Kristallnacht-style pogroms in European cities, the reemergence of mainstream anti-Semitism, the third (or fourth, perhaps) American war in Iraq, racial riots in middle America, et cetera and ad nauseum.
All that was in the future just one year ago.
What is happening now is basically America's version of "It's a Wonderful Life."
The President of the United States — supported to an exceptional extent by an electorate both uncomprehending and untrusting of the outside world — is Clarence the Angel, and he's showing us what the world would be like if we'd never been born, Unsurprisingly, Bedford Falls is now Pottersville, and it's a terrible place. Unfortunately we do not get to revert to the tolerable if modest status quo at the end of the lesson: George Bailey will eventually have to shell the town and retake it street by street from Old Man Potter's Spetsnaz.
But the larger point here is not what's happening, because what's happening is obvious. Things are falling apart. The point is how fast it's come.
It takes the blood and labor of generations to build a general peace, and that peace is sustained by two pillars: a common moral vision, and force majeure. We spent a quarter-century chipping away at the latter, and finally discarded the former, and now that peace is gone. All this was the work of decades.
Look back, again, to Labor Day weekend 2013, and understand one thing: its undoing was the work of mere months.
So what does the next year bring? Maybe a weaponized version of the bubonic plague, maybe an airplane crashing into a building, maybe something far worse.
Considering the advance of the Islamic State in just a year, and no clear strategy to address the growing threat, it would be foolish to expect anything less than more horror, more terrorism, more death, and a ultimate goal of attacks upon the united States in densely populated urban areas.
At the very least we should acknowledge that we are at war, clearly state who the enemy is, even if that enemy is an extremist ideology, and prepare the people of the nation to be on guard.
Right after this next round of golf, of course.