Will the Leader of the Free World Stand Up?

Published: 21st November 2015 08:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st November 2015 08:22 AM   |  A+A-

If the goal of the Paris massacre - or the attack yesterday in Mali - was to frighten France out of the air campaign in Syria the way Spain withdrew from the Iraq war after the terror attack on its trains in 2004, the terrorists picked the wrong country. France is a serious post-colonial power, and President Francois Hollande has responded furiously to his country's 9/11 with an intensified air campaign, raids on suspected domestic terrorists, a state of emergency and proposed changes in the constitution to make France less hospitable to jihad.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, titular head of the free world, has responded to Paris with weariness and annoyance. His news conference at the G20 in Turkey afterwards was marked by a stunning tone of passivity, detachment and lassitude, compounded by impatience and irritability at the very suggestion that his Syria strategy might be failing.

The only time he showed any passion was in denouncing Republicans for hardheartedness toward Muslim refugees. Some 129 innocents lie dead but it takes the Republican Party to kindle Obama's ire. The rest was mere petulance.

Inconveniently for Obama, one of his critics is Dianne Feinstein, the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She directly contradicted Obama's blithe assertion, offered the day before the Paris attack, that the Isil was contained and not gaining strength. "I have never been more concerned," said Feinstein. "Isil is not contained. Isil is expanding."

Obama defended his policy by listing its multifaceted elements. Such as: "I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters." An "entire" discussion, mind you. Not a partial one. They tremble in Raqqa.

And: "We have mobilised 65 countries to go after Isil." Yes, and what would we do without Luxembourg?

Obama complained that he was criticised for not being bellicose enough. But the complaint is not about that but about a lack of urgency and of commitment to the fight. The air campaign over Syria averages seven strikes a day. In Operation Desert Storm America flew 1,100 sorties a day. Even in the Kosovo campaign, the US averaged 138. Obama is doing just enough in Syria to give the appearance of motion, yet not nearly enough to have any chance of success.

Obama's priorities lie elsewhere. For example, climate change, which he considers the greatest "threat to our future". And, of course, closing Guantanamo. Obama actually released five detainees on the day after the Paris massacre. He is passionate about Guantanamo. It's a great terrorist recruiting tool, he repeatedly explains. Obama still seems to believe that - even as Isil has produced an astonishing wave of terrorist recruitment with a campaign of brutality, butchery and enslavement filmed in living colour. Who can still believe that young Muslims are leaving Europe to join Isil because of Guantanamo?

Obama's other passion is protecting Islam from any possible association with "violent extremism". Isil is nothing but "killers with fantasies of glory". Obama can never bring himself to acknowledge why these people kill and willingly die: to advance a radical Islamist millenarianism that is purposeful, indeed eschatological - and appealing enough to have created the largest, most dangerous terrorist movement on earth.

Hollande is trying to gather a real coalition to destroy Isil, even as Obama touts his phoney 65. For 11 post-Second World War presidencies, coalition-leading has been the role of the United States. Where is America today? Awaiting a president. The next president.

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