“What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change?”
That was President Obama this week, sounding more like a timid philosopher than an impressive commander-in-chief as he tried to explain his refusal to blame incidents such as Orlando on “radical Islamic terrorism.” Our president seems to spend more time these days trying to determine what terminology rather than how to deal with the actual threat of Islamic radicalization in our midst.
Is it homegrown extremism or homegrown terrorism? Both? Mr. Obama is overly cautious in not declaring war on the radical element of a religion, yet appears weak by failing to state clearly what his next steps will be in dealing with the threat posed by Islamic State at home and abroad.
Following the Boston Marathon, Fort Hood, and San Bernardino tragedies, the president’s agenda of gun control, minimal ground forces, and restrained airstrikes derive directly from the Democratic Party playbook, falling far short of the aggressive, offensive and bold tactics needed to defeat Islamic State.
Mr. Obama described the San Bernardino shooting as workplace violence and blamed insufficient gun restrictions for the tragedy — in a state that has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. The Paris and Brussels attacks carried out by Islamic State in recent months should serve as a reminder to the president that the terrorists smuggled in semi-automatic weapons and used bombs hidden in baggage that killed hundreds of innocent lives, and tough gun laws proved useless.
Mr. Obama has offered no new guidance on how the FBI and local law enforcement should track homegrown, radicalized terrorists or improve the coordination between local law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. FBI bureaucratic protocols are failing to keep pace with Islamic State’s sophisticated use of social media to attract new recruits within our borders.
By refusing to recognize the real threat, Mr. Obama has also created a false sense of security that the Islamic State threat has been brought under control. Islamic State, he has repeatedly said, is not an “existential threat” to us. Americans want to believe their president, but it is his own inability to focus on the threat from Islamic State at home and abroad that feeds the problem.
The president has focused more time on issues such as climate change than on radical Islamic terror; he should ask those grieving families in Orlando which they believe is the greatest threat.
Even Mr. Obama’s own CIA chief apparently believes the president understates the Islamic State threat we’re facing. CIA Director John Brennan told Congress Thursday that Islamic State remains “formidable” and “resilient,” and is actively recruiting new operatives to carry out more Orlando-style attacks in the U.S. and the West.
In December 2015, Mr. Obama said that his anti-terror strategy is “moving forward with a great sense of urgency,” but the snail’s-like pace of the fight against Islamic State — limited airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, relying on an international coalition and Iraqi security forces, seeking more Sunni Arab allies — has barely made a dent in defeating Islamic State. The administration contends that ISLAMIC STATE has lost 40 percent of its territory in Iraq and Syria, yet neglects to mention that the jihadists have continued to expand into areas in Libya, Yemen, and Afghanistan, countries with unstable governments run by weak leaders.
A Pentagon report released in December revealed that Islamic State is actually growing stronger in Afghanistan, where “the group’s recruitment of experienced fighters and commanders could increase its capability to do so over at least the next year.” The tentacles of Islamic State are far-reaching, and the restrained and tepid international response that Mr. Obama has pursued will not eliminate this terrorist organization.
After multiple speeches and press conferences in the wake of these tragedies associated with terrorists at home and abroad, Mr. Obama continues to downplay and misunderstand the threat we face, and has failed to convince the American people that his administration has the situation under control.
Mr. Obama’s words do not match up with his administration’s results, and a serious reevaluation of his counterterrorism strategy is desperately needed before the next attack on our homeland occurs.
• Mercedes Schlapp is a FOX News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies, and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.