President Obama is coming under fire from a respected terrorism expert after Obama said the public needs to keep in mind that while ISIS can kill Americans, it cannot bring down our nation.
In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep conducted before Obama left for his vacation in Hawaii, Obama said the U.S. needs to remain vigilant to stop ISIS-inspired attacks on our own soil, but he also urged people to take a larger view.
“It’s also important for us to keep things in perspective,” said Obama. “This is not an organization that can destroy the United States. This is not a huge industrial power that can pose great risks to us institutionally or in a systematic way. But they can hurt us and they can hurt our people are our families, so I understand why people are worried,” said Obama, who says the most important thing we can do is not change “who we are.”
Erick Stakelbeck is terrorism analyst for the Christian Broadcasting Network and the author of “ISIS Exposed: Beheadings, Slavery and the Hellish Reality of Radical Islam.” He says Obama’s implication is troubling.
“He fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the threat. He does not understand terrorism, especially of the Islamic variety. He doesn’t get it,” said Stakelbeck. “The Islamic terror threat threat has already changed our way of life. If you don’t believe me, just go to an airport.”
And while Obama may be right that ISIS cannot topple our government, Stakelbeck says it could do a whole lot of damage.
“If ISIS or another Islamic terror group gets their hands on a weapon of mass destruction, which they are working diligently to acquire, they might not be able to take down the whole country, but they can take out New York, Washington, Chicago (or) L.A. That’s not alarmism. That’s not fear tactics. That’s a fact,” said Stakelbeck.
In the same NPR interview, Obama also chided the media for what he suggested was excessive coverage of ISIS in the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
“ISIL combines viciousness with very savvy media operations. As a consequence, if you’ve been watching television for the past month, all you’ve been seeing, all you’ve been hearing about, is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you,” said Obama in the interview.
Stakelbeck the concern among Americans is not from too much reporting but from what Obama’s own subordinates are admitting.
“The FBI director is saying that ISIS has a network of supporters and sympathizers in every state in the union,” said Stakelbeck, noting FBI Director James Comey admitting the government is watching some 1,000 possible threats throughout all 50 states.
“Then you have the House Homeland Security Committee that back in September released a report saying 250 U.S. citizens have left their comfortable homes here, traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS, and dozens of them have already returned. These are government officials saying it. It’s not just cable news saying it,” said Stakelbeck.
One of the great frustrations for Obama and politicians of all stripes is the absence of a strategy to identify individuals or small groups who wish to kill Americans, much like Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik in San Bernardino.
Stakelbeck says winning this fight all starts at knowing who our enemy is.
“Let’s identify the ideology. Terrorism is only a tactic. It is driven by an ideology. It is Islamic jihadist ideology. President Obama refuses to admit or acknowledge that ideology exists,” said Stakelbeck. “But if you name it ans start to battle back against that ideology at least you have a fighting chance.”
Obama and others reluctant to name the enemy as radical Islamists say such rhetoric does more harm than good because it paints all of Islam with the terrorist brush and could alienate the people most likely to help us root out the enemy. Stakelbeck says Obama is way off base.
“It’s intellectually dishonest in my view. He knows when people say radical Islam jihadist, they aren’t talking about all Muslims. Obviously, every Muslim isn’t a terrorist. We know that and he knows that. It’s a straw man when he says it to quiet his critics,” said Stakelbeck.
Moreover, Stakelbeck says there should be no controversy over the terminology among peaceful Muslims.
“If you are truly a moderate, peace-loving Muslim who wants no part of jihad and wants no part of Sharia, you should have no problem at all with the term radical Islam. If that does not apply to you, why would you have a problem with it? If you are a truly moderate Muslim, you should be outraged by what ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda and all the rest are doing,” said Stakelbeck.
He says that’s an especially important point given the rise in sympathy for radical Islam.
“We have to acknowledge there is a significant and growing strain of the Muslim world that, yes, does support ISIS and subscribe to that worldview,” said Stakelbeck, who says the approach to defeating Soviet communism ought to be dusted off for this fight.
“Think back to the Cold War. Think to the Solidarity Movement in Poland, Radio Free Europe, where we had a concerted effort by the U.S. government to battle against communist ideology and prove that it’s bankrupt. We need the same kind of all hands on deck effort today against Islamist ideology, a full-court press to discredit it and neutralize it,” said Stakelbeck, who says discrediting can also take on a military dimension.
“Another thing that would help to discredit is to destroy this mini-caliphate that ISIS has declared in Iraq and Syria. If you do that, you hopefully demoralize the global movement and put a dent in that ideology,” said Stakelbeck.
Beyond properly identifying the threat, Stakelbeck says there are some other dimensions to reducing the threat here at home, starting with knowing who might be whipping up jihadist motivations on American soil.
“Many mosques in the United States have ties to the global Muslim Brotherhood movement and subscribe to that ideology. That’s a dangerous thing. If we have mosques in our country where there’s radical preaching and they’re turning out young jihadis, we should shut those radical mosques down without a doubt, just as France did last month,” said Stakelbeck.
Finally, he would also temporarily pull up the drawbridge to the United States and halt immigration from nations infested with radicals.
“I believe right now we need a timeout on immigration from countries like Yemen, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq. I think that’s just common sense until we can get this thing under some kind of handle,” said Stakelbeck.