In his commencement address at West Point last week, President Obama got one thing right: “For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.”
While I have said and written many times that aggressive Chinese and Russian policies present an enormous strategic challenge to the United States, for now only extremist Islamic terrorism actually threatens American lives.
So I was thankful to hear that Obama had so plainly spelled out exactly how dangerous terrorism is for America.
But no less than a few days later, I was more confused than thankful – a state that I found myself in for almost the entirety of Obama’s presidency.
Indeed, the president released five senior members of the Taliban in exchange for dubiously-captured POW Bowe Bergdahl. Ad that he will fund a Palestinian government, which included designated terrorist organization Hamas despite protests from Congress.
In short: Obama’s policies fail to live up to his rhetoric.
The president’s latest actions – and many of those that have come before – demonstrate that he has all but given up on defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan or preventing Hamas from derailing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
But it doesn’t stop there.
These actions send a signal to the world that the US is surrendering the Middle East to the forces of extremist terror.
In Syria, Obama has been weak – and the use of the word weak is a generous – on Assad by whiffing on his “red line” of chemical weapons use, And he has been even weaker on the worrying growth of extremism that has accompanied the conflict.
The Syrian conflict has served as an incubator for terrorist organizations such as the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, which has launched a campaign of suicide attacks. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has imposed Sharia law on the Syrian territory it holds, and in early 2014 retook the city of Fallujah from Iraqi security forces.
Spurred on by Iran, Assad-allied Hezbollah is setting up new training camps and recruiting younger militants than ever, and has successfully seized parts of southern Syria. The Quds Force, a paramilitary and terrorist branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, is also active in Syria and has assembled a 50,000-strong Shi’a militia force.
These developments are tragic for Syria’s citizens, most of whom want to be rid of both dictators and fanatics.
But the growth of terrorism in Syria and the rest of the Middle East is dangerous for the West as well.