Talk about a no-news news conference! We – and by “we” I mean the rest of the world – have known that since 2009. From Mr Obama’s Apology Tour to his “foreign contingency operations”, “man-made disasters” and Fort Hood’s “workplace violence,” he has systematically misunderstood the nature of our enemy and the nature of the threat they pose. He still does. Even his hapless Secretary of Defense is a quicker study than he. His Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sees the urgency of the existential threat posed by ISIS.
According to Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, “ISIS has a problem now that it has seized a large swathe of territory in both Iraq and Syria. It can’t afford to see its cash flow diminish. It’s coming in and [going] out quickly … Fighters have to be paid something … The cost of governance, paying administrators in the towns and cities they have captured and incorporated into their khalifat, running a [country] is not cheap.” A “comprehensive” treatment of an infected toe is of no use if gangrene has passed the knee. “We have a comprehensive strategy in Iraq,” his press secretary assures us. If that’s true, why have we not struck the seven oil fields or two refineries or their pipelines in northern Iraq controlled by ISIS, from which they derive around $2 million a day from the illicit oil sales? Why have we not severed the roads by which they commit commerce? Why have we not hit concentrations of confiscated tanks and artillery pieces? All of this can be done in Iraq, without venturing into Syria and therefore upsetting Iran (with which Mr Obama still holds hope of negotiating out of what they see as a strategic necessity).
Because there is no “comprehensive” strategy. It’s the run-of-the-mill whack-a-mole policy that permeates the Obama administration. His “no victors, no vanquished” vision of dealing with belligerents is, if anything, more naïve than the “reset” of US-Russian relations. And will have, if anything, more disastrous results.
For a limited time, we can disrupt their progress by making it more expensive to operate their “khalifat”, while at the same time cutting into their income, and we can do it at a time before they can entrench more durable sources of income. If our president can only pull the trigger without studying the situation to death – as he did with the rescue operation for James Foley (which was ready to go in the first week of July, but was delayed by the White House until it was too late).
You know what it takes for the president to have a strategy? Call the SecDef into his office and tell him, “I need a strategy to defeat ISIS on my deck in ten days.” That’s it. That’s all it takes. We need to find out if Mr Obama wants to defeat ISIS or just contain it. Or neither.
 As quoted in Robert Windrem, Deep Pockets, Dark Goals: How Will ISIS Keep Funding Terror?, NBC News, August 28 2014.