There are a variety of indications in recent days that the Obama administration is gearing up to mount a war of sorts against ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Here’s one more indication that, so far as I know, has not elsewhere been interpreted in this way.
The first paragraph of a Huffington Post article reads:
Ben Rhodes, the White House’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications & Speechwriting, said that journalist James Foley’s execution at the hands of the Islamic State, the militant group formerly known as ISIS, constituted a terrorist attack.
The spokesman goes on to make a reasonably plausible case for regarding that killing as “a terrorist attack” against the United States. Rhodes notes that ISIS committed this “brutal execution” explicitly because Foley was an American, and declared that this constitutes “an attack on our country, when one of our own is killed like that.”
While it is not unreasonable, then, to regard it as a terrorist attack, the important point to note is that this spokesman of the administration has gone out of his way to make that case.
The only explanation I can think of representing the murder of one journalist in this expansive way is that he is making the case — to the American public, and to Congress — for regarding this killing as a provocation to which the suitable response is to revive the “war on terror,” at least to a degree and with suitable authorization, with ISIS as the enemy.
By making this murder into a mini-9/11, the event weighs on the scale in support of targeting ISIS as, previously, the way that American power previously targeted al-Qaeda.
The case is not unreasonable. As for whether the policy — of war of whatever magnitude against ISIS — is right and wise, I do not venture an opinion.
This group does seem barbaric enough that the world should not stand by while genocidal actions and mass executions occur. It is also true, with respect to Iraq, that the United states — having broken the country — has some moral obligation (in accordance with Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn” metaphor) to prevent Iraq from coming under the sway of so evil a power.
Perhaps also there is a legitimate basis for believing that ISIS will strike at American targets, besides the current crop of hostages, and it might make sense to strike against them before they become still more powerful.
There is dispute about whose side time is on, when it comes to the menace of ISIS. Will ISIS — by virtue of its reckless and brutal ways — naturally self-destruct, as some argue? Or will it be able to grow in power if left the space to do so? On that question, I don’t know enough to have an opinion.
My only point here is that, in those statements to the press, this Obama administration spokesman is clearly engaged in a campaign toward strengthening the ability of the administration to go after ISIS in a bigger way– bigger than the immediate ways it already has in liberating the tens of thousands of Yazidis who were trapped on that mountain top and in helping to wrest from ISIS control of Iraq’s largest dam.