ISIS has become the latest way the media and conservatives are trying to terrify Americans into war and erase the Obama administration’s accomplishments in fighting terrorism. They ran this game with Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi, even though extensive reporting has shown the group has no operational ties to al Qaeda, and they did it again when Boko Haram was a convenient boogieman to slap the administration with.
At today’s briefing, Jon Karl took a couple of shots at getting newly-minted Press Secretary Josh Earnest to agree with former Amb. Ryan Crocker that ISIS is a bigger threat to the U.S. than Osama bin Laden, because we just can’t stop taking advice from Bush-era figures who mangled Iraq in the first place, but Earnest wouldn’t bite.
“I think what you’ve seen from this administration and this President is a response that’s commensurate with the threat posed by this group,” Earnest said, adding that part of the strategy is to “beef up our intelligence resources to make sure that we are keeping a close eye on what’s happening over there, what that group is up to, because of the threat that they may pose.”
“Given that threat,” Karl began, “does the President regret what he said to David Remnick in The New Yorker, talking about the al Qaeda affiliates being like the JV, the JV team, and saying since you put on Lakers jerseys doesn’t mean you’re Kobe Bryant, does the President regret talking so cavalierly about the threat posed by groups like this, offshoots of al Qaeda?”
“He does not,” Earnest replied. “And the reason for that is just, is simple…”
“This is not a JV team, though,” Karl interrupted.
“I think there’s an assessment underway to figure out exactly how significant of a threat they pose to the United States and our allies and interests, not just in the region, but around the world,” Earnest said, and added that the threat from core al Qaeda, which was determined to launch attacks on American soil, is “quite a bit different” from the threats posed by offshoots, and again pointed out that we need to keep tabs on them so we can drone the fuck out of them if they step out of line (I’m paraphrasing a little).
Karl was referring to this portion of President Obama’s New Yorker profile:
At the core of Obama’s thinking is that American military involvement cannot be the primary instrument to achieve the new equilibrium that the region so desperately needs. And yet thoughts of a pacific equilibrium are far from anyone’s mind in the real, existing Middle East. In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
The danger in this narrative is that it unites two warring factions of conservatives, and puts them at common purpose with the mainstream media as well. Interventionists want to scare Americans into war, while your Rand Paul wing love it because it neutralizes the President’s accomplishments in fighting terrorism, and the media loves it because they get to scare the crap out of people.
Like Josh Earnest said, though, it remains to be seen what kind of a threat ISIS is to the U.S., as was also the case with Ansar al Sharia and Boko Haram.