Is ISIS A Threat To Us?

by Dish Staff

Chuck Hagel thinks so:

The group “is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group,” Hagel said in response to a question about whether the Islamic State posed a similar threat to the United States as al Qaeda did before Sept. 11, 2001. “They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They’re tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything that we’ve seen,” Hagel said, adding that “the sophistication of terrorism and ideology married with resources now poses a whole new dynamic and a new paradigm of threats to this country.”

Hagel’s comments added to the mismatch between the Obama administration’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric and its current game plan for how to take on the group in Iraq and Syria, which so far involves limited airstrikes and some military assistance to the Kurdish and Iraqi forces fighting the militants. It has also requested from Congress $500 million to arm moderate rebel factions in Syria. But for now, the United States is not interested in an Iraqi offer to let U.S. fighter jets operate out of Iraqi air bases.

Retired Gen. John Allen seconds Hagel’s assessment, arguing that the US has the means to destroy ISIS and a moral and security-based obligation to do so:

IS must be destroyed and we must move quickly to pressure its entire “nervous system,” break it up, and destroy its pieces. As I said, the president was absolutely right to strike IS, to send advisors to Iraq, to arm the Kurds, to relieve the suffering of the poor benighted people of the region, to seek to rebuild functional and non-sectarian Iraqi Security Forces and to call for profound change in the political equation and relationships in Baghdad.

The whole questionable debate on American war weariness aside, the U.S. military is not war weary and is fully capable of attacking and reducing IS throughout the depth of its holdings, and we should do it now, but supported substantially by our traditional allies and partners, especially by those in the region who have the most to give – and the most to lose – if the Islamic State’s march continues. It’s their fight as much as ours, for the effects of IS terror will certainly spread in the region with IS seeking soft spots for exploitation.

Observing how the official rhetoric on ISIS has escalated, Eli Lake picks up on a choice of phrasing by Obama that he interprets as revealing:

In the aftermath of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Obama vowed to bring the attackers to justice. This week Obama struck a different tone, saying: “When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.” The difference between bringing suspects to justice and seeing that justice is done is roughly the same as the difference between treating terrorism as a crime and as an act of war.

Even though special operations teams were dispatched to Libya after Benghazi to target the jihadists suspected of carrying it out, Obama chose to treat the attack, which cost the lives of four Americans, as a crime. It took until June of this year for the FBI in conjunction with U.S. special operations teams to capture one of the ringleaders of the attack and bring him to the United States to face trial. A different fate likely awaits the leaders of ISIS.

Larison is steaming, of course:

The good news so far is that the administration doesn’t appear to be taking its own rhetoric all that seriously, but the obvious danger is that it will trap itself into taking far more aggressive measures by grossly exaggerating the nature of the threat from ISIS in this way. The truth is that ISIS doesn’t pose an imminent threat to the U.S. and its allies, unless one empties the word imminent of all meaning. Hagel made the preposterous statement today that the group poses an “imminent threat to every interest we have.” That is simply a lie, and a remarkably stupid one at that, and it is the worst kind of fear-mongering. Administration officials are engaged in the most blatant threat inflation with these recent remarks, which is all the more strange since they claim not to favor the aggressive kind of policy that their irresponsible rhetoric supports.

If the group can be contained, as Gen. Dempsey states, then it can be contained indefinitely. If that is the case, then the threat that it poses is a much more manageable one than the other ridiculous claims from administration officials would suggest.

Allahpundit figures it’s only a matter of time before ISIS attempts an attack on American soil:

ISIS has every incentive to do it, too. Nothing would lift their prestige in the jihadiverse more than an attack on American soil. They have nothing to lose at this point by holding off either; quite rightly, we’re going to bomb them whether they do it or not. They have the motive and they most certainly have the means, flush with cash to pay traffickers handsomely for smuggling them across and well supplied with men who can melt into the U.S. population more easily than the average ISIS neckbeard. If you want to knock Perry for something, knock him for understating the threat: Why would ISIS send a jihadi to cross the border, where he might be caught, when they could put one with a British passport on a plane and have him waltz into the United States instead?

By engaging the jihadists in battle, Keating points out, the US creates that incentive:

ISIS and its predecessor organization, al-Qaida in Iraq, have long held hostile views toward the United States and its presence in the Middle East. It has issued threats against the U.S. before, including a promise to “raise the flag of Allah in the White House.” U.S. and European governments have also warned for some time that the large numbers of international fighters who have traveled to Syria to fight with ISIS could return with the means and know-how to carry out attacks in their home countries. So far there hasn’t been much evidence of this actually taking place. … This has arguably been to ISIS’s strategic benefit. It’s hard to believe the U.S. would have taken quite this long to send in the drones had there been evidence that ISIS was actively plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland or even U.S. facilities in the Middle East. Now, that’s obviously changed. With the U.S. bombing its forces in Iraq, there’s no benefit for ISIS in refraining from attacks against Americans.