In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on USNews.com
On the weekend following the quadruple “Ramadan” attacks in France, Tunisia, Syria and Kuwait, we should focus attention on the State Department’s release two weeks ago of the Country Reports on Terrorism 2014. The report outlines a significant rise in terrorist attacks, especially those that have killed over 100 people, which rose from two in 2013, to 20 in 2014. The spike in terrorist attacks is primarily credited to five places – Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and India – where more than 60 percent of the attacks took place. Stunningly the report indicates that almost 33,000 people were killed, and more than 9,400 kidnapped by terrorists in 2014. Understandably, fingers have pointed towards the rise of the Islamic State group and Boko Haram as well as the continued activity of various manifestations of al-Qaida. More importantly the report blames the “weak or failed governance” of many states in combatting terrorism.
The report is typical of government documents like this, exhaustive in detail, with so much minutiae that it can avoid controversy; it is overly lengthy at 389 pages so as to give the impression that it is so large it is unassailable. What reports like this fail to do is address the cause and solution. The report lauds the Obama administration for captaining the effort for the U.N. Security Council to pass the 2014, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 which called on member states to take action to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. The resolution has done absolutely nothing to stem the tide of violence, human rights abuses or the seizure of territory. It is the poster child of international liberalism whose adherence to multilateral calls to action is the guilt-assuaging method to avoid real action.
The report recognizes that the Syrian Civil War, the power vacuum in Iraq, the weakness of governments formerly allied with the United States and the state sponsorship of terrorism by regimes like Iran are the causes of the rise of terrorism.
In each instance, without exception, this was caused or the problem was exacerbated by policies of the Obama administration. Reports like this give the impression that the United States government, specifically the State Department and the White House are merely active observers and that the world state simply devolved into chaos. This is delusion at best, or duplicity at worst.
During the press conference introducing the report, Tina Kaidanow, the ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism, was asked whether the U.S. has been effective fighting terrorism. “I think we have been effective in building the capability of our partners globally in a variety of regions and places,” she said. Here is the Obama policy writ large: It is not about American leadership, American action, the American mission or American goals; it is about some figurative faith in multilateralism that rarely takes on corporeal form.
The Obama administration made an active choice to not support the moderate resistance movement in Syria from 2011 onward when it could have dominated events, instead of allowing them to be controlled by events, leading to the rise of the Islamic State group.
It made another active choice not to ensure that American troops stayed in Iraq that same year. President Barack Obama’s grand desire to leave Iraq had no basis in the realism of geopolitics or the idealism of human rights. Instead it stemmed from an obsession with being able to issue a sound bite that he was the president that left Iraq for good.
The train of choices continued as the Islamic State group was first explained as the actions of the “JV team” that could be dealt with by the very regime (Iraq) and groups (the Free Syrian Army among others) that the Obama administration did not want to actively and muscularly support.
The option was then made to play a hands-off role as regimes which were trying to combat terrorism, many while inherently operating under duress from nations like Iran, were allowed to falter or collapse without American intervention. This is especially true in Yemen.
Finally, the state sponsorship of terrorism is recognized in the report, notably by Iran, Syria and Sudan. These regimes have engaged in the worst human rights atrocities and in the case of Iran and Syria have attempted to develop and even use weapons of mass destruction. If the Obama administration were truly interested in using American leadership to solve a problem, save lives, and enhance international order and law, to create some semblance of peace, it must resurrect and direct the might of American power against the cancer that these tyrannies have created.