In Turkey on Monday, President Barack Obama stated that ISIS is not "a traditional military opponent" and labeled it as a "violent extremist group."
His comments cut directly to the heart of why the U.S. has been so ineffectual in defeating this enemy.
If we don't even recognize it for what it is, how can we defeat it?
ISIS is not a terrorist organization. It is indeed a state. It is a "traditional military opponent."
Though ISIS uses unorthodox means and barbaric tactics, it has become a "state" – a state that could have been crippled if not wiped out long ago.
A terrorist group that controls and governs a land mass estimated to be the size of the state of Indiana or larger — and that has all the attributes of the governing body, is a state.
If it acts like a duck, walks like a duck . . .
Why is this such an important distinction for us?
Because a nation state poses a far greater threat to us and has far more resources at its disposal than an ad hoc terrorist group.
The PLO, for instance, long tried to establish control over territory, first in Jordan and later in Lebanon, because it know it could far easily wage war on Israel if it did. Israel recognized this and took steps to ensure that never happened.
ISIS now has tax revenue and resources to generate cash. It has training grounds. It has local experts that can help with everything from forging passports to developing chemical and biological weapons. And remember, such weapons can be turned into weapons of mass destruction.
It is a difficult for terrorist organizations to operate without their own territory. It's just a simple fact of life.
We know the 9/11 attacks were organized successfully because Osama bin Laden had the benefit of using Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as its base of operations.
For some reason the president does not see it that way, and views ISIS as just another "violent group" that occupies land wherein he feels they can be "contained."
ISIS is in fact a terrorist group that has taken control of a government in a very strategic part of the Middle East. It used its state as a launch pad, not only in the recent attacks in Paris, but as a strategic hub for operations now in at least six Arab countries.
The goal of ISIS, apparently, is twofold.
First, it wants to establish a new caliphate.
Second, it wants to do great harm to the United States. One of its websites over the weekend said that the United States will soon get its due, noting that "American blood is the best blood."
I continue to be shocked that not only the president but Congress continues to see ISIS as something of a rogue terror organization, rather than a growing, metastasizing state with far-reaching tentacles.
MSNBC reported Monday that some of the strikes launched by the French in response to the terrorist attacks hit ISIS's oil pumping stations. This is disturbing because it begs the question, after a year of U.S. bombardment: How is it that ISIS is still able to pump oil?
It is also known that ISIS is a Sunni movement backed by Gulf state operators who have been using the extremist group to do their dirty work fighting the Shia-backed Assad regime and Shia-controlled Iraq.
Long ago, the U.S. should have interrupted ISIS's financial ties with the Gulf. We should have been diligent in stanching the flow of cash from the Gulf states, some of whom claim to be allies of ours.
It has been said that in the first six months of U.S. bombing against ISIS, we dropped the same amount of armaments as we did during three days for the battle of Ramadi during the Iraq war.
The Paris attacks confirm we have been fighting ISIS on the periphery.
Now, because of the failure to deal with ISIS, there are growing calls for ground troops and even NATO intervention in Syria.
I am not sure this is the wisest of moves as an initial step.
We should be better supporting the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Jordanians, and even the Egyptians in using their own militaries to decimate and destroy ISIS.
We should be threatening Turkey with losing its NATO status unless it closes its border to ISIS and join with us.
We should back regional powers with NATO air support as they annihilate ISIS, as we cut of their inflows of cash and fighters.
Paris proves that the United States under Obama has been asleep at the switch.
Meanwhile, the vacuum in the Middle East has been filled by Putin's Russia, which has established a very clear axis between itself, Assad's Syria, Iran, and Iraq.
We should be thinking strategically – and use wisdom to destroy ISIS and not platitudes. We definitely need to wipe out ISIS as a state, and we must do it soon.
Posts by Christopher Ruddy
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