I hate saying “I told you so” (OK – I love saying it), but just think about what happened barely hours before my post yesterday predicting that border security would be a gaping hole in the anti-ISIS strategy President Obama was likely to lay out in his nation-wide speech last night: The top intelligence official in the president’s Department of Homeland Security told Congress that ISIS has been talking on social media sites about infiltrating the United States through Mexico.
According to Francis Taylor, Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at DHS, “There have been Twitter and social-media exchanges among ISIL adherents across the globe speaking about that as a possibility.” Taylor also proclaimed himself “satisfied that we have the intelligence and the capability at our border that would prevent that activity.”
At the same time, after his remarks became public, DHS made sure to let journalists know that “There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by ISIL to attempt to cross the southern border” – which alone could signal that the Department is counting on the latter being true at least as much as it’s sure that the former is true.
Indeed, Taylor admitted to a skeptical Senator John McCain of Arizona, “If I gave you the impression I thought the border security was what it needed to be to protect against all the risks coming across the state that’s not what I meant to say.”
As I‘ve posted, however difficult it will be to secure the border and transport access points effectively enough to keep terrorists out of the country, it’s bound to be far easier than destroying militarily whatever terrorist movements already have sprung up in failed states like Iraq and Syria, and like-minded groups already operating and likely to spring up in the world’s dozens of other failed states.
Or think of the converse: If the Obama administration and its successors can’t adequately secure America’s own borders, how realistic is it to expect them to eradicate terrorism in numerous, often hostile, locations, in distant corners of the world?
And speaking of variables that are hard to control, the border is hardly the only alarmingly weak link in Mr. Obama’s anti-ISIS strategy. The blueprint leans heavily on cooperation from regional Muslim allies and from NATO allies. But less than 24 hours after the Obama speech, Germany announced its refusal to take part in airstrikes against ISIS forces in Syria. Britain issued hopelessly confusing statements on the same subject. And a Turkish official was quoted as ruling out permitting warplanes from using bases on its territory against the extremists. For good measure, he added that any Turkish participation in Mr. Obama’s coalition efforts would be strictly humanitarian.
Of course, Britain and even Germany may come around, and the Turks may just be hiding more extensive cooperation plans from its populace. For now, though, it looks like his failure to think outside the box about neutralizing the ISIS threat has the President starting off facing and 0 and 2 count.