While the Republican presidential candidates have been talking up a storm about how they would bomb the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) back to the stone age and that Obama is too weak, Obama has been quietly, effectively doing something about the Islamic State. He’s been cutting off their sources of income.
First we blew up their oil refineries, tankers and trucks that were being used by IS to sell oil on the black market. Then we found and bombed the building that had been serving as their bank, destroying millions of dollars in cash.
Why has it taken so long? Because we were being careful to limit civilian casualties. No point in helping IS radicalize even more jihadists or foreign donors.
And that’s the whole point. Carpet bombing IS like the GOP chicken hawks want to do would only create sympathy for IS from Muslims around the world, which would result in them sending more money and fighters to IS. After all, the 9/11 attacks (carried out mainly with box cutters) didn’t require that much money. Overreacting to IS would just make the situation worse; overreacting to 9/11 by attacking Iraq was what made creation of IS possible in the first place. Using nuclear weapons against them (making the sand glow) would be one of the stupidest things we could do.
So is Obama’s strategy working? It appears to be working very well. A leaked document from IS (along with other corroborating reports) contains this revealing passage:
On account of the exceptional circumstances the Islamic State is facing, it has been decided to reduce the salaries that are paid to all mujahideen by half, and it is not allowed for anyone to be exempted from this decision, whatever his position.
Other evidence is that IS has lost 25% of its territory from their peak a year and a half ago. And controlling land is vitally important to IS, as they can’t have a caliphate without territory.
The downside of all this is that as IS loses territory and money, it will make them more likely to commit terrorist attacks abroad in a desperate effort to get us to overreact. Will we be fooled again?