October 28, 2019

Baghdadi Dead

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“U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday announced that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself during a daring overnight raid by elite U.S. special operations forces in Syria.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left celebrates the news but argues that Trump’s foreign policy moves may lead to an ISIS resurgence.

President Donald Trump can certainly take a victory lap for the operation that killed the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi… there was certainly considerable continuity between the Obama plan against ISIS and the Trump plan, but Trump did give his military commanders the authority for taking action against ISIS so they were no longer micromanaged by the White House, as was often the case under Obama. Also, the Trump administration did away with the self-imposed limits the Obama team had put on military action in Syria… Trump's campaign against ISIS is one of the unalloyed foreign policy successes of his presidency.”
Peter Bergen, CNN

“Although his praise for allies in general is well-deserved, Trump, of course, gave Russia top billing—’Russia was great’—as well as Turkey, although both have proven fitful allies against the Islamic State and it seems their role here was limited to allowing the United States to fly over territory they controlled without shooting at U.S. troops. However, the Washington Post reported that the United States’s recently abandoned Kurdish allies played a key role, as did Iraq, with both providing intelligence and other assistance… I sincerely hope the president is right that Moscow and Ankara are now close counterterrorism partners and will play a major role in fighting the Islamic State. However, without more information, this seems to smack of an attempt to justify handing over parts of Syria to these countries.”
Daniel Byman, Lawfare Blog

“With the killing of the leader of ISIS, the president made the case for his transactional, tactical style of foreign policy… Even though American troops have in the past few weeks retreated from certain positions in northeastern Syria, the president detailed how the arm of the U.S. military was still long enough to reach into perilous ungoverned space elsewhere in the country and execute a highly successful operation with the support of a bizarre, transitory array of allies and adversaries alike…

“The irony is that the Baghdadi mission was carried out, as the president himself acknowledged, largely by the United States rather than Turkey, Russia, European countries, the Kurds, or any other party to whom he’s now handing over the U.S. brief in the region. And for every Baghdadi, there are many more ISIS fighters either on the loose or in precarious states of detention who could regroup as a result of the U.S. retreat from the battlefield.”
Uri Friedman, The Atlantic

“The U.S. keeps repeating the same mistake in the Middle East: overestimating the power of religious ideology and underappreciating the impact of bad governance… For many Iraqi Sunni villagers under ISIS control, ISIS was just less bad than the brutality and discrimination they experienced under Iraq’s pro-Iranian Shiite-led government back then… ‘Nothing feeds extremism more than the in-your-face corruption and injustice’ that some of America’s closest Middle East allies administer daily to their people…

“[Trump] is blind to the fact that the next al-Baghdadi is being incubated today in some prison in Egypt, where President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, whom Trump once actually called ‘my favorite dictator,’ is not only rounding up violent Jihadists but liberal nonviolent journalists, activists and politicians. Their only crime is that they want to have a say in their country’s future and help to create an environment where they can realize their full potential… When Trump praises Baghdadi as his favorite victim and el-Sisi as his favorite dictator, all he is doing is walking in place. We’re actually getting nowhere.”
Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times

Finally, “Trump’s Baghdadi press conference shows how he ruins even his best moments… During his question-and-answer session, Trump divulged multiple sensitive details about the raid in Syria that could possibly give US enemies intelligence advantages; admitted to keeping Congress in the dark about the operation; openly mocked the terrorist leader; praised his controversial travel ban; and insinuated the September 11 attacks might not have happened had Washington heeded his advice.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“That Trump effectively accused Democratic leaders of being willing to put partisanship before country over something as serious as a special forces attack on America’s top national security target is a sign of how wide the gulf has become under his presidency. Trump’s griping about the extent of leaking is entirely understandable – his administration has indeed been as leaky as a sieve. But most of the big stories to emerge from inside the White House have come not from Democrats but from his own inner circle of senior aides, or from the whistleblower within the intelligence community who sounded the alarm over Ukraine.”
Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right celebrates the news but cautions that the fight against ISIS is not over.

From the Right

The right celebrates the news but cautions that the fight against ISIS is not over.

“When the sun rises tomorrow, one thing is unquestionably true: our number one enemy is dead. A man who left a trail of pain and destruction through evil acts and unimaginable terror saw his own life end after he was hunted down by American troops. More importantly, whoever takes his place knows his fate will surely be the same… The death of this villain, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is not just a Trump administration accomplishment and it’s not just a single military operation. This victory is brought to us by years of deployments, thousands of U.S. troops losing limbs and sacrificing their lives, and a generation determined to seek vengeance and justice abroad so terror doesn’t strike us at home.”
Johnny “Joey” Jones, Fox News

“This is a big win for America and the civilized world — a decisive blow to the once-potent extremist group that has now been routed all across the swaths of Iraq and Syria that it once controlled. It’s also a victory for President Trump, who took office vowing to crush ISIS — and has…

“To prevent any ISIS revival, Washington will need to keep Iran-aligned extremists from again radicalizing the region’s Sunnis, as Tehran’s pawns did after President Barack Obama pulled the last US forces out of Iraq… To check Iran and protect the Syrian Kurds who helped smash ISIS in Syria, Trump is looking to deploy some US forces in the oil-rich areas of northeast Syria, a part of the Kurdish heartland, which seems a wise precaution. Washington can’t force peace on the region, but it can stand by its friends and against its enemies — as well as hunting down the worst vermin, like al-Baghdadi.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

“Now that Baghdadi is no longer ruining lives, the inevitable question is: what’s next? The Islamic State was in a bad way even before Washington took away its caliph, and it’s hard not to assume that Baghdadi’s removal will deal an even bigger blow to a group already hunkering down to save itself. ISIS’s leadership was prepared for the time when their so-called caliphate was burned to the ground, and their fighters have responded by transitioning into a classic insurgency… the United States has experienced this moment before: think Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006, Abu Ayyub Al-Masri in 2010 and Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Killing the top commander is highly unlikely to kill the group.”
Daniel R. DePetris, The National Interest

“That the Islamic State at its height controlled almost one-third of Iraq and Syria captured the imagination of extremist Muslims worldwide. That Baghdadi allowed his followers to enslave Yezidis and non-Muslims whom they captured also made real in contemporary society practices abandoned by most Muslims centuries ago. That he resurrected and legitimized such concepts will give them resonance for generations… to believe the forces which propelled him to power and infamy will dissipate with his death would be naïve. Trump has closed the chapter on the end of the beginning, but the next chapters in Baghdadi’s concept of the caliphate will play out for years, decades, and perhaps centuries to come.”
Michael Rubin, The National Interest

This “is a reminder that despite the craziness in Washington, life goes on as do other actions in government and the military besides impeachment. President Trump deserves some credit for this, but let’s also praise the brave American forces that are continuing to undermine and strike ISIS. Some are already complaining that President Trump said Baghdadi died like a dog whimpering and crying. I think that is a good thing and well said. Frankly, radical Islamists will be impacted in a demoralizing way by this language.”
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent

“No Americans were killed in what Mr. Trump called a ‘dangerous and daring’ operation. He deserves credit for approving a raid that inevitably carries risks of failure and casualties. The death of Baghdadi is important as a matter of simple justice given his murderous history. And it informs other jihadists that they can achieve no victory and are likewise doomed to die in a tunnel or bomb blast. The raid also shows the importance of intelligence gathered from prisoners. Iraqi officials say their interrogation of captured ISIS fighters in recent months provided news about Baghdadi’s location…

“The Baghdadi raid [furthermore] underscores the anti-terrorist purpose of maintaining a U.S. military presence. The U.S. homeland hasn’t suffered a successful jihadist attack, foreign- planned or -inspired, in some time. This isn’t an accident. It’s the result of persistent security and intelligence work that coordinates with allies to pursue jihadists wherever they are around the world. In his better moments, Mr. Trump seems to understand this. As he basks in the success of the Idlib raid, he should rethink his retreat from Syria in a still dangerous world.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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