By Charles Krauthammer
By Charles Krauthammer
York Daily News
February 5, 2015
Why did they do it?
What did the Islamic State think it could possibly gain by burning alive a
captured Jordanian pilot?
underestimate the absence of logic, the sheer depraved thrill of a triumphant
cult reveling in its barbarism. But I wouldn’t overestimate it either. You
don’t overrun much of Syria and Iraq without having deployed keen tactical and
So what’s the
objective? To destabilize Jordan by drawing it deeply into the conflict.
At first glance,
this seems to make no sense. The savage execution has mobilized Jordan against
the Islamic State and given it solidarity and unity of purpose.
Yes, for now. But
what about six months hence? Solidarity and purpose fade quickly. Think about
how post-9/11 American fervor dissipated over the years of inconclusive
conflict, yielding the war fatigue of today. Or how the beheading of U.S.
journalists galvanized the country against the Islamic State, yet less than five
months later, the frustrating nature of that fight is creating divisions at
Jordan is a more
vulnerable target because, unlike the U.S., it can be destabilized. For nearly a
century Jordan has been a miracle of stability — an artificial geographic
creation led by a British-imposed monarchy, it has enjoyed relative domestic
peace and successful political transitions with just four rulers over four
Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, similarly created, Jordan is a wonder. But a fragile
one. Its front-line troops and special forces are largely Bedouin. The Bedouin
are the backbone of the Hashemite monarchy but they are a minority. Most of the
population is non-indigenous Palestinians, to which have now been added 1.3
million Syrian refugees.
however, is the Muslim Brotherhood with its strong Jordanian contingent — as
well as more radical jihadist elements, some sympathetic to the Islamic State.
An estimated 1,500 Jordanians have already joined the Islamic State in Iraq and
Syria. Others remain home, ready to rise when the time is right.
The time is not
right today. Jordanian anger is white hot. But the danger is that as the
Jordanians attack — today by air, tomorrow perhaps on the ground — they risk
a drawn-out engagement that could drain and debilitate the regime, one of the
major bulwarks against radicalism in the entire region.
We should be
careful what we wish for. Americans worship at the shrine of multilateralism.
President Obama’s Islamic State strategy is to create a vast coalition with an
Arab/Kurdish vanguard and America leading from behind with air power.
The coalition is
allegedly 60 strong. (And doing what?) Despite administration boasts, the
involvement of the Arab front line — Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the
United Arab Emirates — has been minimal and symbolic. In fact, we’ve just
now learned that the UAE stopped flying late last year.
The Obama policy
has not fared terribly well. Since the policy was launched, the Islamic State
has doubled its Syrian domain. It’s hard to see a Jordanian-Saudi force
succeeding where Iraq’s Shiite militias, the Iraqi military, the Kurds and
U.S. airpower have thus far failed.
of course, are serious boots on the ground, such as Syria’s once-ascendant
non-jihadist rebels, which Obama contemptuously dismissed and allowed to wither.
And the Kurds, who are willing and able to fight, yet remain scandalously
undersupplied by this administration.
Missing most of all
is Turkey. It alone has the size and power to take on the Islamic State. But
doing so would strengthen, indeed rescue, Turkey’s primary nemesis, the
Iranian-backed Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.
for entry was an American commitment to help bring down Assad. Obama refused. So
Turkey sits it out.
Why doesn’t Obama
agree? Didn’t he say Assad must go? The reason is Obama dares not upset
Assad’s patrons, the Iranian mullahs, with whom Obama dreams of concluding a
For Obama, this is
his ticket to Mt. Rushmore. So in pursuit of his Iran fantasy, Obama eschews
Turkey, our most formidable potential ally against both the Islamic State and
What’s Obama left
with? Fragile front-line Arab states, like Jordan.
But even they are
mortified by Obama’s blind pursuit of detente with Tehran, which would make
the mullahs hegemonic over the Arab Middle East. Hence the Arabs, the Saudis
especially, hold back from any major military commitment to us. Jordan, its hand
now forced by its pilot’s murder, may now bravely sally forth on its own. But
at great risk and with little chance of ultimate success.