Islamic State responds to Obama’s measured approach with Flames of War video
He outlined a four-part strategic plan to accomplish that goal. First, the president promised “a systemic campaign of airstrikes” against the Islamic State. Then, he detailed plans to support forces fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Next, President Obama stated that the United States will “continue to draw on our substantial counter-terrorism capabilities” to prevent attacks. He concluded his plan by pledging “humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians.”
Most importantly, President Obama unequivocally stated the United States’ fight against the Islamic State “will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”
The move seems to have emboldened the Islamic State, which released a brief video that feels more like a video game trailer than terrorist propaganda. The video, about a minute long, shows Islamic State soldiers fighting and creates the perception that they are killing and maiming American troops. A shaky video image of the White House is included, effectively marking it as a target for the Islamic State.
The video itself highlights the difference between the Islamic State and its terrorist predecessors. The high-quality images and impressive editing techniques look modern, hip and targeted to the Islamic State’s audience. While it may seem like a juvenile trailer to a violent video game, it likely resonates with the young male audience that the Islamic State needs to expand and continue to fight.
The new propaganda video is shockingly brash. If the public execution clips were not enough of a provocation to the United States and its allies, the newest video demonstrates that the Islamic State has little fear of America or its allies.
President Obama has maintained a calm, measured voice through the entirety of his remarks on the Islamic State. His almost-clinical demeanor may demonstrate a tactical unwillingness to be baited into a more aggressive military response than necessary. At the same time, perception matters heavily in international relations. If executions, direct threats and the depiction of American soldiers coming to harm result in nothing more than a stepped-up version of the airstrikes and opposition forces the Islamic State is already experiencing, what incentive do they have to stop their brutal quest for power?
Already, American military leaders have suggested that if the president’s initial approach fails, they may indeed recommend that he reverse his position regarding American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
Only time will tell whether the president’s attitude towards the Islamic State is prudent. If his four-part plan is effective and the Islamic State is destroyed, he may be seen as a wise leader who saved American lives by refusing to be baited into an emotional response. On the other hand, if destroying the Islamic State ultimately requires sending American troops into battle, he may be remembered as an academic president who enabled the Islamic State to gain strength when it could have been stamped out with an earlier overwhelming show of force.