Are we any further forward? Not really as President Obama recently admitted in a roundabout way. Why else would the American commander-in-chief tell The New Yorker that he hasn’t got a joystick with which to control the world. Why else would he confess he really had no particular strategy for dealing with Islamic State (IS)?
But his honesty should be commended. As Major-General Jonathan Shaw, former director of the British Special Forces and head of counter-terrorism at Defence Ministry, wrote in The Evening Standard last week, “President Obama suffers for being what we all clamour for — an honest politician. (This) honesty has led him to recognize that this is a wicked problem that threatens far more than the lives of western hostages or Iraqi territorial integrity.”
He goes on to say that the US President has fortunately kept “his distance from the Pentagon’s inflamed rhetoric”, which shows that “he is loath to repeat the mistake since 9/11 of an over-militarised response to (IS) what is fundamentally an ideological-political threat.”
The right response to IS has to be a Muslim plan backed by the West, says Major-General Shaw, “Obama’s inaction may cause less harm than action. That at least buys time …”
Difficult to admit but that’s probably the best that can be said 13 years on from that terrible day in September when those 19 men boarded planes in the US with box cutters.