Calling It Genocide Won’t Stop It

Secretary of State John Kerry at a State Department news conference, March 17. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Secretary of State John Kerry at a State Department news conference, March 17. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Now that it’s been labeled, how about a strategy to end the ISIS slaughter?

For almost two terms in office, Barack Obama and his team have studiously avoided acknowledging the most obvious fact of terrorists who have slaughtered men, women and children from Syria to San Bernardino: their roots in radical Islam.

Given this history, John Kerry’s declaration last Thursday that Islamic State is carrying out genocide is the rare Obama administration acknowledgment of reality. Yet as welcome as it is to hear an Obama official speaking honestly about terrorism, the secretary of state’s remarks on genocide raise a disquieting question:

Is labeling the horrors inflicted by Islamic State on ethnic and religious minorities “genocide” the prelude to stepped-up U.S. action to put a halt to it? Or is it in fact a substitute for such action?

Unfortunately, the argument for cynicism is strong. Start with the qualifying footnotes to Mr. Kerry’s speech from his own department. For almost every news report of Mr. Kerry’s remarks carried a paragraph citing unnamed State Department officials underscoring the genocide designation doesn’t commit the U.S. to any action to stop it.

For anyone who’s been paying the slightest attention to the burnings, beheadings and other butcheries that this self-proclaimed caliphate likes to film and broadcast as they drive Christians, Yazidis and others from cities and villages that have been home for centuries, the idea of genocide is not news. To the contrary, President Obama and Mr. Kerry are the last to come around to an argument about genocide that members of Congress and the human-rights community have been pressing for some time.

The president’s own ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, has literally written the book on genocide. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” published in 2002, is an indictment of the failure of previous American administrations to stop earlier genocides. Where is Ms. Power’s voice today?

The truth is that those targeted by Islamic State’s genocide need a military strategy to stop it, not some secretary of state calling their killers genocidal. In this sense, Mr. Kerry’s genocide label is of a piece with an Obama administration constantly talking up a “long war” with Islamic State as it does just enough to let America claim it is taking action—without, of course, doing what it would take to make good on President Obama’s promise to “degrade and ultimately destroy” it.

In Senate testimony on March 9, U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the man President Obama has picked to lead the fight against Islamic State, put it this way: “I do have concerns about our broader strategy against [Islamic State], about how we are applying resources, about how we are focusing our authorities.”

The general was answering a question about taking Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, where Islamic State has its headquarters. Notwithstanding all the talk about how much Iraqi territory has been retaken, the general basically said the resources to take Mosul or Raqqa are not yet in place. If ever you wonder how terrorists go from “jayvee” to genocide in two years, this is as good an explanation as any.

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SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal
William McGurn

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