On at least two occasions in the very recent past, President Obama has declared that ISIS has been “contained”. Such a categorical statement actually demands some qualification; i.e. the terrorist organization has been “contained” only in its quest for new territory in northern Iraq and Syria. In that region, ISIS ‘ gains have actually been rolled back and we no longer see columns of their fighters rolling through the countryside enjoying one conquest after another.

In sharp contrast, international news over the past few weeks makes it clear that ISIS has expanded its global reach:  The group has taken responsibility for bringing down that Russian airliner, for a bombing in Beirut, and for the horrific, multiple, coordinated attacks in Paris.  These three events have, justifiably, dominated the news, almost completely over-shadowing the aforementioned containment cited in the lead paragraph.

Having taken ghoulish delight in the death and destruction they have wrought, ISIS went on to announce that no one is safe and that it is their intention to bring the same terrorism to US shores; i.e. to the “center” of our country, whatever that means.

Without divulging the specifics of what they know, some notable members of Congress (1) have allowed that they have “never” been more concerned about our safety and security. In light of ISIS’ recent widespread successes, that gravitas is well-founded. Simply put, the odds of us getting hit have changed; they have increased.

Apart from the obvious implications of such a catastrophe, there is this:  If we are indeed harmed, the political pressure on President Obama or his successor to go after ISIS will be enormous. The American people will demand action, just as they did in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. Unfortunately, it is in just such an emotionally-charged climate that we run the risk of making one or more bad decisions. In such “moments”, we need in our Commander-in-Chief, not just wisdom, but a clear head and the resolve not to be pushed into rash action by what might well be misguided public opinion (2).

Thus far, President Obama has limited our engagement with ISIS to fighting the terrorists from the air, disrupting their supply lines, and keeping US boots off the ground. Conservatives, both in and out of government, have loudly proclaimed their alternative which is to go “all in”; deploy thousands of US combat troops in Syria and take the fight directly to the terrorists.

While such an approach has its gut-level appeal, threats to our homeland will still remain in the form of “sleeper cells” that are likely to already exist here. We can help our intelligence and law enforcement agencies find and apprehend these individuals by being vigilant, aware of what is going on around us, and promptly reporting anything out of the ordinary or suspicious.


1, Senator Diane Feinstein (D – CA) is a notable example.

2. To frame this in the negative, we DON’T need another George W. Bush