Can Obama handle ISIS?

Editor’s Note: Newt Gingrich is a co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire,” which airs at 6:30 p.m. ET weekdays, and author of a new book, “Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Story highlights

Newt Gingrich: At least 500 young Brits have gone to the Middle East as jihadists

Gingrich: It's troubling that a vicious, radical group can recruit so many young men

He asks whether President Obama understands how serious a threat ISIS presents

Gingrich: ISIS may produce even more terrorists who want to destroy the West

CNN  — 

Traveling in Europe this week, I had a chance to see the world through the eyes of the London Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

The view from Britain was startlingly different than the view from Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama is vacationing.

There is a consensus in Britain that at least 500 young Brits have gone to the Middle East as jihadists.

Newt Gingrich

There is a clear belief, stated by Prime Minister David Cameron, that the ISIS fighter who executed journalist James Foley on videotape is British. This harkens back 12 years to the beheading of another American journalist, Daniel Pearl, and the fact that a British-Pakistani has been sentenced to death as one of the perpetrators.

The three British newspapers devoted page after page to exploring the scale of British terrorist recruitment, the danger that the terrorists will come home, and clear warnings from the security forces that they will be overwhelmed if they come home in an organized manner.

Something profound is happening when a vicious, radical movement can recruit that many young men from a society that was housing, feeding and educating them. This represents a repudiation of the idea of assimilation on a scale and intensity that will lead to profound public policy changes.

Cameron cut short his vacation and returned to London for emergency meetings. He indicated quite clearly that he was prepared to expand anti-terrorist policies and make them even more aggressive.

It is already illegal in Britain even to look at video such as the beheading of James Foley. This would clearly be unconstitutional in the United States, but it indicates the seriousness with which the British take the threat of radical Islamists.

The British have already begun suspending passports of young men who wanted to go to Syria or Iraq. They have also made it illegal to belong to ISIS.

President Obama has taken a lot of grief for reading his statement about the killing of James Foley and then going to play golf. At least one newspaper put a picture on its front page of the President laughing in his golf cart next to a picture of Foley’s grieving parents.

Having now read the President’s statement and compared it to the reality of 500-plus young Britons joining ISIS, I think he may have been lucky that people were too irritated by his schedule to pay attention to his statement.

I urge you to read President Obama’s full text. It isn’t very long. The most delusional line is his assertion that “people like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy.” Of course it is freedom and the rule of law that have been rare throughout history, and tyranny and lawlessness that have been common. ISIS and the ideology it represents won’t just wear themselves out.

One has to wonder whether the President understands how serious a threat ISIS presents. ISIS is a fact. It is a religiously motivated movement that uses terror as one of its weapons. Beheading people is nothing new in history.

ISIS is much more than a terrorist organization. It is making money out of trading in oil and grain. It is making money from robbing banks and selling stolen artifacts. It is running a significant part of Syria and Iraq.

More important than ISIS itself is the larger movement it represents. It is recruiting people from many countries.

As I have written before, from Boko Haram in Nigeria to Hamas in Palestine to ISIS in Syria and Iraq, we are seeing the same kind of transnational religious radicalism metastasize into a deep commitment to destroy our way of life.

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said, this is “an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated” – and a vision that could “fundamentally alter the face of the Middle East and create a security environment that would certainly threaten us in many ways.”

The British reports on the number of terrorists they are producing and the potential threat they represent should sober all of us.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has no strategy for dealing with a threat of that scale.

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