During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that took place earlier this week, Air Force nominee for Vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Paul Selva, stated that the "Islamic State" was currently "no threat to the US homeland."
Asked to prioritize the list of threats the US was actually facing, Gen. Selva gave the following answer: "Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and all of the organizations that have grown around ideology that was articulated by al Qaeda".
While the merits of listing China — one of America's top trading partners, but also a potential global rival — may be worth a discussion, and probably a few raised eyebrows both in DC and in Beijing, the fact that Russia and Iran feature prominently in this list says quite a lot about the level of confusion there is in the US military and political establishment as to the difference between strategic (structural and long term) opponents, and short/medium term rivalries that could be bridged through possible engagement, negotiation, and fair settlement of contentious issues.
Also visibly not aware of the somewhat bizarre statement about Iran as a top threat to the US homeland, unless one considers Tel Aviv to be part of America, Selva may have forgotten that the US and Iran were de facto allies in the fight against ISIS and that both countries had actually just signed a strategic deal likely to change power dynamics in the Middle East for years to come.
One can just hope that Selva's clearly voiced concerns are not going to come back and haunt him. Now, the General may very well be right in his assessment about ISIS' current lack of capabilities and willingness to come after the US on American soil. Besides, the "Islamic State" has probably figured out that any large scale attack on the US would be likely to trigger a change of mood in the public opinion and a possible "boots on the ground" policy by the current or coming administration.
And such an outcome is definitely nothing the Iraqi Jihadis would be looking forward to. But that is now, and tomorrow is another day ... After all, "no threat to the homeland" — isn't that what they used to say about that Osama guy in the late 1990s, early 2000s?
Reprinted with permission from Sic Semper Tyrannis blog.