Before Andrew Sullivan’s talk at the Athenaeum this evening, I had a chance to sit down with Sullivan, one of the nation’s most widely read bloggers, to discuss the current state of U.S. military affairs and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, otherwise known as ISIS.
An early advocate for America’s war on terror, Sullivan has previously been described as having “ultra-hawkish views” and militantly urged the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He published a number of controversial articles and essays during this time, harshly targeting those on the Left for failing to back Bush’s war effort. Since then, Sullivan’s outlook on the war has changed, especially after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal that revealed the abuse and torture of detainees in U.S. custody. He later admitted that he was wrong about the war on terror and has regretted his brazen support for the invasions.
When asked about the recent emergence of ISIS, Sullivan’s response was highly critical. “I would have a problem with ISIS if it threatened to attack America,” he stated, “but it hasn’t.” Furthermore, he argues that ISIS is incapable of attacking the U.S. “They have no access to WMDs as far as what we know.”
Earlier this month, President Obama addressed the nation, outlining his strategy for countering the terrorist “threats” of ISIS. His plan includes launching airstrikes against ISIS and increasing the number of American forces in the region. Obama stated, “If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region—including to the United States.”
“President Obama’s statement about terrorism and ISIS is a fantasy,” said Sullivan. “I fear that we are now being governed by fear itself, misreading and mischaracterizing things that we should be leaving alone.” Neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, have not intervened in the conflict. “It’s like welfare: they know we’re just going to do it for them, and no one is grateful. No matter how successful we are, we will still be hated,” he grimly noted. “We are a toxic force in the region. Everything we touch there turns to poison.”