The season finale of “Homeland” on December 20 wrapped up what was arguably the best season since the first. This season, “Homeland” took on a “ripped from the headlines” feel, with storylines similar to the real-life counterparts of Edward Snowden, Vladimir Putin, and more importantly, the rise of the terrorist group ISIS.
The timing couldn’t be more prescient, particularly with the havoc ISIS is causing around the world. It couldn’t be more different from President Obama’s tendency to look the other way while he insists his strategy to defeat ISIS is working, despite all evidence to the contrary.
The fifth season of Homeland begins in part with Peter Quinn, a CIA operative returning from a two-year stint in Syria where he was assessing the situation with Bashar al-Assad and taking part in Special Forces missions against ISIS. In a meeting with CIA, military, and civilian officials, Quinn’s brief, tense exchange exemplifies the way our current administration has handled ISIS.
Bureaucrat: You said the program should be renewed, I’m asking is our strategy working?
Quinn: What strategy? [Awkward silence.] Tell me what the strategy is and I’ll tell you if it’s working. [More awkward silence.]
The Danger Of Obama’s Ignorance
Two years ago, ISIS was not even a household name. They were often referred to as an “al-Qaeda linked terror group.” The president, asked about ISIS’s January 3, 2014 takeover of Fallujah, said the following in a New Yorker profile published on January 27, 2014: “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”
The president waved ISIS off as a nuisance, something to trifle with after he dealt with more important threats to national security, such as climate change.
Nine months later, when ISIS executed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria, and the group began taking over more land in Syria and Iraq, the president finally gave an address to the country where he promised to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS.
While the president brushed off the threat of ISIS, the CIA had been monitoring its growth. CIA Director John Brennan, in a speech at the Center For Strategic And International Studies following the November terrorist attacks in Paris, spoke of ISIS and its growth: “[ISIS] was, you know, pretty much decimated when U.S. forces were there in Iraq. It had maybe 700-or-so adherents left. And then it grew quite a bit in the last several years, when it split then from al-Qaida in Syria, and set up its own organization.”
Just days after President Obama delivered his “degrade and destroy” remarks, a CIA report revealed information about the growth of ISIS:
A CIA assessment puts the number of ISIS fighters at possibly more than three times the previous estimates.
The terror group that calls itself the Islamic State ‘can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria,’ a CIA spokesman told CNN on Thursday.
It takes a remarkable amount of ignorance or a complete lack of awareness to say a terrorist organization is the equivalent of a JV team while they’re actually growing at a rate of 4,000 percent. The contrast to President George W. Bush’s tenure is stark.
The peak of President Obama’s cluelessness came when speaking with George Stephanopolous on November 12 this year. He falsely claimed his first goal was to “contain” ISIS, then said they were, in fact, contained.
There has been some quibbling over the context of his remarks, but the very next day 130 people were killed and 368 wounded by ISIS terrorists in Paris. Just over two weeks later, on December 2, terrorists inspired by ISIS killed 14 people and injured 22 in San Bernardino, California.
‘Homeland’ Gets It Even If the President Doesn’t
In “Homeland” scene quoted above, in the span of just over two minutes writers Ted Mann and Chip Johannessen, along with actor Rupert Friend (Quinn), make a more concise case about the fight the United States is in for and what it would take to achieve victory.
In discussing new story lines about ISIS, “Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa suggested that ISIS might simply be ‘too evil’ to successfully dramatize in a television show. [Producer David] Nevins, however, said the show will go there. ‘It’s going to touch [ISIS],’ he said. ‘It’s going to touch all those things. It’s a show that reflects the world that we live in. We’ll see. I feel very confident with what they’re doing.’”
He understands the evil. Meanwhile, President Obama in a December interview with NPR complained about media coverage, dismissing ISIS as “guys with masks or black flags potentially coming to get you.”
What does it say about our president when a Showtime series has a better understanding of the threat of ISIS than he does? Granted, the writers likely had professional advisers on the set, but clearly it wasn’t anybody from the Obama administration. If so the scene would be written with Quinn saying the strategy is working and getting a pat on the back.
President Obama Remains Clueless
In the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, we’d hope President Obama would take a step back, reassess the situation, and say something to show leadership and give a measure of confidence to the American people. Instead, just before jetting off to his annual vacation in Hawaii, the president made two stunning claims in the NPR interview that reveal his continuing total lack of awareness.
He in part, blamed media saturation for the fears Americans have about national security and terrorism, particularly an attack from ISIS. He also reiterated his strategy is “working.” He believes he hasn’t explained it well enough to the American people. Essentially, everything is fine but we rubes cannot understand it without a better explanation.
Whether “Homeland’s” writers, directors, and producers are politically more liberal than most people—and conventional wisdom suggests they are—it’s refreshing to see creators who are willing to step outside a particular comfort zone and not conform to the narrative Obama has formed about ISIS and the fight against terrorism.