08/22/2014 12:50 am ET Updated Aug 22, 2014

David Ignatius: Obama's Policy On The Islamic State 'Has Been Correct'

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius came to the defense of President Barack Obama's approach to Islamic State militants in an opinion piece published online Thursday, a stark contrast to his harsh criticism earlier this summer.

The piece comes after Obama on Wednesday promised the United States will be "relentless" in its efforts to target the militant group. Islamic State released a video Tuesday showing the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley.

“People like this ultimately fail,” Obama said of the group. “They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy.”

Ignatius agreed with Obama's characterization of the group, writing that the videotaped beheading "was a sign of the Islamic State’s weakness, not its strength."

For months, Obama has been struggling with how to get it right this time -- how to contain and eradicate the Islamic State without making the United States the Muslim world’s enemy. Obama’s voice could have been clearer and more emphatic, early on, but I think the basic course of his policy has been correct. He has moved strategically, step by step, gathering the tools that will be needed to confront this malignancy.

Ignatius went on to commend the president for recognizing the importance of placing leadership in the hands of Iraqis through an inclusive government, for acting to help Iraqis reclaim the Mosul dam, and for attempting to free U.S. journalists that were being held hostage through tactical operations, not millions in ransom.

"Those were difficult but sound decisions, and a principled start to a long campaign against brutal killers," he wrote.

Ignatius, hardly the Obama apologist, appears to have made an about face. Earlier this summer, he appeared on MSNBC to reiterate opinions in Dan Henninger’s Wall Street Journal piece, “While Obama Fiddles,” criticizing the Obama administration's foreign policy decisions.

“Now, 18 months later, we have a serious problem," Ignatius said. "These countries are just ripping apart. And I think the administration is going to have to step up and have a coherent counterterrorism policy, or it’s only going to get worse.”



  • 1 He was part of a group of four Brits called 'The Beatles' based in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa
    A former hostage, who was held for a year in the Syrian town of Raqqa, has told the Guardian that the killer was the ringleader of a trio of UK-born extremists the captives nicknamed "The Beatles" because of their nationality.
  • 2 He was the ringleader, and in charge of guarding foreign hostages
    DON EMMERT via Getty Images
    The masked killer who murdered Foley is known as 'John' to the group.
  • 3 He is left-handed
    Only 10% of the world's population are left-handed. All of the information from the video will be analysed rigorously by intelligence services, including the way he holds his weapon, his height, body movement and intonation. MI5 have a database of Brits they believe have travelled to Syria, and they will be comparing what they know about each one, the Telegraph reported.
  • 4 He is probably from south London but could have family links to Afghanistan
    MACIEJ NOSKOWSKI via Getty Images
    Dr Claire Hardaker, a linguistics experts at Lancaster University, has told several media outlets that the man's vowels marked him out as likely from the south-east of England, but most likely from London. Elizabeth McClelland, a forensic voice and speech analyst, told the Telegraph the accent has "possible influences of Farsi, which could suggest a family link to Afghanistan".
  • 5 He was probably chosen for the job because his British accent would be more sinister for Western viewers of the video
    TAUSEEF MUSTAFA via Getty Images
    "This is significant because it signifies a turn towards threatening the west. They are saying we're going to come after you if you bomb us," Prof Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, at King's College London told the Guardian.
  • 6 He emailed the Foley family, furious about the US airstrikes, informing them he would kill their son
    Foley's family had been emailed by ISIS as early as last Wednesday and were informed that the terror group intended to execute the reporter in retaliation for US air strikes against Isis targets in northern Iraq. GlobalPost chief executive, Philip Balboni said that ISIS "made no demands", just informed the family the execution was going to take place. They tried to engage him in conversation, but to no avail, because the jihadist was fuelled by "seething anger".
  • 7 He had previously wanted a ransom to spare Foley's life, but the US government did not pay
    According to the New York Times who spoke to a family representative and a captive held alognside Foley, ISIS demanded the United States to provide a $100 million ransom ransom for Foley's life, but unlike several other European countries who did pay out, the US refused.
  • 8 He was the main negotiator in the release of 11 IS hostages earlier this year
    Almost a dozen hostages, some held for over six months, were handed to Turkish officials. They included two Spanish journalists, one pictured here, Javier Espinosa.
  • 9 The militants foiled an attempted rescue by US Special Ops
    US President Barack Obama sent troops to Syria this summer to rescue a number of Americans being held hostage, including Foley, senior administration officials said. Several dozen special operations troops who were dropped by aircraft into Syria did not find them and engaged in a firefight with IS militants before departing.
  • 10 The killer treated Foley differently and more harshly that other hostages
    French journalist Nicolas Henin spent seven months in captivity with Foley, including a week where they were handcuffed together, telling the BBC Foley was treated as "some kind of scapegoat" and was beaten more frequently. "Some countries like America but also like the UK do not negotiate and, well, they put their people at risk," he said.