On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not give a definitive answer to a reporter’s question when he asked what “victory” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) looks like.
Reporter: What does victory look like here? You’ve talked about destroying ISIL, I honestly don’t know what that means. What does that mean?
Josh Earnest: I didn’t bring my Webster’s dictionary with me up here. Well, you know. It’s only —
Reporter: Talking about that — I understood it when you said —
Earnest: I think that’s a pretty illustrative phrase to describe the situation that we envision. We’ve talked about the threat that ISIL poses in the context of foreign fighters.
In a primetime speech Wednesday, President Obama said he was prepared to order airstrikes in Syria and Iraq as part of an expanded strategy to fight the jihadist group. His plan also includes deployment of 475 more American troops to help the Iraqi military, garnering help from the international community. There will also be an emphasis on having local ground forces fight ISIS.
The president did not refer to the new campaign as a war during the speech. As Chris Cillizza notes in The Washington Post,
“[Obama] carefully described the fight against the Islamic State as a ‘counter-terrorism campaign,’ not a war or even an armed conflict. And he cast it as consistent with the actions has taken in the past.”
According to Eli Lake of The Daily Beast, Obama’s top advisers say that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the 2001 congressional resolution that created the war against al-Qaeda, gives the president the legal basis for this strike.
However, Lake notes that ISIS and al-Qaeda are at odds with each other. Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told Lake Wednesday that the administration’s argument:
“Is an implausible argument because the 2001 AUMF requires a nexus to al Qaeda or associated forces of al Qaeda fighting the United States.
Chesney added, “Since ISIS broke up with al Qaeda, it’s hard to make that argument.”
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H/T The Blaze