Shortly after a meeting took place between Secretary of State John Kerry and anti-Assad Syrians at the Dutch Mission to the United Nations on September 22, 2016, audio was leaked. The audio has come under new scrutiny after a clip was released in January in which Kerry appears to speak about President Obama's knowledge of the developing state of ISIS.
After an unidentified man spoke with Kerry about the weapons flow from various countries to opposition fighters, and how the supplying of weapons can lead to an arms-race of sorts, Kerry said:
"The reason Russia came in is because ISIL was getting stronger. Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus, and so forth, and that's why Russia came in, because they didn't want a Daesh government--and they supported Assad.
And we know that this was growing--we were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage--that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, you got Putin support.
So, it's truly compli--you know how complicated it is, you live in it. But for us politically, where we have a Congress that will not authorize our use of force--Congress will not pass that. So, we're trying to help the best way we can, but we finally decided the best thing we can do is try to find a way to have a political solution..."
This clip is being spun. While Obama's tactics against the Islamic State have, without question, been ineffectual, some in social media are using this clip to say definitively that Obama and co. allowed ISIS to develop for the express purpose of negotiating with Bashar al-Assad.
It cannot be extrapolated from Kerry saying: "and we know that this was growing--we were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened," that the Obama administration was purposefully allowing ISIS to grow. Kerry said that the administration saw that ISIS was growing, was watching that growth, and hoped that such growth would lead to negotiations with Assad.
Nowhere does Kerry say that the United States had the ability to stop the development of the Islamic State in Syria as it was at the time. Nowhere does he say that the United States helped or allowed them to grow--only that such growth was observed.
This isn't to say that the administration's action (or inaction, as it were) was right. This isn't to say that they couldn't have hindered ISIS or gone about their strategy a different way. We simply don't know.
This clip isn't as cut-and-dry as some want to believe it is. What is stated in this clip is certainly worthy of further inquiry. However, it's ambiguity, as well as the ambiguity of middle eastern military policy in general, dictates that something like this cannot, and must not, be used as a weapon against the Obama administration without additional investigation.
Intellectual honesty is key when dealing with progressive opposition. One cannot act hastily or with incomplete information. Such action is irresponsible because if a quick assessment ends up being incorrect, future arguments against progressive ideology can be more easily dismissed as inaccurate, and thus unworthy of attention.
The entire audio can be heard here.