The president is doing the right thing in moving against ISIS, the terrorist organization calling themselves the Islamic State. On the other hand, Congress thus far has refused to debate or vote on what we should be doing and instead went home to campaign to keep their jobs believing that by not doing anything, challengers couldn’t use their words against them in the campaign. It is a perfect “Profile in Cowardice” and especially glaring when we heard the British Parliament actually debate the issue to determine their involvement in the coalition that the president has put together. Their politicians at least stood up and took a position.
There are Republican candidates for the Senate in New Hampshire and New Mexico, and it is anticipated more will join them, running ads attacking the president and trying to tie incumbent senators to him, accusing him of not doing anything or not doing the right thing in the war on ISIS. Yet these same candidates don’t have the guts to say what they would do.
We recently heard from former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that they pushed the president to arm Syrian moderates two years ago in the effort to overthrow Assad. The president decided against doing this and again defended that decision in a “60 Minutes” interview last Sunday. There is no way to know whether he was right or wrong and if it would have made a difference in the growth and strength of ISIS.
But now the president is acting and is right to do so. As the only super power left in the world we cannot stand by and watch this or other heinous terrorist groups murder and pillage their way through Iraq and Syria, threatening the rest of the world. We cannot stand by when Americans are beheaded and our homeland is threatened. Even if it is a little late in some people’s estimation, the president is building a coalition, now numbering 60 nations, to join the United States in fighting this war. When asked on “60 Minutes” why America must always be in the lead, he gave what I believe to be an honest and correct answer. The president said, “That is always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have the capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world. And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow, they call us.”
The president made his case movingly at the United Nations last week as he sought to grow the coalition fighting ISIS. He said, “Fellow delegates, we come together as United Nations with a choice to make. We can renew the international system that has enabled so much progress, or allow ourselves to be pulled back by an undertow of instability. We can reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront global problems, or be swamped by more and more outbreaks of instability. For America, the choice is clear. We choose hope over fear.”
This could not have been easy for the president, who just six short years ago accepted a Nobel Peace Prize. As Karen DeYoung wrote in the Washington Post: “After keeping his promise to avoid American involvement in extended wars for nearly six years, President Obama on Monday began a military engagement that he acknowledged is likely to far outlive his time in office.”
While eschewing putting boots on the ground, he is sending military advisers and trainers and our brave airmen and women to fly dangerous bombing missions over Iraq and Syria. He has admitted America is once again in a war, even if this war is different from the ones George Bush and Dick Cheney began, which many believe are the cause of some of the problems the world faces today.
In ways it would be easier as some would like to do and bury our heads in the sand and “let the people in those countries deal with these issues themselves.” But we face the reality that the desire for this type of isolationism will never again be possible. We live in a world so interconnected that never again will we be able to pretend things will be alright as long as we don’t get involved.