October 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm EDT | by Peter Rosenstein
Obama doing the right thing
Barack Obama, Global AIDS, gay news, Washington Blade

‘When trouble comes up anywhere in the world they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow, they call us,’ President Obama told ’60 Minutes.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

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.

1 Comment
  • I am in very substantial agreement with Peter, needless to say.
    Most savvy Democrats since Jefferson have understood that the national security of our country, as well as supporting — to the extent we reasonably can do so — the national security of our foreign allies should be a core principle of the Democratic Party. And Democrats lose national elections, big time — sometimes for decades — whenever we forget that basic principle.
    I do believe Bush 43 and Cheney’s boots-on-the-ground warmongering in Iraq was a terrible strategic error. But it’s probably true as Rick Rosendall, noted elsewhere here, war profiteering probably was on their mind.
    Again, with 20/20 hindsight, we could have and should have simply stepped up and expanded our air cap over Iraq to contain Saddam until we could take him out by other means.
    I happen to believe this conflict with ISIL should be viewed as part a much longer, regionally-based conflict — more like a religious/ philosophical civil war, which began with UBL and al Qaeda in the early 90s.
    That conflict could easily morph, as it has already, with several radical spin-offs groups that are always seeking money, power and regional influence. Attacks on western interest are all means to those fundamental definitions of “success” by such rebels. And that underlying conflict could last for decades to come.
    The United States, along with its allies, have national security interests that are all very much tied to the free and open navigation of trade routes through the Indian Ocean, both Arab/Persian gulfs, the Suez canal and of course, the Mediterranean.
    Accordingly, we and our allies need not *take and hold* every damn sand dune in the region. We need only dominate temporarily and cut-off — from command, control and reliable communications — the relatively few radical forces. That is, forces like ISIL who appear more threatening than they are by employing the psychological terror and bloody barbarism of centuries and regional powers long past.
    The current US-led allied air campaign, if serious and sustained, will pretty easily degrade ISIL’s threat to the region and civilized world. But we will still have to be on guard — probably for decades– for similar radical groups to arise. That is, until the radicals come to realize, as most ideological losers eventually do, that getting bombed, wounded and ‘dying ain’t much of a living’ (to paraphrase a line from an old movie).
    All that being said, as Israel has just reminded us, Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons remains, even today, the far more dangerous threat to world peace and our national security interests.

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