The liberal media, once again, is defending President Obama, a pre-emptive attack explaining why his aides are protecting the president from processing the "A Message to America" video that depicted an American journalist's slaying by the Islamic State.
I understand him not viewing it; I didn't myself.
I hope, however, that the president did think it important enough to read the complete transcripts of the message, by James Foley and his executioner, even if his response is to continue the air assault in Iraq (and possibly crossing over the border into Syria).
If we're at war, sell it. The American people deserve a fair and open debate about whether we are willing to pay the costs here at home, of our innocent civilians, in order to sow destruction in Iraq (and Syria?) with the promise of stopping or slowing the Islamic State army advance.
Define the mission. John Kerry and Chuck Hagel have hinted... but is America ready to fully fight and declare war openly on the Islamic State? Isn't a "half'war" a little like being "part pregnant"? All of the risks, with none of the will?
War is a matter of matching ends, ways, and means – including political and popular support. It would therefore be irresponsible to support a policy that would require a level of commitment that our political institutions do not possess. Our discourse is too broken. Short of a major terrorist attack, our leaders do not have the ability to produce consensus. And without real national consensus to sustain a strategy, there is no viable mechanism to defeat ISIL.
Advocating the defeat of ISIL over the short-term without acknowledging what will be necessary to achieve that end is a recipe for mission creep. Mission creep is a recipe for policy failure because the American people will not allow sustained investment in a policy they did not commit to originally.
This is the most important strategic lesson from Iraq: Don’t bullshit the American people into a war with shifting objectives (even if those goals are important) because they will not put up with that commitment long enough for those goals to be achieved. This is not a call for pacifism; it is a call for fighting to win, which requires sustained commitment, which requires forthrightness in our discourse about whether to choose war.
We should only fight if we are fighting to win, and we will only win when we commit as a country—not 51 percent, or the viewers of one cable news station or another, or because one party or faction has managed to back a president into a political corner. The country must be ready to accept the sacrifices necessary to achieve grand political ends. Until then, any call to “defeat ISIL” that is not forthright about what that will require is actually an argument for expensive failure.
Like what boiled through the crusted surface this summer in Ferguson, I suspect President Obama is wishing these events away. I don't think the carefree attitude on the golf course is an act of compartmentalization so much, as an act of voting "not present." It fits a pattern.
The NYT writers
will be the last ones in the nation to recognize the growing national sentiment of "no confidence" in our president, not just Republicans, but in the black and white communities, and the working-class weary, who are waiting on the economic upturn, the return of decent jobs, and the rededication to rebuilding institutions and infrastructure here at home. The non-citizen workers (can't you see them from there?) are disappointed too...
We might be convinced of the need for another war, but with no defined plan, no leadership, and no promise of success, a realistic people will not rally behind revenge and ill-defined principles. Not worth the risk. Not when our own borders remain unsecured, and the promise of chaos in our own streets -- in Boston, MA; in Ferguson, MO -- is fresh in our minds.
As far as aides knew, Mr. Obama did not watch the ISIS video, and advisers did not think he should.“That’s got to be exquisitely disturbing,” said Peter D. Feaver, a former national security aide to Mr. Bush and President Bill Clinton, who now teaches at Duke University. “And it’s different than for average Americans who are watching this on television but know there’s nothing they can do. With President Obama, there are things he can do, but he’s concluded that he can’t do them
Frances Fragos Townsend, a former counterterrorism adviser to Mr. Bush, said it is important to avoid letting the president become too emotionally involved in such situations, adding that she would not have shown the ISIS video to Mr. Obama. “You fight very hard to not have it be personal,” she said. “You just don’t let them do that. They can use your name, and they can make it personal. But it’s not.”
I suspect too, if there were another attack in New York City, the writers of today's opinion piece would be the first bleating that the country needs to act. Americans need to unite. All In. Come together and fly the flag. But why wait?
We need to examine our role in the world today, and our wavering collective commitment to these endless pre-emptive mini-wars. What is our responsibility to protect foreign people -- Latin Americans or religious tribes and how do our policies prioritize those people? Do we just show up at the last minute with guns and planes, or is there a beneficial reason to make a longer term, non-militaristic commitment? Do we devote more resources to those people closer to our own borders, while urging other allies to take the lead in protecting the neighborhoods nearer them?
Why not talk now? While cooler heads and intelligence can prevail, and we can think more clearly than being dragged into a national discussion by the deaths of our citizens, likely those in an urban area, and on the coast. Isn't that what happened in 9-11? The politicians, the journalists, the majority of the people lined up emotionally in support, not thinking rationally about what would come after the "shock and awe", after the destruction, after the occupying troops made their mark. We never questioned, and likely, plenty of people would like to see that happen this next time around...
Soldiers obey orders.
People think and discuss and vote their values.
We are going to see that happen in November, and again in 2016.
We're not going to have mindless emotional reaction shouting out rational thinking, and reasonable evidence. We can't afford it, the country as a whole.
Why not call the golf game done for the summer, Mr. President, and get back to the hard work of communicating with the American people? Listen to us, not the NYT staff who would still today run cover. We're really not as dumb as you might think, and diverse viewpoints and understanding your fellow citizens' honest differences of opinion, and values, might add to the strength of our eventual response. Work together, listen, and plan ahead.
Networking on the links eliminates the voices of all the non-power players who don't have access there. Yet, when the hard times come, we're all in this together? It's really not a matter of optics -- letting the president take his planned vacation days, before his family falls back into the schoolyear routine...
It's a matter of leadership, confidence, priorities and putting the job of the American people first.
ADDED: Here is text of the last message
the Foley family received from the Islamic State fighters who were holding their son. To be critical, if the family had wanted to purchase his freedom as other hostages' families and employers had done, they should have counteroffered: put some money on the table, if that was their intention. They seem to have ended communication
when the first ransom demand was deemed to be outrageous. I could also see refusing to consider paying any amount, but that does not seem to be the objection, but the poor communication between the parties.
On Tuesday, Aug. 12, Foley’s parents received an email from their son’s captors stating that Foley would be “executed.” The Foley family, GlobalPost, government authorities and private security consultants had been investigating Foley’s whereabouts and attempting to secure his release since he was kidnapped on Thanksgiving Day nearly two years ago.
The terrorist group declared Foley's death would be in retaliation for recent US airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. The Islamic State, which is now holding three American hostages in Syria, has since threatened to kill one of them, freelance reporter Steven Sotloff, if the US continues its bombing campaign in Iraq.
The Foley family has agreed to release the email from Foley’s captors.
GlobalPost has chosen to publish it in full in the interest of transparency and to fully tell Jim's story. We believe the text offers insight into the motivations and tactics of the Islamic State.
The trouble with leading from behind, cleverly letting others
define you and then protesting vigorously against those ill-formed definitions (see the black community in Ferguson beginning to wake up to the fact that national media reporters are not representing them well) -- is the message gets scrambled.
Here is Charles Krauthammer today, delighting that the president is finally coming to his senses and taking the nation to war again:
We have now seen what air cover for Kurdish/Iraqi boots on the ground can achieve. But for a serious rollback campaign, Obama will need public support. He has to explain the stakes and the larger strategy. His weak and passive rhetorical reaction to the beheading of American journalist James Foley was a discouragingly missed opportunity.
“People like this ultimately fail,” Obama said of Foley’s murderers. Perhaps. But “ultimately” can be a long way — and thousands of dead — away. The role of a great power, as Churchill and Roosevelt understood, is to bring that day closer.
The Day of the Dead? Bring those thousands of dead closer?
Somehow, I think President Obama would have better 'xplained that one to us -- if Krauthammer is correct about the course the president is pursuing now (which I'm not so sure he is, but that's the danger of staying on break while the hawkish pundits define and perhaps box you in...)
Baghdad called President Obama’s bluff and he came through. He had refused to provide air support to Iraqi government forces until the Iraqis got rid of their divisive sectarian prime minister.
They did. He responded.
With the support of U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have retaken the Mosul dam. Previous strikes had relieved the siege of Mount Sinjar and helped the Kurds retake two strategic towns that had opened the road to a possible Islamic State assault on Irbil, the capital of Kurdistan.
In following through, Obama demonstrated three things: the effectiveness of even limited U.S. power, the vulnerability of the Islamic State and, crucially, his own seriousness, however tentative.
The last of these is the most important. Obama had said that there is no American military solution to the conflict. This may be true, but there is a local military solution. (There must be: There is no negotiating with Islamic State barbarism.) And that solution requires U.S. air support.
It can work. The Islamic State is overstretched. It’s a thin force of perhaps 15,000 trying to control a territory four times the size of Israel. Its supply lines, operating in open country, are not just extended but exposed and highly vulnerable to air power.
Obama has for now wisely taken advantage of the Abadi opening.
The problem is that the new policy has outgrown the rationale. Our reason for returning to Iraq, explained Obama, is twofold: preventing genocide and protecting U.S. personnel.
According to Obama’s own assertions, however, the recent Kurdish/Iraqi advances have averted the threat of genocide. As for the threat to U.S. personnel at the consulate in Irbil, it, too, is reduced.
It was a flimsy rationale to begin with. To protect Americans in an outpost, you don’t need an air war. A simple evacuation would do.
Besides, what does the recapture of the Mosul dam, the most significant gain thus far, have to do with either rationale? There are no Christians or Yazidis sheltering there. Nor any American diplomats. So Obama tried this: If the dam is breached, the wall of water could swamp our embassy in Baghdad.
Quite a reach. An air war to prevent flooding at an embassy 200 miles downstream? Well, yes, but why not say the real reason? Everyone knows it: The dam is a priceless strategic asset, possession of which alters the balance of power in this war.
And why not state the real objective of the U.S. air campaign? Stopping, containing, degrading the Islamic State.
Then, like the rhetorical excesses we've seen in Ferguson these past weeks, Krauthammer lays it on thick:
These are the worst people on earth. They openly, proudly crucify enemies, enslave women and murder men en masse. These are not the usual bad guys out for land, plunder or power. These are primitive cultists who celebrate slaughter, glory in bloodlust and slit the throats of innocents as a kind of sacrament.
I wonder if Mr. Krauthammer might convince the Israeli Defense Forces, fresh from their rout of the Palestinian people, to stop the Islamic State fighters. Maybe there is a reason they
are not leading in this fight? Hmm...