If the events in Paris have taught us anything, it’s that we must be most thoughtful before taking our next steps as humanitarians, warriors, and as citizens of the world.
This morning, President Obama spoke from the G20 Summit, but his first sentences made clear he’s learned nothing since opposing George W. Bush’s January 10, 2007, announcement of a troop surge to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat in Iraq. Obama and the Democrats frothed fulsomely at the commitment of an additional 30,000 troops in that effort, but to the then candidate’s chagrin, he was wrong. He never appreciated what his predecessor had done to hand him a relatively stable country after so much sacrifice of blood and treasure.
Yes, generations will debate the rightness or wrongness of our invasion of Iraq after Afghanistan, but they can never re-live the nation’s resolve after 9-11, and the fact is, we went. Having done so and having committed to the struggle, GWB knew it was imperative to leave his successor a workable situation.
What did Obama do, once elected? He declined to follow the deep wisdom of Truman after WWII in leaving stability forces in Germany and Japan, and Dwight Eisenhower in leaving a strong counterweight in South Korea after 1953. Is there anyone who doubts that the Communist menace would yet be amongst us had NATO not placed forces all over Europe? That the Communists in Korea and China would have swept the peninsula and threatened Japan had we not had the fortitude and foresight to keep troops there?
Using America’s tiredness of war, however, Obama abandoned our tentative victory in Iraq, leaving a petrie dish to nurture the growth of ISIS-ISIL. Republicans make much of Obama’s refusal to use the term “radical Islam,” but shouldn’t ignore the equally powerful fact that every time he uses the term ISIS-ISIL, he his calling out the forces of the “Islamic State.”
Now, if he would just act. While this is not meant to be a woulda-coulda-shoulda of American foreign policy over the past fifteen years, failing to learn from our mistakes simply means that Forrest Gump famously had it right: “stupid is as stupid does.” While it may not be too late to avoid repeating history, as Georges Santayana warned us, there are no cut-rate solutions now. Two actions must occur:
President Obama’s policy—or lack thereof—over the past several years suggests that he thought pulling troops out of the Middle East would either deny George Bush historical vindication for implanting democracy amidst Shariah or that what had been accomplished entitled him to put our entire foreign policy for the area on auto-pilot. Either way, that’s what “leadership from behind” looks like.
It is one thing to draw red lines and insist that affected states put skin in the game. It is quite another to make it happen. The first thing required is to take oneself off the golf and fundraising circuit and exert the actual, practical, forceful leadership required—a la Lyndon Johnson on the domestic front—to materialize the coalition force of Arab states he has thus far only imagined. It is the one instinct of his with which thoughtful Americans could agree: the war against the evil of ISIS-ISIL is more theirs than ours, and they need to step up. Even Lawrence of Arabia knew outside leadership was necessary to marshal the disparate voices in that region.
If Muslims refuse to fight other Muslims, however, another narrative must write itself, but until then, it should not be just France responding substantively to terror. Wordy speeches mean little. The smug recitation that “we have planes and they don’t” meant little to the person next to me this morning. She said: “they had planes on 9-11, didn’t they?” And more recently, they “had” a Russian airliner, didn’t they?
Syrian Emigrant Control
It has been arguably negligent of all American presidents, Republican and Democrat alike since Carter, to have permitted the most fundamental responsibility of a country to go untended: border control. Once again, however, it is a fact that we manage well only the in and out movements of honest people. Otherwise, we have little real control of our borders and what’s worse, the president’s party seems to lack understanding of its responsibility to us in refusing to deal with it.
This morning, he made another mockery of the nation-state’s responsibility to itself and it’s people by insisting we should invite untold thousands of Syrian refugees (oh yes, he gave us a number, but should we believe it?) because it is the humane thing to do. In an attempt to reassure the gullible, he said there would be strict security checks. Really? By the same people who vetted Edward Snowden? By the FBI and CIA which haven’t the resources or the data to make such decisions? By Interpol or European countries, which have population issues as it is?
One has only to read Dr. Paul Kengor’s piece out today on Grove City College’s Vision and Values website about the likelihood of a Belgistan in the heart of Europe. Knowing that at least one of the Paris murderers was a so-called Syrian refugee, just how many should we invite to cast their evil amongst us? Despite the boast of the ISIS magazine, Dabiq, to sell Michelle Obama into sex slavery, the president’s family is safe, but we and our sons and daughters who visit abroad or attend a concert anywhere in America should never have to worry ours will be another bloody Bataclan.
Nations demand that the US lead up front, and if humanity demands life’s necessities for those fleeing the terror of ISIS-ISIL, why here? Why not vote funds and expertise to shelter and feed them in safer Arab lands home to their religion, culture, and climate?
It’s not just your legacy at stake, Mr. President. It’s that of all civilization.