Don’t let a rare act of bipartisanship fool you. Just because Congress came together (miraculously and quickly before, ahem, their midterm elections) in passage of a continuing resolution which also authorizes the training and arming of Syrian troops, doesn’t mean that the American people - or the military for that matter – are fully buying into the president’s plan.
All the hustle and bustle on Capitol Hill this week laid bare the confusion and political calculation behind the White House’s recent push to go after the ISIS (ISIL) terrorist group, which increases its threats against the U.S. and its allies every day. Despite overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, many members of Congress continue to push for additional details from administration officials on just exactly what the U.S. is getting into.
One major point of contention is whether or not President Obama has the legal authority to carry out airstrikes without the passage of a new war resolution from Congress. Secretary of State John Kerry hashed this out with both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, saying that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) grants the president the authority he needs to go after “Al Qaeda and associated forces.” He argued that ISIS is a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda, only recently changing its name because of an internal disagreement.
Some members of Congress buy this, others don’t; but most have requested that the President seek a new AUMF – a request that Kerry said was welcomed and encouraged by the President. Although, with Congress out of session for the next 45 days, just when that measure might be taken up remains in the air.
Many questions remain concerning the international coalition and the viability of Syrian ground forces. 40 - 50 countries have been reported as partners in the fight, but very little detail has been released on exactly what each nation plans to contribute - particularly from the Arab countries. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed their hesitancy to ally with Saudi Arabia, who has funded terrorist activity, and have expressed concern over the potential impact this operation will have on empowering enemies such as Iran, Assad, and other regional terrorist organizations.
But, despite having already moved forward with airstrikes and building an international team of (somewhat questionable) allies, the most baffling moments of last week’s PR push for support was that administration officials still prefer to say that the U.S. is in the process of degrading and destroying, rather than engaging in war, and cannot determine the most politically correct way to refer to the enemy at hand.
The White House has taken great effort to structure talking points that separate ISIS from the Islamic religion, instead of highlighting the very real threat that radical Muslim extremists continue to pose to the American way of life. President Obama told the nation that ISIS “is not Islamic,” and Secretary Kerry made several statements while on the Hill that ISIS is a cult “masquerading” as a religious movement.
Even when directly asked if the U.S. is at war, Secretary Kerry could only stammer a roundabout response that referred to ISIS as “the enemy of Islam” and “the enemy of humanity.” (See Townhall.com Web Editor Sarah Jean Seaman’s footage from Thursday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing below.)
Right now, the country needs a strong Commander-in-Chief instead of a political tap dancer. It has long been a plague of this administration – which has resulted in an even more gridlocked and bitterly political culture within Washington - that the American people get nothing but loose rhetoric and false promises.
But, taking into account that it took two American beheadings (and several rounds of golf) for the president to react to this “jayvee” enemy, it does not seem likely that change will occur soon.
The president must be clear-eyed about the reality of the world we live in. The U.S. cannot afford for its leaders to focus more on political correctness than dealing head-on with the sometimes harsh, but definitive, red lines that provide for greater national security.
Pray for this country. We need it.