President Barack Obama has struggled to sound convincing in recent days as he addressed the challenge of ISIS–or “ISIL,” his preferred acronym for the so-called Islamic State. Obama’s problem goes beyond gaffes about his lack of strategy. The fundamental issue is that he is ambivalent about his role in protecting Americans at home and abroad, and has made the safety of American citizens dependent on other nations’ cooperation.
On Aug. 28, when Obama made his infamous “We don’t have a strategy” remark, he also said this: “…in order for us to degrade ISIL over the long term, we’re going to have to build a regional strategy. Now, we’re not going to do that alone. We’re going to have to do that with other partners. And particularly, Sunni partners…”.
Put aside the obvious problems, such as that Obama seems to want to contain, rather than to defeat, ISIS.
What is worse is that Obama has made the cooperation of Sunni partners a condition for American defense. He has no answer for what happens if the Sunni population refuses to comply with his wishes. What then?
Does the U.S. give up protecting its citizens, its interests, or its allies? Does the restive population of a region in turmoil possess a veto over America’s fundamental rights and Obama’s basic responsibilities as commander-in-chief?
What is driving the frustration of many Americans, even liberals like Chris Matthews, is the knowledge that previous American presidents made clear to terrorists that there was a definite price to pay for killing Americans–that we take care of our own. Or, as an Israeli minister said, each terrorist must be told he has an “expiration date.”
Americans should not have to wait for Europe, or the Arab League, to do what is necessary.