Forty-three percent of voters ranked the economy as the top issue in the 2014 midterm election, versus 15% who cited foreign policy.1 Yet 62% said they were very concerned about terrorism, the largest percentage polled since 2007, before the war turned around in Iraq.2
So why is the public both concerned and yet not concerned?
The answer is that America’s leaders are providing no direction. Our soldiers and pilots have been in combat every day since 9/11–13 years and counting, with no end in sight. But the current rate of casualties is tiny and the dollar costs are hidden. It is as though the public has been placed on a sturdy raft without a rudder, so far safely floating down a river without knowing if a waterfall lies ahead.
We lost our sense of war-fighting purpose long ago. A decade has passed since President George W. Bush declared the goal was to build two stable democratic nations. “Write this down,” he said, “Afghanistan and Iraq will lead that part of the world to democracy. They are going to be the catalyst to change the Middle East and the world.”3
Mr. Bush failed in both attempts. When President Barack Obama took office, he pledged, “You [sc. the Taliban in Afghanistan] cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”4 He subsequently changed his mind, withdrawing most U.S. forces in 2014 and promised that the small remainder would be out in 2016, before he left office.
Mr. Obama also pulled all our forces out of Iraq, partially causing its violent collapse. But several weeks ago, two American journalists were beheaded by Islamist terrorists from the group identified as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
“ISIL is not Islamic,” Mr. Obama declared. “We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL… American forces will not have a combat mission [on the ground].”
Secretary of State John Kerry declared that America was at war with ISIL, whose soldiers numbered in the thousands and controlled a third of Syria and Iraq. In place of ground forces, Mr. Obama ordered a bombing campaign, thus fighting a war while expecting no American casualties.