Politics is a lot simpler in some countries than in the U.S. In other places, if you take over the government you kill the opposition. If you are feeling generous you put them in prison. When your enemies get the upper hand and return to power, they kill you. America is different. Our country has opted for a slow decline thanks to Washington politics, a threat to our success and security that makes the newest Middle East terror threat seem less scary than it should.
Did Obama really say that about our new terror threat??
A lot of people will pick apart the president’s rallying cry to team up against the Islamic State, including members of Congress who will be calculating the political fallout from their decisions on how to deal with militants when they should be focusing on keeping the nation safe. Everything is on the table, including a spending bill that brings back memories of last year’s government shutdown. Are we battling ISIS or fighting Washington politics for our security?
One day before the September 11 anniversary President Obama told the nation that ISIL is not Islamic. Whether we can admit it or not, America’s foreign and national security policies are still being shaped by the belief that Islam is a religion abused by pockets of militants instead of a spreading, anti-American political force. Washington politics still demands that Islamic terror threats be separated from the religion that creates them. Does this inhibit our response, or feed the delusion that we can trust opposition fighters to do the dirty work of crushing terrorism for us?
Republicans only half right about ISIS strategy
During John Boehner’s meeting with President Obama over plans for dealing with ISIS,
The Speaker said the spread of radicalized Islam is a global epidemic and our national objective must be to defeat and destroy ISIL.1
John Boehner got it half right. Our objective should be to conquer Washington politics, then destroy the terror threat of militant Islam and eliminate ISIL in the process. The problem is that politics doesn’t mix with large-scale military commitments, especially before an election.
Harry Reid tried to sound as if he is all in, but made sure we all knew that the “mistakes of the past”2 shouldn’t be repeated. Laughably, he assured us that:
I’m confident we will put our political differences aside and work together to give this administration the tools it needs to meet ISIS head-on – not the least of which is the authority to equip and train Syrian rebels to fight ISIS.3
Our political differences are not going to be put aside. They are going to make the problem worse. Reid proved it by resurrecting the anti-Bush rhetoric of Obama’s early years. The real issue we have facing this terror threat is that Washington prevents us from summoning the national will to do what is necessary, despite lawmakers’ vapid assertions that we have to deal with the Islamic State now, as a nation united.
Washington politics means terror threat can wait
Too bad for us that our government had to fess up about ISIS a few months before midterm elections. That could mean a half-hearted congressional vote giving the president just enough authority to hang himself. Responsibility is risky. Plans can go bad. Accountability needs to be spread as thin as possible, preferably along partisan lines, but just in case things go right everyone needs to give whatever the president does enough lip service to take a share of the credit. Unfortunately, this low-risk approach lawmakers seem willing to indulge is not enough to solve the problem and they seem to know it.
The real terror threat comes from politicking
Are we going to war, relying on the Muslim world’s often pitiable military ability and habit of fighting itself, or spending the time between now and November arguing over strategy while ISIS and other groups grow? John Boehner’s thoughts seem conflicted:
For example, I support the president’s plan to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian opposition, but I remain concerned that those measures could take years to fully implement at a time when ISIL’s momentum and territorial gains need to be immediately halted and reversed.4
Considering we haven’t decided just who or what the Syrian opposition is and ISIS has been labeled a terror threat that can’t wait, our alternatives to putting troops in danger are scarce. For the time being, the best solution for Republicans seems to be backing the president into a corner and demanding a plan that is going to cause lots of problems two months before an election. For Democrats, as always, the answer is to bide their time and then blame the GOP if the president screws up.
Are we committed to wiping this terror threat off the face of the earth, or do we prefer to play political games? Is this about making America safe at home and abroad, or about using terror to make political futures more secure? We can’t have it both ways. Lawmakers have expressed their concern that Obama isn’t going far enough, but are they willing to commit to an all-out war and troops on the ground as they run for office? Not likely. We have been down this road before. It got us where we are now.