Ruminations, August 24, 2014
Now is the time to support Obama!
*** I’m saying this not because I feel he has been a great president or that his character is worthy of support, but because we should support him purely for self-interest. The United States is now in a precarious position – whether or not President Barack Obama is responsible for much of that – and he is our leader.
ISIL’s threat. At this point, ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) poses a great threat to the United States and to Europe. Recent statements by the Administration indicate that they realize this threat. Listen:
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: “[ISIL] is beyond anything that we’ve seen. So we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is take a cold, steely, hard look at it and get ready.”
Secretary of State John Kerry: “ISIL and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey: “… will the Iraqis at some point be able to go back on the offensive to recapture the part of Iraq that they’ve lost; I think that’s a really broad campaign quality question. Probably not by themselves. Does it mean we would have to provide kinetic support? … at any military campaign, you would want to develop multiple accesses to squeeze ISIL. You’d like to squeeze them from the south and west, you’d like to squeeze them the north, and you’d like to squeeze them from Baghdad. And that’s a campaign that has to be developed.”
But no boots on the ground? The Obama Administration has repeatedly stressed that the United States will not put “boots on the ground” in Iraq. Then, after we had put “boots on the ground,” Obama said that he meant no “combat boots on the ground.” Perhaps one of the biggest political mistakes that Obama has made vis-à-vis ISIL is limiting our options by stating that we will not put “boots on the ground.”
Whether or not we choose to employ combat forces, that is our choosing and we should never tip our hand to our adversaries as to what our future plans will be – but that’s history; what is done is done. Now we have to help Obama find a way out of his rash statement.
Of course, one way out of the jam is to deny it took place. Regarding Syria, Obama said, “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” Then, after Syria began to use chemical weapons, Obama said "First of all, I didn't set a red line."
The last of U.S. troops left Iraq with great fanfare on December 14, 2011. Last week, Obama said that the removal of troops from Iraq “keeps coming up, as if it were my decision.” Actually according to an April article in the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins, who covered the Iraq War for the New York Times said that Obama “… was ambivalent about retaining even a small force in Iraq. For several months, American officials told me, they were unable to answer basic questions in meetings with Iraqis -- like how many troops they wanted to leave behind -- because the Administration had not decided. ‘We got no guidance from the White House,’ [U.S. ambassador to Baghdad in 2011 James] Jeffrey told me. ‘We didn't know where the President was. …The American attitude was: Let's get out of here as quickly as possible.’"
So can we say that “no boots on the ground” was not an Obama decision? It would appear that U.S. combat troops will be needed in Iraq (or, at the very least, the threat of combat troops should exist). Can we help the President out and pretend that he never said it?
Border security. A 2009 report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) reads: “…the Border Patrol reported that in fiscal year 2008 checkpoints encountered 530 aliens from special interest countries, which are countries the Department of State has determined to represent a potential terrorist threat to the United States. While people from these countries may not have any ties to illegal or terrorist activities, Border Patrol agents detain aliens from special interest countries if they are in the United States illegally and Border Patrol agents report these encounters to the local Sector Intelligence Agent, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations and the CBP [Customs and Border Protection] National Targeting Center.” Note that the GAO is reporting on illegals that were caught and not on illegals that got away.
General Dempsey: “… because of open borders and immigration issues, [Islamic terrorists entering the U.S via Mexico are] an immediate threat. That is to say, the [European and American] fighters who may leave the current fight [in Iraq and Syria] and migrate home.”
And in November, 2005, we wrote that some illegals coming across the border with Mexico are adherents to the radical jihad. Don’t they represent a threat to the United States? Wouldn’t closer surveillance of our border (via a fence or other devices) make the country more secure?
If Obama needs to placate those on the left who favor illegal immigration, perhaps he can earn their begrudging support by claiming that we are closing the borders for security purposes only.
No anti-war demonstrators. Last week, Wall Street Journal columnists Peggy Noonan and James Taranto both noted that there is a decided lack of anti-war demonstrators even after Obama sent planes into Iraq to attack ISIL and increased the “boots on the ground” in Iraq. Remember, this is the country in which, on October 8, 2001 (less than a month after the September 11 attacks and one day after it was announced that U.S. had begun military operations in Afghanistan), demonstrators appeared at the White House with placards stating “U.S. Hands off Afghanistan.”
Where are they today? Even the Pope weighed in on Obama’s side, if not actually endorsing the violence of war, saying that U.S. attacks on ISIL were “licit.”
In 2003, polls showed that 70 percent supported an attack on Iraq whereas only 54 percent support the Iraq airstrikes today. So, where are the protestors? It’s not that Obama is a Democrat and Bush was a Republican (really). Taranto posits that it is because the professional demonstrators (which happen to be mostly leftists) are distracted by other causes such as Ferguson, Missouri, and the Israeli bombing of the Gaza strip.
Now is the time for Obama to attack ISIL while he has, if not universal support, at least virtually no opposition.
Guantanamo. A pledge made by Obama during his campaign and into his presidency is that he would close down the detention center for detainees at Guantanamo.
The recent biannual report of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence shows that, since it opened in 2002, 614 detainees have been sent home and, of those, 104 (almost 17 percent) have been confirmed to have returned to terrorist activity. Another 74 are suspected to have returned to terrorist activity. Combined, that makes about a third of enemy combatants that we have let go to fight another day. (Note: it has NOT been confirmed that the other two-thirds of released detainees are living peaceable lives.)
According to William J. Haynes II, former General Counsel of the Department of Defense, an “enemy combatant” is an individual who, under the laws and customs of war, may be detained for the duration of an armed conflict.
It has been alleged that very existence the Guantanamo camp is a great recruiting tool for radical jihadists. It does not appear that either ISIL or any other radical jihadist group mentions Guantanamo or uses its existence in their recruiting efforts, so what other arguments are there for closing it down? Maybe, just maybe, Guantanamo shouldn’t be shut down.
Conclusion. We need to support Obama now in his time of need to defeat ISIL. Remember, it was Reinhold Niebuhr, who Obama claims as his favorite theologian, warned of pacifists/non-interventionists. He said that their philosophy was a pious way of avoiding reality. Obama needs to be reminded of this. Let’s support him as he goes after ISIL.
Listening to the Russian reset
Last Friday’s Wall Street Journal has a summary of several Russian commentaries on U.S. foreign policy.
Eva Herman, on the voice of Russia in Berlin, says that war is imminent: “Soon it will be over: there will be war. Nothing, nothing at all appears to be able to keep the bankrupt US Administration from taunting Russia until things blow up. Because the cash registers [of U.S. munitions makers] are empty, and who will fill them up?”
On RT, the Russian English news channel, Max Keiser, who holds that the U.S. is destroying the environment and human rights, says that “[U.S. action] makes Holocaust a legitimate business model,” and that, in her search for stronger trade relations with the U.S., German Chancellor Angela Merkle is “completely duplicitous, completely in the pocket of American corporations.”
Paul Craig Roberts writing of the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri, for Vladimir Putin’s international news service Rossiya Segodnya says “In America a police badge is a license to murder. The most fatal mistake that any American can make is to call the police.”
And in addition, RT reports that Russian Senator Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party, wants the Nobel committee to take away Obama’s peace prize. “Usually the Nobel Peace Prize is handed to people who fought for peace for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years, or who did prison time,” said Zhirinovsky. “This man has not moved a finger. And in recent years he has organized wars. Ukraine is in flames, the Mideast is troubled, and there are problems in Afghanistan. Throughout his term in power – not a single peacekeeping operation; we see only death, aggression and refugees. The Peace Prize should be recalled immediately to avoid disgracing of the award!”
Aren’t you glad that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed the reset button with Russia? Can you imagine how bad the circumstances would be if she hadn’t? I can’t either.
Quote without comment
President Barack Obama, in an August 14 press conference addressing the situation in Ferguson, Missouri: “Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority. I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That’s part of our democracy. But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest, a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us, and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.”