As a fairly relentless critic of President Trump, it comes as something of a relief to have an occasion on which one can offer at least qualified support for our President. Support for the Syrian missile attack is warranted because the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Air Force had created a situation that[…]
In attempting to chronicle the antics of the 2016 election over the last few months, we have sometimes tried to inject some humor. Today we turn to two subjects that leave little room for humor: Aleppo and Afghanistan. We term them the “A words” of the campaign because, despite their importance, they are words that never seem to cross the lips of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and coverage in the media is spasmodic. Hence we thought it worthwhile to remind readers of what the candidates are so determined to ignore. […]
The terrorist attack in Brussels exposed the inadequacy of the Belgian security forces, the need for much better sharing of intelligence among European countries, and the unique challenges that confront cities with neighborhoods of densely concentrated Muslim populations. Sponsorship of yet another attack by ISIS also underscored the fact that its threat extends far outside the Middle East. […]
The President’s recent address from the Oval Office was clearly intended to reassure the nation. Whether anyone in fact felt reassured is highly questionable. As many observers noted, he offered nothing new to a strategy that has shown little sign of success thus far and gives little reason to believe that it will be more successful going forward. In fairness to the President, however, none of the current candidates for the presidency have offered a particularly persuasive path to a successful outcome for our struggle with ISIS and related elements of radical Islam.
The most detailed and comprehensive proposal for combating ISIS was provided by Hillary Clinton in a speech on November 14. Clinton’s proposal was similar to Obama’s existing policy, notably in prescribing a highly restricted role for American ground troops and hopeful reliance on the “65 country coalition.” It differed principally in a tone of greater urgency and a recognition, even before the San Bernardino shooting, that the past and present levels of effort were insufficient: […]
If we had our way, the term legacy would be checked at the front door of the White House at the beginning of every administration and left unused until after completion of the inevitable presidential library. But this is a special time. We have not in our lifetime seen a president and a White House so explicitly driven by considerations of the incumbent’s legacy. (As one unscientific measure, a click of “Obama” and “legacy” on Google yielded 63,800,000 hits.) […]
For several days, the media was awash in stories about the dismissal (half-heartedly disguised as a resignation) of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. In the usual blend of reporting from anonymous sources and outright speculation, various theories were advanced as the reasons for his departure. While such theories commanded a certain amount of gossipy interest, they were largely beside the point. We often see things rather differently from both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, but this time we think they each had it right. […]
Airstrikes in Syria
We felt, as we suspect most Americans did, a surge of satisfaction at President Obama’s decision to take strong military action against an organization as manifestly evil and dangerous as ISIS. As The Wall Street Journal put it, “The initial bombing raids on Islamic State targets in Syria Monday night mark a welcome offensive that takes the war to the terrorists who beheaded two Americans and threaten U.S. interests in the Middle East and security at home.” The New York Times, on the other hand, saw it as a “bad decision,”criticizing the President for proceeding “without allowing the public debate that needs to take place before this nation enters another costly and potentially lengthy conflict in the Middle East.
Back on July 30, we posted Blog 43, Part I: The ISIS Crisis. In that post we observed that on June 13 President Obama had belatedly acknowledged for the first time the existence of an threat by ISIS that demanded his attention. The action he had announced, however, was conspicuously limited—dispatching 300 military advisers to assess the situation—and he insisted the problem was a regional one posing a threat to “American interests” that was at most remote and contingent. For our part, we quoted current and former government officials who saw a far more serious and immediate danger to the United States, and we urged Republicans “ to press for the articulation of some coherent and realistic strategy” to meet that danger. […]
One does not have to be Republican—RINO or otherwise—to be critical of President Obama’s foreign policy. It would be sufficient to be a member of what some have described as the “Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.” In an interview in The Atlantic, Ms. Clinton made an observation that would be widely quoted: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” The reference to not doing stupid “stuff” was immediately recognized as a quote that White House aides had attributed, in a somewhat saltier version, to President Obama. […]
In Blog 43, Part I, we discussed the ISIS Crisis and the President’s apparent failure to appreciate the seriousness of the situation and to disclose to the public his plan for responding to it. On August 7, nearly eight weeks after his initial statement on ISIS (or ISIL as the President prefers), events forced the President to break his silence and to announce, with visible reluctance, that he had authorized limited military action. Unfortunately, however, his August 7 statement, and amplifications over the two following days, gave little indication that he has yet grasped (or is willing to admit) the extent of the threat that ISIS poses not only to Iraq, and to Americans in that country but to the United States homeland. […]