You have probably noted the latest outburst from the cluster of clowns running for the Republican presidential nomination insisting that we declare war on IS. This in response to the shootings in San Bernardino by two people who were apparently supported by money from an unknown source, presumably IS — and in response to President Obama’s perceived soft response to those killings. Folks like Jeb Bush insist that IS has already declared war on the United States. Another idiot suggested that we are already involved in World War Three. Whether these things true or not matters little. What matters is that saying such things will bring the votes to Jeb Bush or one of his ilk when November rolls around.
There are so many things wrong with this knee-jerk response one scarcely knows where to start. For one thing, it is clear that as long as the American people are kept fearful and full of hatred they will be more likely to vote for a “strong” candidate as their leader next November. So the tactic is to keep the flames burning as fiercely as possible. Convince the voters that the Democrats, who seek to maintain some semblance of sanity in what appears to have been an insane act by two people in California, are too soft to lead the country in time of “crisis.” This is standard practice, politics as usual. The end justifies the means and grabbing the office of President of the United States is the prize.
But any talk of a declaration of war against a terrorist group that is apparently growing exponentially will assuredly simply give impetus to that group to continue to grow even more rapidly. We should have learned by now that such a war cannot be won. Hate-mongering might make some people feel better, but it is precisely the sort of thing groups like IS will use to convince like-minded people in the Middle East that they must take up arms against those insane Americans across the Atlantic. It pours gasoline on the flames — as does absurd talk about refusing admission to this country by anyone who happens to be a Muslim.
I applaud Obama, as I have said previously, for trying to sooth jangled nerves. Hillary Clinton has also attempted to restore some sort of reasonable balance to the discussion, to keep things in perspective. As F.D.R. said long ago we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But fear is the order of the day and those who would declare wholesale war on terrorist groups have their heads in the sand and are concerned only about gaining political office and not in the least about doing the right thing — or even the sane thing, which is to keep our cool and deal with these problems as they arise in a way that assures everyone that this sort of aberrant behavior will not be tolerated.
If we assume that Jeb Bush is correct and that IS has indeed declared war on this country (which is debatable), then as a nation we need to pull together, not in several different directions. A frantic, passionate response to the actions of zealots can only lead to chaos and if these men running for President were truly patriots concerned about the safety and security of their country they would not attack the sitting President of this country and stir up fear and hatred among its citizens in times of crisis. What is required are cool heads and reasonable suggestions. But, then, these men have their eye on the prize and winning that prize is the only thing that matters. Cool and reasonable are not their strong suit.
Obama is in a tricky, unenviable position on the language he uses over ISIS/ISIL. It’s very important that he does project a calming influence — much like FDR in 1933 — and yet also not appear soft and thus lead those idiot Republican candidates to spout more. In his Sunday night address, I think he said twice and perhaps three times that the U.S. is “at war” with ISIL. Which is true — “at war” means we are fighting them, and we are. But the GOP skipped right over that. But, you’re right, he can’t say simply we’re declaring war or that we have declared war. That’s a whole nother level of complex legal and political — and moral — obstacles that would serve no one.
I don’t envy the president at all. He is the only calm head out there right now, and that’s so important. It’s admirable of him, as well. It’s also one of two reasons I pause about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The other is her e-mail fiasco, which quite likely involved some illegal actions. But on this point, she’s shown a tendency to be hawkish on national defense and foreign policy and I worry that, as the first female president, she’d want to try to overreach militarily to prove she is strong. (She doesn’t need to — she’s proven many times she has strong character and strong political will.) As horrible as ISIS is, this is not a situation that can be resolved only through military action. There is a ream of social and economic underpinning to the conditions, as well as the American bungling of Iraq, that gave rise to ISIS and its apparently widening support. We have to address those with much more depth than any GOP candidate seems to realize.
Good comment, and many thanks. I have doubts about Hillary as well, but in this case I was thinking of her comments after the President’s message:
“This is not, and we should not let it become, a clash of civilizations . . .the vast majority of Muslims are on our side of the battle unless we drive them away.” Which, of course, is precisely what the sort of rhetoric we are hearing from the far Right is doing.
Thanks for sharing that quote from Hillary. You’re right — this is the balanced, nuanced perspective that needs to be prevalent.
Great post, Hugh. A local columnist blasted Obama for not immediately declaring War and invading Syria. Amazing to me how the very first republican response is War. of course none of them, and none of their fine sons and daughters, have the character or guts to be in the military. That dirty job is best left to others.
And I do believe the Repubs goals are to keep America in a constant state of fear. it began with Bush and his axis of evil crap, and has moved on through Darth Vader Cheney, and now the entire repub field. I agree that Obama is trying to prove cooler heads prevail, but our Fox News nation seems to be having none of it.
I wanted to mention that the ones calling for war will be back home comfortably in front of their TV sets — along with their sons and daughters. But I forgot in my desire to note the hysteria that has taken hold of the Republican camp. They have learned that the more frightened the American public is the more likely it is that they will choose a Republican for president. That much is clear. But to dismiss the president as too “soft” because he wanted to calm people down is really out of order in times of crisis.