President Barack Obama gave a good speech Wednesday night.He needed to.
Obama had made several bad statements about the Islamic terrorists called ISIS, ISIL, or the Islamic State who have raged across Iraq and Syria for some time now committing atrocities and establishing a so-called caliphate.First he said they were the “jayvees,” then he admitted that we “don't have a strategy yet,” and finally he hoped to make them a “manageable problem.”
His poll numbers plummeted.Americans started feeling less safe than before the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But Obama rose to the occasion, albeit belatedly.He outlined a prudent, sensible four-pronged strategy for destroying, ISIS.The nation should now rally round him and give him the support needed for his strategy to succeed.
Regular readers of this column will know that its writer is not an Obama admirer.This is one of those times, however, when even political opponents of a president must make a good faith effort to rise above other disagreements for the good of the country.
There are quite reasonable criticisms one can make of Obama's approach, as many already are.Most of them probably believe they are doing their patriotic duty.Some may be motivated by partisan politics.Their complaints may be valid, but are still not sufficient to withhold overall support from Obama's policy.
Perhaps Obama may have his own partisan political reasons for not seeking congressional authorization for the expanded war.It would be a difficult vote for many Democrats before the November elections.Congress should provide such authorization anyway.
By waging war against ISIS we may indirectly help Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, his Iranian backers, and their Hezbollah terrorist allies.Obama will try to minimize this risk by arming the same “moderate” Syrian opposition that he ridiculed not long ago.
Things might not have come to this point if Obama had heeded calls to keep a residual American force in Iraq, or backed up his “red line” in Syria with military strikes, or moved more aggressively to help reformist Syrian revolutionaries to begin with.But a response to ISIS is required now regardless.
Obama overstates his success on getting rid of Syrian chemical weapons.He rightly refers only to the elimination of those “declared” by the beleaguered dictator.Even so, there has clearly been substantial success.
He should not rule out the use of U.S. ground troops in advance.There are already some “boots on the ground” in the form of Special Forces anyway.But if more are eventually needed to get the job done Obama can always change his mind.
Other nations, and especially those in the region, should certainly do more.Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are surely working hard to make this happen.In so doing they might come to appreciate the coalitions both the Presidents Bush put together.
Obama may still underestimate the ISIS threat.He characterized it as a threat to American interests rather than a threat to America itself.We hope, but who really knows?He has declared the destruction of ISIS to be the objective in any case.
Maybe American drone-centric tactics in Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere are not a good model for dealing with ISIS.U.S. air power aided by “partners” on the ground can still accomplish a lot.
The strategy Obama unveiled in his short but powerful speech represents evolution and growth on the part of a leader who is appropriately, if not excessively, averse to military conflict.Events on the ground will inevitably produce further refinement of the president's thinking.
In the meantime all good Americans, including especially more hawkish Republicans and more dovish Democrats, should get behind Obama.Give him the benefit of the doubt and allow his strategy an opportunity to work.
Do not do or say things that will needlessly undercut or weaken him in this daunting enterprise.Keep criticism constructive and couch it in the most positive possible terms.
America is once again engaged in the most serious of all national undertakings.We all want, and the country desperately needs, success.Mustering as much national unity and support for the leader makes that outcome more likely.
So God bless America, President Obama, and the brave people of our intelligence and military forces.Let's all do our part to help them.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche. ?