President Obama was the only elected official to reply to my open letter about ISIL. The White House correspondence staff is prompt: I sent my email last weekend and received a response on Wednesday.
Of course, the reply contains no surprises. My letter appears to have triggered the boilerplate response sent to anyone who suggests deploying US troops against ISIL. The president made many of the same points on Monday in defense of his longstanding strategy against the un-Islamic state.
Here is what the Commander in Chief’s minions wrote to me:
Thank you for writing. I have been meeting regularly with my national security team to implement the strategy I outlined last year to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria. ISIL poses a threat to the Middle East, to the international community, and to the national security interests of the United States, and we will continue to meet ISIL’s atrocities with the undeterred and united resolve of the international community.
Part of the reason I ran for this Office was to end our foreign wars and welcome our troops home. As Commander in Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war on the ground in the Middle East. There is no American military solution to the larger crisis there; the only lasting solution must include reconciliation among diverse communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.
At the same time, I have made clear that American leadership is critical to confronting the deadly threat from ISIL. As part of our effort to address that threat, we formed a global coalition of more than 60 countries and partners working to deny ISIL a safe haven, to counter the flow of fighters, and to diminish ISIL’s access to the sources of funding and weapons that have fueled the group. All people, no matter which faith they follow, must be confident they can live safely in their country and advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts. America cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world, but our leadership is necessary to underwrite the global security and prosperity upon which our children and our grandchildren will depend. We must do whatever is necessary to protect the security of our Nation and the safety of our people.
I addressed him as “Mr. President,” but Barack’s informal salutation puts me on a first-name basis with the Leader of the Free World. Sweet.
There is merit to our current strategy against ISIL. Politics is the art of the possible, and President Obama thinks he has crafted the most appropriate policy for the current the domestic and international situation. I hope he is right about that.
But I also hope the Commander in Chief is ready to refine his strategy to capitalize on increasing support for action against ISIL both here and overseas. A poll earlier this week found that 65% of Americans now support sending US ground troops to fight the un-Islamic State. Yesterday, in response to the murder of one of its citizens, China declared war on ISIL. Reportedly, the UN Security Council will soon consider a resolution to declare war on the un-Islamic nutjobs.
Containment was the right strategy for the Cold War, because mutually assured nuclear destruction inhibited both the US and the USSR from committing direct acts of war or terrorism against each other. (There were lots of proxy conflicts, but almost no actual direct confrontation.)
ISIL, obviously, is different, because they augment their conventional war in the Middle East with terror attacks upon the West. Controlling territory and calling themselves a caliphate is central to their appeal. Wiping them off the map will destroy their credibility and take away their most compelling recruiting tool.
The time is right for Obama to emulate FDR, who wanted war against the Axis before the American people supported it, and did what he could to help short of war until Pearl Harbor shifted public opinion. The Paris bombings have awakened the country and the world to the urgent threat of ISIL.
All we need now is for Obama to embrace his role as Leader of the Free World, assemble a coalition and lead us to victory.