America does not need another wide-ranging commentary on President Obama’s speech of 9/10/14. So, here are some narrow comments.
The president gave the best speech he could have, given his past, given his many underhanded declarations against past Republican wars.
There is even a possibility that he has been cured by events of the silly, simplistic historical narrative that liberal intellectuals have to keep explaining in such tortuous ways.
When innocent American civilians are assassinated publicly, we should not need a coalition to act against the killers. We sure don’t need one morally. On a practical level, the ugly thought hits me that if you wanted to weasel out of a war, you couldn’t invent any better condition for that war than having secured the cooperation of Middle Eastern states who seldom get their act together about anything.
There is a confusion in media commentators’ minds that I have not seen or heard disentangle last night after the speech or today. “Boots on the ground” can be used to kill people and break things, or to rebuild a society along new lines, or to do both. The US failed in Iraq and – I think -in Afghanistan, as well, in doing the second, and therefore the third. American capacity to use boots on the ground to kill those who need killing and to break their belongings remains intact and unsurpassed.
We can always leave for the neighbors- who are so prudent about ruining their shiny war toys – the task of rebuilding what needs to be rebuilt. Incidentally, and in this connection, the widespread belief that the territorial integrity of Iraq, its boundaries, must be preserved is incomprehensible to me. For one thing, there does not seem to be any Iraqis but only Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds (of both sects), Turcomans, Chaldean Christians, etc. The only group missing in the mix is Jews. Go figure!
I am not persuaded that the threat ISIS poses to the US is a good justification for going to war. It would not be absurd to say that multiplying counter-terrorism intelligence budget by ten would be as effective or more effective in protecting America and still cost less. I am influenced in expressing this opinion by the lack of interest in the countries most directly threatened for putting their military at risk. Saudi Arabia, for example has not committed a single jet fighter or even a single camel.
I hate to be a party pooper but I don’t remember a single current ISIS authorized source threatening us. The guy I saw on TV doing so must have been about 23
There are other reasons to go to war nevertheless. These include helping the brave Kurds of Iraq and humanitarian salvation projects. Above all, I think we should wage war because the Russians and the Chinese, and probably also the madmen in North Korea are watching with interest what happens when one assassinates Americans.
By insisting that ISIS presents a real danger to America now, I fear that the administration is making the same mistake that President Bush made regarding weapons of mass destruction. There were really hundreds of valid reasons to kill Saddam Hussein but once it became obvious that the weapons were a product of Hussein’s own imagination, the other reasons could not be invoked. President Bush and his allies had lost too much credibility by then.
I believe the president should seek authorization from Congress, at least the way President Bush did before committing the country in both Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s what constitutional government requires. In a democracy, it’s healthy to count publicly raised hands and to keep the count in an open register.